Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (March 4, 1932 – April 4, 2001) was an artist and cartoonist who created the hot-rod icon Rat Fink and other extreme characters. As a custom car builder, Roth was a key figure in Southern California's "Kustom Kulture"/Hot-rod movement of the 1960s. He grew up in Bell, California, attending Bell High School, where his classes included auto shop and art.

Roth is best known for his grotesque caricatures — typified by Rat Fink — depicting imaginative, over sized monstrosities driving representations of the hot rods he and his contemporaries built. Although Detroit native Stanley Mouse (Miller) is credited with creating the so-called "Monster Hot Rod" art form, Roth is accepted as the individual who popularized it. Roth is less well known for his innovative work in turning hot rodding from crude backyard engineering where performance was the bottom line into a refined artform where aesthetics were equally important, breaking new ground with fiberglass bodywork.

In the 1960s, plastic models of many of Roth's cars, as well as models of Rat Fink and other whimsical creatures created by Roth, were marketed by the Revell model company.

Numerous artists were associated with Roth, including painter Robert Williams, Rat Fink Comix artist R.K. Sloane and Steve Fiorilla, who illustrated Roth's catalogs.

Roth was active in the field of counterculture art and hot-rodding his entire adult life. At the time of his death in 2001, he was working on an innovative hot-rod project involving a compact car planned as a radical departure from the dominant "tuner" performance modification style. In his later years, Roth's telephone number was listed in the directory, and he encouraged fans to contact him: he was always generous with his time and enthusiasm.

A Roth custom feared lost for many years was the subject of a number of articles in automotive enthusiast magazines in the summer of 2008. The Orbitron, built in 1964, was discovered in Mexico in late 2007. The car, in dilapidated, inoperative condition, had been parked for quite some time in front of an adult bookstore in Ciudad Juárez. The owners of the shop were also the owners of the car. It was purchased by Michael Lightbourn, an American auto restorer who did extensive business in Mexico and who in turn repatriated the car to the United States. The Orbitron has since been restored to its original condition by present owner Beau Boeckmann.

Mr. Gasser & the Weirdos[edit | edit source]

Mr. Gasser & the Weirdos was a 1960s novelty group led by Roth, who himself was known as Mr. Gasser. Formed in the early 1960s they released a few bizarre surf rock albums, most notably 1963's Hot Rod Hootenanny. One Way Records released a 2CD-set (S22-18319) which contains the 3 LPs and the original artwork.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Ed Roth was reportedly married three times. His third wife, his widow, lives in Manti, Utah, where Ed Roth spent the final years of his life. Roth joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in 1974.

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