In the 1950s and 60s, these incredible fiberglass giants were commissioned as roadside advertising icons. They were nicknamed Muffler Men because they typically held an item - like a muffler - outside a service station. You can imagine Route 66 in the hey day as every business vied for the road trippers to stop at their establishment.
Illinois is lucky to have three and they are affectionately known as 'The Brothers.' The first up, travelling southwest an hour from Chicago is the Gemini Giant, located in Wilmington. In 1960, the owners of a Route 66 restaurant bought the 30 foot Muffler Man for $3,500. In a nod to the US space obsession in the 1960s, the giant was outfitted as an astronaut with helmet and rocket, and renamed the restaurant the Launching Pad. Both the restaurant and the Gemini Giant were inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2000.
A further sixty miles, you'll find 'Tall Paul' in Atlanta. Curiously, he is holding a hotdog which harks back to Paul's earlier days - he was commissioned in 1966 to stand outside Bunyon's hot dog stand in a suburb of Chicago - hence a hotdog rather than a muffler! When the hotdog stand closed, Paul moved to a spot along Route 66 in the town of Atlanta, where he’s housed on long-term loan.
Less than hour from here, you'll arrive in Springfield the capital of Illinois and home to the Lauterbach Giant. Purchased in 1961 for a then tire shoe, the business closed within a year and the giant moved to stand guard at the Roundup Hotel. When the hotel closed, he was sold again, this time back to his roots to Lauterbach Tire and Auto Service where he has stood proudly in the parking lot since 1985. This muffler man used to hold a tire, but in 2006 that was swapped for the US flag. Another interesting fact, this muffler man lost his head during a tornado, but was skillfully repaired by the station.
You'll enjoy spotting these giants and it will confirm how amazing your Route 66 is going to be!