Why Do Some Semi-Trucks Have a Woman on Their Mudflaps?
Have you noticed semi-trucks and even pickup trucks with the outline of a reclining woman emblazoned on the rubber mudflaps hanging behind their rear wheels? Perhaps the driver simply found the image attractive and decided to modify their truck. But this Mudflap Girl has also represented everything from outlaw truck driver culture, to feminism, to a beloved wife waiting back home.
Where did the Mudflap Girl come from?
There are several stories about the origins of the iconic Mudflap Girl. But only one of them has real evidence behind it: truck driver Stewart Allen created the image in the 1960s when he ordered custom mudflaps based on a picture of his wife.
For years truckers, and even custom mudflap companies, were quick to say that the Mudflap Girl was first printed by Wiz Enterprises of Long Beach, California. The legend bouncing around truck stops was that outline is based on a real flesh-and-blood woman, an exotic dancer named Leta Laroe, who caught the eye of Zing Enterprises’ owner, Bill Zinda.
But Mel Magazine revealed that there’s no record of Leta Laroe, or Bill Zinda, or Wiz Enterprises. Then a man named Ed Allen made an incredible claim: the Mudflap Girl is his mother.
Ed’s father, Stewart Allen, was a truck driver. In the cab, Stewart hung a favorite photo of his wife, Rachel Ann, reclining in a swimsuit during a family vacation. He’d even thought of painting its likeness on his truck. But his boss had forbidden him from modifying the big rig.
Then Stewart realized that his boss inspected the truck while it was backed up to the loading dock, its mudflaps blocked from view. So the truck driver ordered a pair of mudflaps printed with the outline of Rachel Ann. The rest, as they say, is history.
Is the Mudflap Girl trademarked?
The U.S. Patent Office granted Ed Allen the first ever trademark for the Mudflap Girl. But the image has entered what’s called “public usage,” and Allen can’t charge any of the companies making money off of the image or its many variations.
Allen told Wired Magazine that in 1967 Bill Zinda noticed Stewart’s mudflaps. He says the shop owner asked to print and sell replicas, and Stewart gave him the green light.
The image spread from semi-truck mudflaps to custom motorcycles, belt buckles, and today even inspires multiple lines of cookie cutters. There are countless variations too. The Feministing blog created a custom logo of the Mudflap Girl holding up her middle finger. The Wyoming Public Libraries created a variation in which she’s reading a book.
What is the meaning of the Mudflap Girl?
Meanings of the original Mudflap Girl are as individual as the many drivers who use it to decorate their vehicles. They may range from simply enjoying the attractive silhouette to being reminded of someone back home to a defiant act of rebellion.
Rebellion was probably a major reason many truck drivers adopted the Mudflap Girl. She did explode onto the scene during the outlaw trucker era of the Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit. And the inventor supposedly chose mudflaps so his boss wouldn’t notice. But she may have represented something more.
Stewart Allen might have wanted a higher-resolution image on his mudflaps. But in the 1960s, he had to settle for a single-color outline. The resulting Mudflap Girl was an anonymous everywoman. She can represent both the Rachel Ann Allens and the Leta Laroes of the world. The secret to her success may be that truck drivers looked at her and saw whoever kept them going–whoever they hoped waited at the end of their road.
Is the Mudflap Girl still relevant? Appropriate? Amazon reviewers joke that she’s soon to be canceled, even writing, “Get them now while you still can.” But Magdalene Taylor, Mel Magazine’s self-proclaimed sex, adult industry, and “boob culture” correspondent, stood up for the Mudflap Girl. Taylor says of the image: “She’s a reminder that there’s beauty in the world.”
Next, learn why some semi-trucks have wheels that don’t touch the ground, or see a customized semi-truck in the video below: