Winding country roads in eastern West Virginia lead to an extraordinary place populated by fiberglass giants.
A seven-acre parcel of farmland in Unger, West Virginia, is home to a small army of giants. Displayed around the property are more than 20 enormous fiberglass figures designed in the 1960s for roadside advertising. Although not all the figures are male (or even human), these “colossi” are known generically as “Muffler Men.”
The figures are owned and displayed by George and Pam Farnham, who live on the property. Their bucolic homestead is called “Farnham’s Fantasy Farm.” In the early 1980s, George left a legal career in Washington, D.C., moved to rural Morgan County, West Virginia, and acquired room to spread out. Collectors by nature, the Farnhams’ hobby assumed gargantuan proportions when they acquired their first giant—a 25-foot-tall Muffler Man—from a Midas Muffler Shop in California. Constructed of molded fiberglass, he stands at the top of the driveway holding an enormous muffler and wearing a golden-yellow crown on his head.
If one fiberglass giant is good, more is better. Over the years, the Farnhams have expanded their collection to include other vintage advertising and cartoon figures, including Big John, a 30-foot tall grocery clerk; a gargantuan Paul Bunyan; a green Sinclair Dinosaur; Brian Wilson, a surfer dude in aviator shades and swim trunks; and Santa Claus. Greeting visitors turning into the Farnham’s driveway are Boo-Boo Bear, Ranger Smith, and Cindy Bear from the Yogi Bear cartoons. Joining the Brobdingnagian trio of John, Brian Wilson, and Muffler Man is a 17-1/2-foot tall Uniroyal Gal, wearing nothing but a metallic purple bikini, shiny black go-go boots, and several tattoos. It is rumored that the artist who created the model for the fiberglass figure was infatuated with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Uniroyal Gal’s face and hairdo bear a striking resemblance to the former First Lady.
Elsewhere on the property are displayed a toothy shark, a pterodactyl, enormous seahorses and frogs, a bald eagle, and a Mister Fifteen Hamburger Man—a predecessor to Bob’s Big Boy. With a gaping mouth, a hippopotamus head is displayed at the peak of the purple barn and flanked by elephant heads. The side yard holds a carnival roller coaster track complete with two sets of cars. Aboard one set is Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson. The other holds circus clowns and Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto. Signs displayed on buildings around the property offer helpful tips like, “Warning—Hitchhikers May Be Escaped Inmates.”
The colossi are all refugees from filling stations, automotive parts stores, amusement parks, and fast food venues. They served as advertising ambassadors and roadside attractions during the halcyon days of the 20th-century American road trip. Most were manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, between 1964 and 1974. The Farnhams collected the pieces from throughout the United States.
The logistics of getting the figures to West Virginia were complicated, and the transportation expenses could exceed the purchase price. Because of his extreme height, Brian Wilson required two tractor-trailers (his legs traveled separately). Once on-site, a crane lifted the figures into position, and pipes and cement anchored them in place. The lack of strict zoning regulations in rural West Virginia allows the Farnhams’ collection to grow and flourish. Happily, the Farnhams’ neighbors seem to appreciate the Colossi as much as their owners and visitors.
Know Before You Go
"Farnham’s Fantasy Farm” is private residential property. Although George Farnham welcomes visitors, calling before visiting is recommended. The Colossi can also be viewed from the road.
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