Gemini Giant Muffler Man

Wilmington, Illinois

IllinoisMuffler ManRoadside AttractionRoute 66
Gemini Giant muffler man at the Launching Pad in Wilmington, Illinois Route 66 roadside attraction

Date published:

Last Modified:

State:

Gemini Giant Muffler Man

Address:

Wilmington, Illinois

Hours:

Visible 24/7

Cost:

Free
Home » Roadside Attractions » Gemini Giant Muffler Man in Wilmington, Illinois

Disclaimer: This page may contain affiliate links from which we make a commission from your purchases. Please review our full Privacy Policy for more information.
Note that any pricing, operating hours, or other such information provided may have changed since initial publication.
Silly America is a Participant In The Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, An Affiliate Advertising Program Designed To Provide A Means For Sites To Earn Advertising Fees By Advertising And Linking To Amazon.Com

Make some space in your road trip itinerary for this Route 66 roadside attraction: the Gemini Giant Muffler Man in Wilmington, Illinois. This oddity is out of this world!

The Gemini Giant is a 28-foot tall muffler man who originally stood on Route 66 outside the Launching Pad restaurant in Wilmington, Illinois. He weighs in at a whopping 438 pounds: not counting his base of the giant 8-foot rocket he holds in his hands!

Gemini Giant muffler man at the Launching Pad in Wilmington, Illinois Route 66 roadside attraction

What is a Muffler Man?

This fiberglass space man is one of many muffler men spread throughout the United States. Muffler Men roadside attractions are fiberglass giants who stand anywhere from 14 to 25 feet tall. Each has a similar design and was built between 1963 and 1972 by International Fiberglass in Venice, California. With signature stances, these big men stood outside of muffler shops and other businesses to call attention from the road.

The Gemini Giant is one of the most popular muffler men on Route 66, but it’s not the only one! Interested in finding all the muffler men on Route 66? Also check out:

Gemini Giant muffler man at the Launching Pad in Wilmington, Illinois Route 66 roadside attraction

The History of The Gemini Giant

In 1956 the Wilmington business opened as Dari Delite, a small shop that sold hot dogs and ice cream. In 1960 John and Bernice Korlic took over the restaurant and renamed it as The Launching Pad Drive-in. To capitalize on their celestial moniker, the couple had the fiberglass spaceman made by International Fiberglass and named him the Gemini Giant via a local contest.

The Korlics ran the Launching Pad and maintained the giant for 47 years until they sold in in 2007.

For years after, the Wilmington Gemini Giant went through some rough times, with an uncertain future. The Launching Pad closed down in 2010. With the drive-in restaurant and muffler man statue for sale no one knew when, or if, it would reopen and what would happen to the Route 66 icon.

In 2016, the restaurant went to auction but failed to sell because the reserve wasn’t met.

Though the Launching Pad restaurant closed, the space-age muffler man statue still stood and drew crowds of road-trippers looking for the best roadside attractions on Route 66. But, with the business closed, and no potential buyers in sight, the fate of the big green man was still up in the air and no one knew how much longer he’d keep standing.

The Gemini Giant Muffler man without his helmet on at the Launching Pad Drive In in Wilmington, Illinois on Route 66.

The Gemini Giant’s Restoration

In 2017 the Illinois Gemini Giant’s fate changed: Holly Barker and Tully Garrett bought the business and decided to restore the building and keep the famous mascot.

The Launching Pad reopened on April 16th, 2018 as a Route 66 Welcome Center and gift shop. Eventually, the kitchen was restored and the restaurant was brought back as well.

In May 2019 this Illinois Route 66 muffler man got a facelift and was restored with a fresh coat of paint. This allowed fans to come check out a site that hadn’t been seen over 50 years: the Gemini Giant without a helmet!

The helmet had to be removed to paint his face (and with it, a football that was stuck inside for over ten years was also removed!).

The Future of The Gemini Giant Muffler Man

While it looked like the Gemini Giant and The Launching Pad Drive-In were saved for good, their good fortune didn’t last long.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the restaurant closed down. It later opened again sporadically before being shut down for good. The owners, Holly Barker and Tully Garrett, split up, leaving Barker to solely own the business.

Barker wanted to sell the business (the Launching Pad plus the giant), listing it at an astronomical $1.5 million. No buyer was willing to pay that much, and talks with the Joliet Area Historical Museum, who had made a more reasonable offer, fell through.

Eventually, in March 2024, Barker gutted the Launching Pad, selling off the Gemini Giant, along with all of the fixtures and memorabilia from the restaurant, in an online auction. The auction went live under the threat that if a $100,000 reserve wasn’t met, the Gemini Giant would be destroyed.

In the end, the Route 66 muffler Man sold for $275,000.

In the hours after the auction finished, there was much speculation over who had bought it. A large community effort had banded together to fundraise tens of thousands, hoping to keep this treasured Route 66 attraction in Wilmington, but the raised money was nowhere near the final price. And collectors on Route 66 and off had their eyes on this space man.

But once the auction was finalized the official announcement was made: the Joliet Area Historical Museum had secured the winning bid and immediately donated the giant back to the City of Wilmington. The purchase was made possible from a grant issued to the museum by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for that purpose.

Immediately, the city, with help from the American GIants Museum in Atlanta, Illinois, removed the giant from the location where it stood since the 1960s and put it into storage. Future plans are to move the giant to the entrance of entrance to South Island Park, just a mile west of the Launching Pad on Route 66.

Photos of the Gemini Giant at The Launching Pad Drive-In

I’ve visited this Illinois roadside attraction several times at its original location outside of the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, Illinois. Here are Gemini Giant photos from:

Photos of the 2019 Muffler Man Restoration

In 2019 I took a mini road trip to Wilmington with my sister (it’s only about an hour and a half drive outside of Chicago) to see the Gemini Giant with his helmet removed as he was being repainted.

We unfortunately didn’t stick around to try one of the Launching Pad’s hot dogs, pot roast sandwiches, fruit pies, or ice cream sundaes, but on the way home from our mini Route 66 road trip we did get some fried chicken at another Mother Road institution: Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket.

Gemini Giant Muffler Man Video

Plan Your Illinois Road Trip

Planning an Illinois road trip to see the Gemini Giant? Plan your road trip with these road trip resources, road trip planning articles, and Route 66 road trip planners.

Road Trip Resources

Popular Road Trip Planning Articles

Route 66 Road Trip Planning

Roadside Attractions Near the Gemini Giant Muffler Man

[gmw_nearby_locations post_types=”roadsideattractions” nearby=”object” units=”miles” results_count=”6″ show_map=”false”]

Plan Your Road Trip

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Post ⤵

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book - Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip! By Valerie Bromann

The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book

Everything You Need to Have and Record an Epic Road Trip!

BY Valerie Bromann

Enjoy fun games and challenges to pass the time on your next road trip and have a keepsake to look back on for years to come with this entertaining must-have for your next vacation.

The road trip you’ve been dreaming of starts here! Journal about your stops and get to know your fellow passengers with activities and exercises designed to pass the time and bring you closer together. Instead of “Are we there yet?” you’ll find yourself asking, “We’re there already?”. Complete with prompts you can turn to while driving between locations, this journal will one day be a memento of your life-changing trip.