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Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (pictured below) was born in Beverly Hills, California on March 4, 1932. Roth began driving when he was 12 years old. He'd buy old cars and customize them .for racing or cruising. At age 19, Ed joined the Air Force, and was honorably discharged in 1955. Roth married, and had five children, all boys -- he really was a Big Daddy!

In 1958, Roth started building race cars from scratch in his garage. The first one was named the "Little Jewel," shortly after that came the "Outlaw." Big Daddy's garage soon became his art studio. His cars weren't really meant to be driven, they were more like crazy sculptures on wheels.

Roth financed his custom car creations by doing personalized, one of a kind airbrushed T-shirts at races and drag strips. Big Daddy would draw cartoons of whacky monsters, or sometimes pictures of funny cars -- but people began to line up for Roth's work when he started airbrushing T-shirts with monsters AND funny cars! (Art imitating Roth's wild style of drawing pictured below.)
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When plastic model kits of Roth’s zany monster cars appeared, they sold like hot cakes, leading Roth to invent his most popular creation, a repulsive rodent named Rat Fink. Roth was a genius at designing crazy cars, but it was "Finkie" who brought him fame and fortune.

Small plastic Rat Finks in different colors (yellow RF pictured right) were sold in bubble gum machines, and collecting a RF in each color soon became a national craze. Reader, how many quarters did YOU drop trying to get your favorite color RF?

As a result of the national RF craze, Big Daddy Roth became famous, and Rat Fink became an immortal pop-culture icon. RF even got his own comic book -- although the crudely produced, black and white book didn't last very long. Pictured below are the covers of three vintage Rat Fink comic books, plus a few interior pages.
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Finkie was a hit! Big Daddy Roth joked that he created Rat Fink "to show what Mickey Mouse's father looked like." But whatever his reasons, the repulsive rodent caught on -- big time -- and by 1963, every kid in America had or wanted a plastic Rat Fink, Rat Fink T-shirt, or Rat Fink model kit (box art pictured below) from Revell.
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The Rat Fink craze eventually died down. After it did, Big Daddy Roth unexpectedly found religion, dropped out of sight, and began living a quiet life as a Mormon sign painter! "I'd like to thank my father in heaven for the health, strength and revelation that made these things possible," Roth once said.

But Rat Fink didn't drop out of sight. Years passed, and he soon began to find a new life of his own -- in tattoo parlors, underground comics, and art galleries -- as a classic icon symbolizing the manic energy of the early 1960s.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth passed away on April 4, 2001. Big Daddy may no longer be with us, but his zany creations will live on forever, resurging in popularity every time a new generation rediscovers them. People may come and go, but as Roth himself once noted, "Rat Fink is forever!"


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