The Muffler Men
Tony Ray-Jones/SSPL/Getty Images

Among the roadside oddities you may spy on your next road trip are "Muffler Men": larger-than-life molded fiberglass sculptures created in the 1960s and 1970s as ads for businesses such as restaurants, tire companies and, of course, muffler repair shops. The typical Muffler Man is anywhere from 14 to 25 feet tall and generally clean-shaven, with a broad torso and dark hair — though other versions were fashioned as Paul Bunyan-like lumberjacks, cowboys, Indians, pirates and goofy-faced, gap-toothed men.

There were once thousands of these guys, but only around 200 remain today — an unverified number that’s always in flux, as new ones are unearthed after years of being tucked away in barns and warehouses, and others are dismantled and destroyed.

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A small but dedicated group of roadside-nostalgia junkies go to great lengths to visit these guys and gals. Some are devoted to repairing and resurrecting discarded Muffler Men and keep track of their locations online. (RoadsideAmerica.com maintains the most comprehensive and updated listing.)  If you spot one, take a picture and post it in our Online Community.

A few examples of these historic giants:

Pocatello, Idaho

Big Don, The Muffler Men
Brad Kisling/Museum Of Clean

Last year a quirky place called the Museum of Clean — dedicated to the values of cleanliness — acquired a cowboy through a Craigslist ad from a casino in Montana. Museum director Brad Kisling thought it would be cool to turn him into the World’s Largest Janitor, so the employees removed his hat and gun, painted him in a white uniform, with black shoes on his 4-foot-long feet, and gave him a big broom. His name is Big Don, a reference to their founder, Don Aslett.  

Sioux Falls, S.D. 

Mr. Bendo, The Muffler Men
Franck Fotos/Alamy

A fixture in front of Buck’s Muffler Shop, Mr. Bendo — because the mechanics bend pipes — has been smiling and holding that tailpipe aloft since 1963. He had a traumatic incident in 2010, when a van crushed one of his feet. His fans rallied for his repair with a "Fix Mr. Bendo" Facebook group. Now he’s in tip-top shape — and is for sale along with the shop.

Flagstaff, Ariz.

Lumberjack, The Muffler Men
Franck Fotos/Alamy

Two lumberjacks were donated to Northern Arizona University in 1974 by the proprietors of the Lumberjack Cafe on Route 66. The NAU donation was an homage to the school’s athletic teams, the Lumberjacks. Now one sits outside the entrance to the sports stadium, the other one near the student union. Fun fact: One of the lumberjacks can be spotted very briefly at the beginning of Easy Rider as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper burn rubber down Route 66.