Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth, born March 4, 1932 was an artist and the creator of 'Rat Fink' and other characters, custom car builder, and one of the people responsible for the 'Kustom Kulture' / Hot rod movement of the 1960s in Southern California. He's best known for his grotesque caricatures, typified by 'Rat Fink,' depicting imaginative, outsized monstrosities driving representations of the hot rods he and his contemporaries were building. He's less well known for his innovative work in turning Hot Rodding from crude backyard engineering where performance was the bottom line into a refined artform where aesthetics were equally important, breaking new ground with fiberglass bodywork. He's also known as 'Mr. Gasser' to the hot-rodding community. As a custom car builder, Roth was a key figure in Southern California's Kustom Kulture and hot-rod movement of the 1960s. He grew up in Bell, California, attending Bell High School, where his classes included auto shop and art.
A Roth custom feared lost for many years was the subject of a number of articles in automotive enthusiast magazines in the summer of 2008. The Orbitron, built in 1964, was discovered in Mexico in late 2007. The car, in dilapidated, inoperative condition, had been parked for quite some time in front of an adult bookstore in Ciudad Juárez. The owners of the shop were also the owners of the car. It was purchased by Michael Lightbourn, an American auto restorer who did extensive business in Mexico and who in turn repatriated the car to the United States. The Orbitron has since been restored to its original condition by Beau Boeckmann.
Ed Roth was reportedly married four times. His fourth wife, Ilene, lives in Manti, Utah, where Ed Roth spent the final years of his life. Roth joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in 1974.
Ed kept active in the field of counter-culture art and hot-rodding his entire adult life, and passed away April 4, 2001, working on an innovative hot-rod project involving a compact car that was a radical departure from the dominant 'tuner' performance modification style.
Since his death, an annual 'Big Daddy Roth' Open House has been held in Manti around the anniversary of his death. The museum that Ilene Roth created to honor her late husband includes displays of Ed's art work and other memorabilia. It is open to the public during the open house and year-round by appointment.