Ed “Big Daddy” Roth

Read his full official bio here:


Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was an artist, cartoonist, illustrator, pinstriper and custom car designer and builder who created the hot-rod icon Rat Fink and other characters. Roth was a key figure in Southern California’s Kustom Kulture and hot-rod movement of the late 1950s and 1960s.

Roth is best known for his caricatures — typified by Rat Fink — depicting imaginative, out-sized monstrosities driving representations of the hot rods that he and his contemporaries built. Roth began airbrushing and selling “Weirdo” T-shirts at car shows and in the pages of Car Craft magazine as early as July 1958. By the August 1959 issue of Car Craft “Weirdo shirts” had become a full blown craze with Roth at the forefront of the movement. The article featured Roth along with fellow Kustom Kulture pioneers Dean Jeffries and Pete Millar.

Inspired by Roth and Barris Kustoms (whose shirts were airbrushed by Dean Jeffries), Detroit native Stanley Miller, a.k.a. “Stanley Mouse”, began advertising his own shirts in the pages of Car Craft in January 1961. The lesser known Rendina Studios of Detroit and Mad Mac of Cleveland also joined in on the monster “weirdo” shirt craze, but Roth was certainly the man who widely popularized the “Monsters in hot rods” art form.


Famous Rat Fink

Rat Fink is one of the several hot-rod characters created by one of the originators of Kustom Kulture, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Roth’s dislike for Mickey Mouse led him to draw the original Rat Fink art. After he placed Rat Fink art on an airbrushed monster shirt, the character soon came to symbolize the entire hot-rod/Kustom Kulture scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Roth is accepted as the individual who popularized “Monster Hot Rod” art form.

Ed Roth Cars

Ed Roth Outlaw
The Ed Roth Outlaw was the first car that Ed created using his special plaster and fiberglass method.

Ed originally named the car Excaliber (after his mother-in-law’s family Revolutionary War sword that was used as the shifter) but changed it be cause people had trouble pronouncing it.

As Ed put it, the Ed Roth Orbitron was “a failure at the shows.” He believed that covering the shiny ’55 Chevy engine of the Ed Roth Orbitron was to blame for its downfall. Inside features a TV, Cragar steering wheel, Moon gas pedal, Hurst shifter and a Dixco tachometer.

Ed got the idea to use the three primary colored headlights, so when they turned on and focused in one spot they would create a white beam.

The Ed Roth Orbitron went missing for many years, and only recently turned up in Mexico. The original fiberglass, chassis and engine were totally intact.