Everett’s Muffler Man statue atop a building on Hewitt Avenue wears a custom face mask. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett’s Muffler Man statue atop a building on Hewitt Avenue wears a custom face mask. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Who’s that 20-foot masked man? It’s the anti-virus Muffler Man

The fiberglass statue has social distanced atop a building in downtown Everett since 1983.

EVERETT — The 20-foot Muffler Man statue atop a downtown building is taking a stand against the virus.

He already had the social distancing thing down pat. All he needed was a mask.

What’s up with that?

Since 1983, the statue of the broad-shouldered man in jeans and blue-collared shirt has towered over Hewitt Avenue near West Marine View Drive. His slicked back hair, dark eyes and ripped bod can be seen several blocks away.

The hunk’s chiseled grin is now concealed by black fabric.

Building owner Boyce Cardell climbed on a ladder to mask the fiberglass titan a week ago. He was encouraged by his neighbors at the Soundview Bar & Grill across the alley.

“The barmaid and one of the cooks from the tavern said they wanted to put a mask on him,” Cardell said. “I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”

Not just any mask would fit, plus it had to withstand harsh weather and deter nesting birds.

Cardell sought the help of Everett Tent & Awning.

Like most people in Everett and beyond, owner Tim Thomas was familiar with the Muffler Man. He was honored to assist. Cardell made a cardboard pattern and Thomas stitched up an 18-by-24 inch face covering.

The $35 mask wasn’t his most unusual request.

“In the past I’ve covered an artificial horse inseminator. It’s a big dummy horse that I had to cover,” Thomas said. “I did it three more times after that for the same person. It was vinyl.”

For the mask, Thomas used Sunbrella, an outdoor performance fabric.

“I had to do some folding on it once I got there,” Cardell said. “I stitched it up with some wire, poked some holes.”

He used rubber bungee cords to fasten it around the giant’s head.

People at the Soundview on that Saturday evening watched and clapped when he was done.

The Muffler Man was an inspiration behind What’s Up With That, started in 2014 to explore the weird and wonderful characters of our county. A story about how this dude came to be was one of the first columns.

In a previous life, Muffler Man was a longtime fixture on the sidewalk at a downtown tire shop owned by Lee Burns. Longtime Herald readers may remember the slogan he used in ads that always began with “Lee Says….”

When Burns moved his Safety Service Tire shop to 1110 Hewitt Ave. in 1983, there wasn’t room on the sidewalk for the Muffler Man. So up to the roof he went. The shop closed a short time later.

“He said, ‘The man’s yours,’” Cardell said.

Building owner Boyce Cardell masked the Muffler Man a week ago after being urged to do so by the staff at the Soundview Bar Grill. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Building owner Boyce Cardell masked the Muffler Man a week ago after being urged to do so by the staff at the Soundview Bar Grill. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Cardell has cared for him in the decades since. He painted him once. He screwed spikes on his head and arms to keep the seagulls at bay. The statue is wired to the roof to keep him from tumbling. The dude’s shoes are about 4-feet long.

For the past 25 years or so, the building has been occupied by SSA Marine, a stevedore office that hires dockworkers to load and unload cargo. You might think the big guy would have a safety vest or helmet by now. Or at least work gloves.

The left palm faces down, right palm faces up with an open grasp. Muffler Man is a 12th Man during Seahawks season, with a blue flag in his strong hands.

He’s not for sale. Cardell said he turned down an offer of $18,000. “I found out they’re worth two or three times that much.”

The statues are part of a brotherhood of men cut from the same fiberglass mold. What started as a Paul Bunyan character promoting a restaurant in the 1960s led to a California company making a line of Muffler Men holding mufflers to attract customers.

Then, neon signage took over. The manly men were repurposed as pirates, cowboys, busty women and astronauts, their powerful arms holding rockets, hot dogs, guitars and golf clubs.

Google “Muffler Man” to see the figures with beards, red pants, green jeans, camouflage, suspenders, shirtless and revamped as a Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and Howdy Doody Man.

There are Muffler Men figurines, bobble-heads and T-shirts that say, “I’m a Muffler Man, Not a Girlie Man.”

Cardell hopes his masked Muffler Man will be a titan against the virus.

“Maybe it will get to the president so he’ll put his mask on,” he said. “I think this would have been gone a long time ago if people masked up and stayed a distance. People weren’t paying attention to these doctors who know what’s going on.”

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Andrea Brown’s “What’s Up With That” columns won a second place award in the national Society for Features Journalism’s 2020 contest. Columns judged were about Erwin’s Philly Cheese Steak in Everett, Whidbey Island’s flat earth guru Mark Sargent and Lynnwood curbside rocker “Wolfman Jim” Morris. The columns featured videos by Herald digital producer Sue Misao.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers (top left) and Snohomish County Health District Administrative Officer Shawn Frederick (top right) give a COVID-19 update Tuesday in Everett. (Snohomish County Health District)
Kids are big part of coronavirus surge in Snohomish County

After seven weeks in decline, the county’s case rate has increased. About a fifth of new cases were kids under 14.

Top row (L-R): Paul Roberts, Mary Fosse, Paula Rhyne, Greg Lineberry, Don Schwab. Bottom row (L-R):Lacey Sauvageau, Tommie Rubatino, Liz Vogeli, Ben Zarlingo, Demi Chatters.
Who’s running for Everett council? New candidates — a lot of them

Ten people are vying for positions newly defined by districts. Only two are incumbents.

Snohomish High School, seen here Oct. 22, was put on lockdown Thursday morning. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Snohomish High locked down briefly; weapon report unfounded

Sheriff’s deputies went to the school in response to a social media post.

Police block roads in south Everett in search for suspect

Officers were trying to arrest a suspect near Everett Mall Way and Third Avenue Southeast.

Steve Oss (left) and Cassie Franklin.
Budget and homelessness at center of Everett mayor’s race

Steve Oss, a longtime transit worker, is challenging incumbent Cassie Franklin.

FILE - This October 2021, photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. The U.S. moved a step closer to expanding vaccinations for millions more children as a panel of government advisers on Tuesday, Oct. 26, endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer's shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. (Pfizer via AP, File)
Pfizer vaccines for younger kids expected in state next week

The Health Department estimates about 30% of parents will seek shots immediately for children ages 5-11.

Residents move out of an apartment Wednesday afternoon in the Whispering Pines Complex in Lynnwood on August 25, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Housing authority traded $2,000 for Lynnwood tenants’ silence

Low-income tenants agreed not to sue or discuss a traumatic housing search, amid Whispering Pines’ impending demolition.

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, poses with a production electric engine, the magni500, at the  company's new office on Seaway Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Maker of electric airplane engines gets $74M NASA grant

MagniX of Everett is one of two companies tapped to advance electric propulsion systems to power aircraft.

Gene Simmons impersonator, Jack Murrin practices on there bass guitar at his storage building on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 in Everett, Washington. Murrin, 51, a firefighter and impersonator, is putting on a 2-hour KISS concert with 19 songs in front of his north Everett home on Halloween.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
The Demon: Gene Simmons imitator hosts a free Kiss concert

Everett firefighter and paramedic Jack Murrin will return to the stage for a Halloween show at his home.

Most Read