Wilmington’s Gemini Giant Stands Tall in the History of Route 66

Giants used to stand guard over Route 66. Standing up to 30 feet tall, it was hard to miss these ominous figures. And that's why businesses loved them - it was a way to 'stand above the competition.' Most were holding tires or mufflers, hence the nickname of 'the Muffler Men.'

The Gemini Giant was one of these Muffler Men, standing outside The Launching Pad in Wilmington, IL since 1964. Humans had reached outer space, and the giant reflected the nation's fascination with the future and traveling through the galaxy. Along with the other Muffler Men, roadside travellers would stop to take their photo with him. Since you were right there, it just made sense to spend some money and enjoy a meal at The Launching Pad.

The Gemini Giant  - Muffler Man on Route 66

The Muffler Men were once emblems of the historic Mother Road. Since Route 66's decommissioning, many of these Muffler Men have been taken down - either through demolition or through purchase (and relocation) of collectors. As of publishing, only four remain on the route.

Tall Paul was one of the lucky ones to survive potential destruction. He was first spotted in Cicero, IL around 1940. When you see Paul and his giant hot dog, you shouldn't be surprised that he was located in front of a hot dog stand. His new home is now in Atlanta, IL, and thanks to the city's caring citizens, he has been restored and looks better than ever.

Tall Paul - Muffler Man on Route 66

It's easy to lose your head over seeing one of these titans. In fact, the Lauterbach Tire Man in Springfield, IL actually lost his head! In 2006, two tornados came through the Springfield area. According to the web site USAGiants.com, which documents the history of many of these Muffler Men, one of the tornados picked up the roof of the next door Barrel Head restaurant. The roof of the restaurant ended up knocking the head about 4 doors down. After repair, the Lauterbach Tire Man was standing tall once again. He currently is holding a flag pole with the American flag.

Lauterbach Tire Man - Muffler Man on Route 66

Many Muffler Men have come and gone, and many knock-offs have also been seen from time to time. With businesses changing ownership, and high costs for moving these giants, passing one of these icons is definitely a rare occurrence.

But, when you do pass a Muffler Man, take a photo, take a trip down memory lane, and take a trip into the history that these giant fiberglass figures represent. #MyIL66.



Scenes from Around the Corridor