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The End of an Era

Written By: Tom Olsen


It’s the end of an era…Buck’s Muffler Shop has closed. Buck’s has been a well-known name in the exhaust and muffler business in Sioux Falls since 1957. Darlo Buckwalter founded the business and operated it up until his retirement in 1974.

For much of the 1960s, Buck’s was located downtown at 13th and Phillips Avenue. (As early as 1964 I can remember taking my own car to Buck’s to have a set of exhaust cut-outs installed…exciting stuff for a high school kid at the time.) In 1967, the shop moved to its final location at 500 S. Cliff Ave.

Jerry Wallenstein has worked at Buck’s since 1972. His dad, Leroy “Red” Wallenstein, and Dale Rothenbuehler bought the business from Buckwalter when Darlo retired. Jerry then bought the business in 2001. Jerry has now worked in the business for 45+ years. It’s time for retirement, and he’s sad to see it go. He advertised the business for sale for several months, but didn’t find a buyer. At that point, he decided to close up shop. He has sold all the equipment, salvage metal, and parts, and there is no “going out of business” sale to be held. I was in the shop on Friday, May 25th as Jerry was working on his last complete exhaust system. He was building a system for a pristine 1968 Dodge Charger being restored by his friend, Terry Dammer, at Attention to Detail.

For those that can’t quite place where Buck’s Muffler Shop was located, perhaps “Mr. Bendo” will help it come to mind. Mr. Bendo is the 25-foot tall statue of a man holding an exhaust pipe for all to see. Mr. Bendo has been a part of the Sioux Falls landscape, right in front of Buck’s Muffler, since 1965. Even Mr. Bendo has been sold! As you read this, Mr. Bendo has already moved to a new location at Automotive Brake and Exhaust, near 33rd and Minnesota Avenue.

Another memorable item in the Buck’s Muffler legacy was the “two-headed car,” or “Yellow Submarine” as some people called it. This was the 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook that had the front end of a second car grafted onto the rear of the car. Looking at the car, or watching it drive down the street, it gave the appearance that it could drive either direction without turning around. (In reality it could not.) Darlo bought the car at the State Fair in the early 1960s and used it for promotions and in parades. The two-headed car was also sold in May.

I visited with Jerry about his plans now that the business has been sold. It sounds like he has plenty of interests to keep him occupied. Jerry is a car guy, and has three classic cars to help fill his time. The “Orange Peeler I” is a 69 ½ Plymouth Roadrunner “440, six-pack” bought new by Darlo Buckwalter. He has a sharp 1964 Chevy pickup, factory 4WD, with a 327 engine. Also in the mix is a 1968 Chevy Chevelle former race car. The Chevelle is tubbed, has a roll cage, and a 396 with a TH 400 transmission. Both the Roadrunner and the pickup were restored by Terry Dammer. The Chevelle was bought from Dammer.  Jerry is also a fisherman and he’s looking forward to getting on the water this summer and enjoying that pastime.

So, Buck’s Muffler, with a history going back to 1957, is no longer with us. I think it’s safe to say “gone, but not forgotten.” I ‘m quite sure that many Sioux Falls residents, and certainly car guys, will continue to remember Buck’s Muffler Shop whenever they see Mr. Bendo, wherever he may be standing.


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