Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth: Cartoonist, Hotrodder Legend (1932-2001)

By | March 2, 2020

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Left: Ed Roth with his Excaliber Roadster in 1959, which he renamed The Outlaw. Right: Rat Fink sticker, Source: Photo by Colin Creitz/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images; Amazon.com

A kind of patron saint of hot rods, rock ’n roll, and Rat Fink, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was a counter culture legend who brought snarling monsters and wacko fiberglass road oddities to the mainstream in the late 1950s and 1960s. His style of thick lined, “weird” art combined with eye-catching custom cars made the Southern California "kustom kulture" nationally influential through stickers, t-shirts, posters, and model kits. Initially seen as too weird for normal audiences, Roth’s designs changed the way people thought about car culture and art in general. Go to any car show today and you’ll definitely see Roth’s imagery and plenty of copycats trying to capture that Rat Fink look.

Roth's First Language Was Art

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source: Utah Stories

Born in Beverly Hills, California, Roth started drawing when he and his family moved to Bell, California. With his family refusing to speak English at home, Roth had to pick it up in school while continuing his studies in art. It was at this young age that he started drawing hot rods and monsters while trying to keep up in school. At home he and his brothers were taught the basics of construction by his father, a German cabinetmaker who was incredibly strict. This is where Roth first started experimenting with strange contraptions and odd angles in his work.