One interesting thing about Bud and Ben Mufflers in Oak Cliff is that there is no Ben.
It’s not that he’s dead – Ben was never alive in the first place.
Over a few decades ago the sign actually read, “Bud and Ken Mufflers” because those two were brothers-in-law and they were in business together selling mufflers. But when a big falling out happened between Bud and Ken, they parted ways.
Instead of throwing away the whole sign, though, frugal Bud switched Ken’s “K” to a “B” and thus Ben was born.
Or so the story goes…
Another interesting thing about Bud and Ben Mufflers – now called Reyes Mufflers at 308 W. Illinois – has to do with the giants they employ to attract customers.
They’re called ‘Muffler Men’ and they’re made out of painted fiberglass and stand up to 25 feet tall. Most of the muffler men you see (at one time there were hundreds of them across America) were made during the 1960s until around 1974 by a company called International Fiberglass run by Steve Dashew.
Those statues were derivatives of the same exact mold and adapted to make ‘the Big Friend’ for Texaco and ‘the Cowboy’for Phillips and ‘Paul Bunyan’ among many others.
There was eventually even a towering ‘Miss Uniroyal’ who came in two versions – wearing a dress:
or sporting a bikini.
Bud and Ben’s three Muffler Men hold humongous mufflers, but their other American doppelgangers are all made to hold oversized versions of whatever their stores are selling:
a roll of carpet, a pizza box, a tire or a plate of Mexican food.
Or, as in the case of the Paul Bunyan, a colossal axe.
The first Muffler Man came to Oak Cliff around 1965, inspired by the Kip’s Big Boy statue that was across the street at the time.
Individually, they were priced anywhere between $1,800 to $2,800, but today they’ve been known to fetch $15-20k.
Of course, most owners would never sell them.
Not only do they actually increase sales, they’re forgotten icons of the 20th century American landscape and that in itself makes them priceless.
- Mike Lukas
*** A version of this article was printed in the August 2018 Oak Cliff Advocate