Gemini Giant: Space Age Muffler Man
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Gemini Giant brought the Mother Road into the Space Age in 1965. That's the year that John Korelc paid $3,500 for a 24-foot-tall astronaut, which he stood outside his Launching Pad drive-in restaurant on Route 66.
The astronaut is a customized Muffler Man. Instead of a muffler, he carries a rocket, and the inside of his helmet -- which looks more Iron Age than Space Age -- was built to light up at night.
International Fiberglass, the company that built all of the original Muffler Men, made at least two other astronauts from the same molds, but the Gemini Giant is the only known survivor.
The astronaut was given his name soon after his arrival, thanks to a contest among local school kids. Fifth grader Cathy Thomas came up with the catchy title, linking the giant to the then-current Gemini space program (If he'd come along later, he might have been "Apollo Al").
The Gemini Giant has survived surprisingly well over the decades, although his rocket has been stolen several times and replaced with what appear to be a series of aerial bombs.
Korelc eventually retired and sold the Launching Pad, which closed in 2010. Its last owner has been trying to sell it and the Gemini Giant since 2012. When we spoke with the realtor, he said he'd received "a zillion phone calls" about the Giant, but that the owner wouldn't sell the astronaut unless the buyer also bought the restaurant. "He's not gonna give up the spaceman," the realtor told us. "Not unless you want to pay the price for the whole place. Then you can have the spaceman."
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