Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Kandy-Colored, Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, called custom car builder Ed Roth “the Salvador Dali of hot rodding.”
A fitting moniker and certainly a factor in the recent big-bucks sale of a re-creation of a”Big Daddy” Roth custom at RM Sothebys at The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles last weekend.
The final sale price of Lot #168 was $246,000, double Sotheby’s estimate of $100/150k. Built by Jeff Jones, this drivable re-creation is incredible.
According to RM Sotheby’s, “Ed Roth was a major player in mid-century Southern California car culture. He underpriced the big pinstriping and scallop painting names like Von Dutch, Dean Jeffries, and Larry Watson, and his business boomed.
“Roth worked closely with artists like Joe Henning, Robert Williams, Ed “Newt” Newton, Tom Daniels, and Stanley Miller (a.k.a. Stanley Mouse). Revell began to build what would eventually be millions of Roth model car kits. They were distributed around the world—and are still being re-issued.
“Ed Roth’s imaginative cartoon characters, led by the irrepressible “Rat Fink,” a.k.a. “Mickey Mouse’s evil twin,” captivated worldwide audiences. Leave Ed to take the most popular children’s cartoon figure of the era and make it wicked, even vulgar.
The “weirdo” designs were just wild enough to annoy most parents, and impress kids, but still be on the right side of propriety. Roth discovered that if he built more crazy show cars, he would be invited to display them at major shows, often with expenses paid. Then he would be able to sell more T-shirts and other themed gear.
“Over a tumultuous decade in the 1960s, Ed built a series of wild custom car creations that bore distant relationships to “conventional” hot rods and customs, but employed fresh new materials, fantastic shapes, wild colors, and modified engines to elevate the custom car genre to an artistic level never before achieved. Roth’s rods—a small number of one-offs—are unforgettable. Many survive in museums and private collections.
“The “Mysterion,” a radical twin-engine car with a duo of 390-cu. in. Ford big-blocks, was probably inspired by two-engine dragsters like Tommy Ivo’s twin -uick. The engines are tilted and their natural offset permits exhaust header clearance.
“Although asymmetrical styling proved to be a short-lived fad, Ed had to try it. The Mysterion had an oblong grille and odd-shaped nosepiece, with one large, pod-mounted headlight on the left and a smaller conventional light on the right. The hydraulically operated bubble top had a little windshield in the front. Larry Watson painted it gold Murano candy over white pearl. Everything was chromed, including the chassis. However, the original Mysterion show car did not run.
“After many appearances, Roth’s Mysterion was parted out and no longer exists.
“Jeff Jones, a widely published petroleum engineer and an admirer of Ed Roth, decided to build an exact functioning replica. There was virtually no documentation save for the Revell scale model and a few magazine articles.
“Jones built a new frame, sourced the correct Ford big-block engines, and mounted them so that one ran, and the other did not, but appears to be functional. He faithfully copied the original Mysterion to the last detail. Jones then wrote a book, Ed Roth’s Mysterion, the Genesis, Demise and Recreation of an Iconic Custom Car, detailing the extraordinary effort behind his bolt-by-bolt re-creation of the Mysterion.”
Very cool and congrats to the new owner. Can you imagine the buzz this thing will bring at the local show-and-shine? Stay tuned to Rod Authority for all the latest auction results.