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GALLERY

Heavy Metal Artists

June 27, 1993

Legs by Audi. Arms by Volkswagen. Body by Toyota.

"Muffler Men," like silent sentinels, dot the car-crazy Southern California landscape. In some cases, their names say it all: the Devil, Soccer Player, the Manager.

With hand tools, a welding torch and creative impulses, muffler shop employees such as Ricardo Chavez bring an assemblage of castoff exhaust parts to life. Ears might be from a domestic tailpipe, while the mouth may have the shape of a flange from the underbelly of a luxury sedan.

After surviving flames, smoke, noise and 2,000-degree temperatures, Muffler Men find life simpler and cooler. The catalytic converter is still connected to the head pipe and the tailpipe is still connected to the muffler.

But any other relationship to the underside of a vehicle has now disappeared.

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