Wednesday, August 1, 2012

South Dakota's muffler men

Giant fiberglass men serving to attract customers to various businesses reside all over America. South Dakota boasts three of these advertising icons known as "muffler men."

Apparently originally designed to hold automobile exhaust systems in their outstretched hands, many of these huge statues have been re-purposed to hold other items. Likewise, their clothing has been modified to fit their location.

The Full Throttle Saloon just east of Sturgis on Highway 34 utilizes a black shirted, cowboy hat-wearing muffler man holding a mug of beer and a cigar to welcome bikers to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. EDIT: The Full Throttle Saloon burned to the ground on September 8, 2015, but the muffler man survived. His and the saloon's future are uncertain.

South Dakota's most famous muffler man is "Mr. Bendo" on Cliff Avenue in Sioux Falls. He's so popular he has two Facebook pages with thousands of fans following. Mr. Bendo was felled by a drunk driver in 2010, but repaired and placed back where motorists can enjoy him. Appropriately enough, Mr. Bendo advertises for Buck's Muffler shop.

Just south of Rapid City on Highway 16 you'll find Stamper Black Hills Gold's cowboy muffler man. His bright red shirt and pickaxe are hard to miss on the way to Mount Rushmore. EDIT 2015: Stamper went out of business and at this time the cowboy's whereabouts are unkown.

As an added bonus, next door to Stamper Black Hills Gold is an out-of-business gold panning operation with a similar statue of a miner.

More information about the muffler man phenomenon is available at

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