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“Ed Roth – The Original Rat Fink” Exhibit Showcases Iconic “Rat Fink” Cartoons, Counterculture Art, and Custom Cars – Opening October 28, 2006


LOS ANGELES, CA – Few automotive cult figures better symbolize the rebellious

nature of the 1960’s hot rod movement than Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Best known for his

now iconic “Rat Fink”  cartoon, widely regarded as the alter ego of Disney’s

Mickey Mouse, Roth’s designs represented the dawn of a counterculture era. 

Roth was the first to capitalize on a successful formula for combining cartoon characters

with automobilia.  His trademark designs were popularized on everything from T-shirts

to wild hotrods and customs.


“Ed Roth – The Original Rat Fink” exhibit opens October 28t, 2006 and runs through

June 3, 2007.  It will explore the artistic methods that Roth embraced, including

drawing cartoons, pinstriping, and sculpting

unique automotive creations in fiberglass. Like

many artists, his often garish

anti-authoritarian aesthetic was not fully

accepted during his lifetime. Today, however,

his work exemplifies a period of dramatic

social change and his one-of-a-kind

vehicles command top dollar.



Roth’s legacy began in Southern California in the mid-1950s when he established

his reputation as a custom pinstriper and painter of flames. He then branched out into

what he called “weirdo shirts,” which donned famed airbrushed creations such as

grotesque heads surrounded by flames – a high fashion of the Southern California

street racing scene.


In 1959 he opened Roth Studios, and throughout the next decade he pushed the envelope

of car customization by developing a highly recognizable iconography that he imprinted

on shirts, jackets, and decals. Rat Fink is the most popular of the bizarre creatures

fashioned by Roth. The strikingly homely rodent is today considered the archetypal

Roth monster quickly became the darling of the counterculture revolution.


“We are thrilled to be able to present this important exhibition featuring Ed Roth’s designs

as they have become major influences, not only on the automotive history of

Los Angeles, but also on our nation’s pop culture, spawning hot rod counterculture,”

said Dick Messer, Director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. “Even today,

his techniques continue to influence major designers in the custom car industry.”


Proof of Roth’s influence came to fruition with RM Auctions Brucker Brothers

collection sale at the Petersen Museum this past May when the work of Roth and his

hot rod contemporaries sold for record breaking prices to a packed crowd of

enthusiasts. The sale included much of Roth’s most notable work such as sketches

“Rat Fink’s Revenge” which garnered an incredible $9,775 and “Brother Rat Fink”

which sold for a whopping $25,300 nearly three times its estimated value.


The Petersen Automotive Museum Ed Roth – The Original Rat Fink” exhibit gathers

some of the most significant automobiles and designs of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s career including:







The Outlaw has a custom frame fitted with a 1949 Cadillac overhead valve V-8 and

a fanciful custom body built entirely of hand-laid fiberglass. Featured on the cover

of Car Craft in 1960, it immediately propelled Roth to star status on the custom car scene.




The Beatnik Bandit, created in 1961, incorporates a bubble canopy and joystick-

style controls. In addition, inspired by the burgeoning “space race,” Roth created Rotar

(the Roth Air Car). Powered by two triumph motorcycle engines, and weighing just

750 pounds, Rotar was able to hover several inches above the ground. A Roth

Studios postcard of the era proclaimed “There is a remote possibility that this will be the

first car to reach the MOON.”


Mysterion & Road Agent

Roth’s Mysterion, a bold experiment in asymmetrical design, debuted in 1963. One

year later, Roth introduced the Road Agent. Named after a popular slang term for a

bounty hunter, the mid-engine, bubble-top roadster was powered by a 1960

Chevrolet Corvair flat six engine.


During the heyday of his creativity, Roth was quoted by author Tom Wolfe as

saying “Detroit is beginning to understand that there are just a hell of a lot of these bad

kids in the United States and they are growing up. And they want a better car. They

don’t want an old man’s car.”


Roth’s genius lies in the fact he had uncovered what the youth of the era craved, a

quality evidenced by the fact that he was building counterculture cars for the market

Detroit neglected.


The Petersen Automotive Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, a pioneer

in automotive education, and one of the nation’s largest and preeminent

automotive museums.  The Museum is located at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax)

in Los Angeles.  Admission prices are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students with

ID, and $3 for children ages 5 to 12. Museum members and children under five are

admitted free. Covered parking is available for $6.00 per car. Museum hours are

Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For general

Museum information, call (323) 930-CARS or visit the Museum’s web site address



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