This man has been an absolute pleasure to research, picking off layers of memory like old paint. I would imagine anyone who has run across Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's work in either auto or illustrated form can remember when their face would go into a face-splitting grin; I remember Revell models that were being built with regularity that included a background of Dr.Demento, Evel Knievel and MAD magazines. It blew my mind that any of these things could be real, but sure enough they were and a testament to American ingenuity when allowed to manifest. His was a creative spirit to art and experimentation that still exists to this day, and I look forward to the day someone will have a field day and take up the cutting torch for 21st century customizations with engine efficiency. Roth was a pioneer with the V-8s and American cars of a previous era; it will be a kick to see who comes up next in this age of electronics, hydro and biodiesel.
It would be many years before I found out about how he shaped fiberglass into all of his wild shapes and still allowing functionality, using plaster rather than wood, and the design process in clay he demonstrates in an interview in TALES OF THE RAT FINK by Ron Mann. I will do a review of the film at a later time, but suffice to say it is a beautiful tribute to Big Daddy and what he gave to generations of gearheads, artists and musicians. Makes me wonder what would have happened if he and Buckminster Fuller were given a huge bankroll, maybe some creative doodling will crop up when I'm surfing the Web.
An interesting detail, and one that I hope will come around in American car design, is the placement of the motor in back of the driver. The placement made it possible for his cars to be road sturdy and also go long distances where there were fewer stops for gas, water or a leg stretch. Ed Roth is one of the few car designers I know of currently who took into account the motor then he designed a customized ride, and most important he was a man who asked ( what he would call) the "basic questions" rather than what would make a pretty outside. Until I develop my research further, I would have to agree with him that art schools do not make the students consider the physics and operations of a motor: fuel combustion, lubrication points, and efficient engine cooling are only a few of the things that should be considered when designing a body to go around it rather than a body and conforming an engine to it's shape-if it's a bad design, then no money should go to manufacturing (oops, too late). But I digress…
Here are links to car collections and an article from Pat Ganahl from 2009 about the Orbitron; the auction that included a "lot" from Ed Roth's estate plus glorious color photos with my dreambaby the Druid Princess -enjoy!
Petersen Automotive Museum Los Angeles,Ca
America’s Car Collection -Flying A Garage
Icons of Speed and Style auction including tools,supplies from Roth and Von Dutch