Ed Roth’s Kustom Kulture creations to appear at Amelia Island

In yet another prestige concours nod to the artisanship that came out of southern California hot rod and custom shops in the 1950s and ’60s, the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will feature a special class to honor the cars of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Paul Conroy

Roth gained fame as a cartoonist in the early 1960s with his drooling, grotesque Rat Fink character. He viewed Rat Fink as the anti-Mickey Mouse, a counter-culture antidote to the saccharine establishment Roth saw all around him. Sales from prints, stickers, and T-shirts featuring Rat Fink earned Roth enough notoriety and money to turn his creative attention to cars. He died in 2001 at the age of 69.

In addition to being an artist with a novel eye, Roth was equal parts engineer and mad scientist. This unique combination led to some of the wildest automotive creations of the era, like the Outlaw, which appeared in both Car Craft and Rod and Custom magazines in 1960. Other “Kustom Kulture” cars included the Beatnik Bandit, Orbitron, Surfite, and Mysterion.

1961 Beatnik Bandit
1961 Beatnik Bandit Photo courtesy of the National Automobile Museum, Reno, NV
1961 Beatnik Bandit profile
1961 Beatnik Bandit Photo courtesy of the National Automobile Museum, Reno, NV

“The custom car era of the 1950s and 1960s was an interesting mutation of the ‘dream car’ epoch that swept through the Big Three and the hot rod scene of that time,” says Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance “Roth pushed things well beyond the edge of the envelope. Then he tore up the envelope. His customs were three-dimensional versions of his cartoons. This is going to be fun. Weird, but fun.”

If you’re in the mood for some wild fun, March 11 in northern Florida is the perfect opportunity to take it in—and to see some of the wildest, most influential kustoms from this long-ago era.

Orbitron interior
Orbitron Photo courtesy of Beau Boeckmann, Galpin Ford, North Hills, CA
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