Damn You, Daddy, Damn You

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

For impressionable kids of the early 1960s, one of the gatekeepers to the simmering counterculture was rot rod pioneer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Ed combined suped up cars, surfing and bug-eyed monsters to create t-shirts and model kits of intoxicating vulgarity. His signature cartoon character, Rat Fink, was a revelation for misfit children confused by their own disenchantment with the Wonderful World of Disney. The jittery, fly-covered rat was the sort of crude scrawl the kids might draw themselves, only to have the art confiscated by a disapproving teacher or scout leader.
 Junior may not have understood that Roth’s ludicrous hot rods and drooling monsters hinted at an unwholesome underworld of sex and drugs, but mom and dad sure did. Like Bill Gaines, Soupy Sales and Elvis before him, Ed Roth was a decidedly Bad Influence who created a rift between thrill-seeking youth and their conformist elders. “How can they say Rat Fink is wrong”, they asked, “when it feel so right?”

In addition to warping America’s children with demented cartoons (paving a direct path to the underground comics of the hippie era), Ed inspired a DIY movement among car enthusiasts. Not satisfied with simply pimping old Model T’s, he made innovative use of fiberglass to craft unique body styles, designs which won acclaim with hot rodders and model kit builders alike. His early masterpiece, the Beatnik Bandit (shown above), even featured a joystick of his own invention which controlled the steering, acceleration, braking and transmission all in one. At his most ambitious, Ed even built one car, Rotar, which levitated on a cloud of air. Above all, he encouraged sheer aesthetics as well as horsepower in the art of the hot rod. As Ed himself would say, “Looks bad…is bad.”

1 comment:

David said...

Very nice illo. Great job.