February 22, 2011

R.I.P. Muffler Man - Kansas City, KS

I've talked before about the tragedy of disappearing roadside attractions and how sometimes my trips to see them end in disappointment. While researching some fun new places to go, I was sad to learn that another Kansas roadside attraction has been lost - the Kansas City, Kansas Muffler Man.

Muffler Men are giant fiberglass men that can be seen by the road across the country, usually standing about 20-feet tall and holding full-sized car mufflers, or tires to promote various roadside businesses. (Fun Fact: Most Muffler Men were made by International Fiberglass in Venice, California). Muffler Man roadside attractions have a bit of a cult following. There are websites devoted to tracking the locations of Muffler Men and even classifying them by type. The one in Kansas City would have been known as a Halfwit. The Happy Halfwits are identified by their gap-toothed smile and jug ears, usually wearing a straw hat or baseball cap. There are many other kinds of Muffler Men, such as "The Classic" or "The Bunyan." Johnny Kaw in Manhattan would be identified as "Not Really Muffler Man", because while he doesn't meet the technical requirements he is still a really big fiberglass man and apparently deserves mentioning on these lists.

The Kansas City Muffler Man was reported gone in October of 2000. Supposedly, it was removed to make way for road expansion. But before modern development pushed the Muffler Man aside, it had stood there since the 1960's. Supposedly, it was a generic looking Halfwit Muffler Man at a convenience store called Poor Boy's Pantry. It was then repainted in the 1980s with a Hawaiian shirt tucked into his jeans and painted Nike running shoes. Supposedly, his final role before his disappearance was serving as a "bouncer" in front of an adult store.

While I wasn't lucky enough to see Kansas City's Muffler Man, there are plenty more out there. There is one in Wichita I hope to visit soon. If you are on a road trip and want to see a few Muffler Men of your own, check out this map to see where they can be found.

Photo Note: This is not a picture of the actual Muffler Man that was in Kansas City. I couldn't find one, so this is another halfwit Muffler Man to give you an idea of what it would have looked like if it was still around.



  1. I've never seen one of the halfwits up close. Funny how he looks like Alfred E. Neuman from Mad.

  2. I was actually thinking the same thing. Like some strange cross between Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody that's 20-feet tall.

  3. We've seen one here in the Hudson Valley in the image of Paul Bunyan, complete with hairy chest! He's on the grounds of a Boy Scout camp in Stony Point.
    I wrote this article for Hudson Valley Parent magazine about it, and other quirky sites in the region:

    --Traci from "Go BIG or Go Home"

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog ~ thanks for posting such useful content.


  5. Thanks for your post! I have been trying to figure out of the Hawaiian shirt was a custom paint job or if International Fiberglass offered this shirt as an option for their half wits. Knowing that this was painted on this is most likely the half with that now stands in Flint, MI. Check out my latest blog post for more info and a picture.