ROTH ON FIRE

Big Daddy His­tory Re­made at Galpin

Street Trucks - - NEWS - TEXT BY MIKE SELF PHO­TOS BY KEVIN AGUILAR AND COUR­TESY OF GALPIN

WHEN I LOOK THROUGH OLD PHO­TOS OF ED ROTH’S F-100, I NOT ONLY SEE HOT ROD AND CUS­TOM TRUCK HIS­TORY, I SEE THE STRUG­GLES OF AN ARTIST WHO WASN’T CON­TENT TO FOL­LOW THE MAIN­STREAM, AND WHO WAS DE­TER­MINED TO IN­WARDLY AND OUT­WARDLY EX­PLORE HIS OWN PATH. Ed Roth’s art wasn’t for ev­ery­one, but it hit some of us like a ton of bricks at an early age, and Rat Fink and the rest of the Roth Weirdos have be­come mas­cots for us out­siders.

But as “out there” as Roth’s art was, he still needed to put food on the ta­ble and pay the bills. And as much as his art was for him­self, he re­lied on his pa­trons in or­der to keep it go­ing. Be­ing a starv­ing artist isn’t an op­tion when there are other mouths to feed.

A mili­tary man (Roth was honor­ably dis­charged from the U.S. Air Force), bar­ber, mar­tial artist and fam­ily man by the time he was mid­way through his twen­ties, Roth had a fond­ness for many things, but he was his most creative when it came to any­thing on wheels.

In the ’50s, his work was start­ing to get at­ten­tion through word of mouth, but the av­er­age Joe on the street didn’t yet know the Roth name. He had pre­vi­ously painted his ’48 Ford a bright red and plopped a giant pa­pier-mâché head on it. You’d think that would have got­ten him all the at­ten­tion he needed. The prob­lem was, ev­ery­one was fo­cus­ing on that head in­stead of the pin­strip­ing and let­ter­ing on the car, so un­less you wanted a giant nog­gin on top of your ride, you may not have got­ten the proper gist of the ser­vices that Roth was of­fer­ing.

So, he sold his ’48 and picked up a new ’56 F-100 in early

1957, giv­ing it a much more mar­ket­ing-friendly set of crab flames (which were, no doubt, still a strange sight to see in 1957), pin­strip­ing and, just for good mea­sure, some crazy ab­stract paint on the dash and even cra­zier air­brush­ing on the ton­neau cover. It was, in essence, a smor­gas­bord of Roth’s many paint-re­lated tal­ents, and a much bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what he was of­fer­ing to the gen­eral pub­lic.

The truck’s makeover worked, and it in­deed found Roth quite a few new lo­cal cus­tomers who wanted cus­tom paint and/or pin­strip­ing on their own ve­hi­cles. It even found its way into some mag­a­zines, which fur­ther helped Roth ce­ment his name in hot rod and cus­tom cul­ture. How­ever, he was never known to keep any of his ve­hi­cles for long, and he soon traded it in with less than 1,600 clicks on the odome­ter, wild paint and all.

Roth did see the truck at least once more, when the gen­tle­man who bought it brought it back to him to have some let­ter­ing done, but it even­tu­ally dis­ap­peared off the streets of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. And so the story seem­ingly came to an end, at least for the bet­ter part of 60 years.

Some of you might have seen the sto­ries of the dis­cov­ery of Ed

Roth’s ’56 F-100 on­line, or even right here in Street Trucks (“Word on the Street,” pg. 12, Dec. 2016). Early on, some peo­ple doubted that this was the ac­tual Roth shop truck (that’s the In­ter­net for you), for var­i­ous rea­sons that would end up de­bunked be­fore long. Make no mis­take, with Roth his­to­ri­ans and ex­perts such as Beau Boeck­mann, Dave Shuten and Aaron Ka­han as part of the GAS (Galpin Auto Sports) team, great pains were taken to make sure that this was the truck.

For in­stance, it had been long-ac­cepted folk­lore that

Roth had swapped in a Packard en­gine af­ter grenad­ing the orig­i­nal 272 Y-block, but this ended up be­ing one of the big­ger pieces of the puz­zle that was bo­gus. In fact, the truck did end up with Packard power, but not un­til years af­ter Roth had traded it in when its new owner Oliver “O.Z.” Brad­shaw swapped in the 1956 Packard Golden Hawk en­gine af­ter the 272 gave up the ghost while on the road in cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia.

The truck would spend a few years back on the road in Cal­i­for­nia, and it was even re­painted a few times (gasp!) ex­cept for the grille, but O.Z. even­tu­ally moved his fam­ily to Paden, Ok­la­homa, in 1968. As luck would have it, the Stude­baker en­gine also suf­fered an early death when O.Z. ne­glected to drain the wa­ter out of the block one win­ter, which caused it to crack.

The truck sat for decades, un­til O.Z. de­cided to fi­nally part with it in 2016. The short­est ver­sion of the story is that it changed hands twice, with Beau Boeck­mann of GAS even­tu­ally tak­ing own­er­ship. Many would agree that GAS is the author­ity on all things Roth, es­pe­cially his cus­tom ve­hi­cles, and with few ex­cep­tions was re­ally the only place ca­pa­ble of get­ting the restora­tion ab­so­lutely per­fect.

Not one to half-ass things, Dave Shuten, who heads up restora­tions at GAS, made some pretty heavy de­ci­sions to en­sure the truck would be re­stored ex­actly how Roth had orig­i­nally built it. That meant tak­ing the truck back in time to 1957, be­fore it even got its flames. That’s right, the truck un­der­went a com­plete orig­i­nal restora­tion, but it wasn’t “over-re­stored” to make it a flaw­less show truck. Rather, it was brought back to the con­di­tion it would have been in when Roth picked it up from the deal­er­ship. That didn’t mean that he’d skip any details, though. In fact, while the truck was fi­nally be­ing brought back to its for­mer glory, the GAS crew re­in­stalled an orig­i­nal-spec 1956 272 Y-block Ford, which was built by Ross Rac­ing En­gines, since Roth never had that Packard in it.

The great­est ex­am­ple of this metic­u­lous­ness, how­ever, is the fact that the truck was ac­tu­ally re­sprayed in its orig­i­nal Meadow Mist Green be­fore the Roth paint job was reap­plied. Han­dling the mon­u­men­tal task of recre­at­ing the paint was a group of all-stars who have a pas­sion for Roth’s work. Mike Lewis from GAS laid down the pearl white base, then Dave Shuten painstak­ingly taped off the ar­eas to be sprayed candy ap­ple red, again by Lewis. You’ll no­tice, how­ever, that the en­gine bay and in­side of the bed were left green, as Roth had done. Pete “Hot­dog” Fin­lan then came in to ap­ply the yel­low out­lines, green pin­stripes and let­ter­ing in Roth’s unique style.

Con­tin­u­ing the process, for­mer Roth in-house artist Robert Wil­liams (yes, that

Robt. Wil­liams) of­fered his ex­per­tise and recre­ated the

paint scheme on the dash­board, while ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite Beat­nik (well, ex­cept maybe for that James Het­field guy) Von Franco chan­neled his in­ner Roth and air­brushed an in­cred­i­bly ac­cu­rate fac­sim­ile of the orig­i­nal art­work on the soft ton­neau cover.

As men­tioned, the truck was re­fin­ished to ex­actly how Roth had orig­i­nally mod­i­fied it, so it even in­ten­tion­ally wears a bit of over­spray un­der­neath. To fin­ish up the ex­te­rior, a set of 1957-era JC Whit­ney af­ter­mar­ket wheel cov­ers was lo­cated and snapped onto the orig­i­nal Ford wheels.

Ex­cept for the painted dash, Roth left the in­te­rior pretty much stock, although he did in­stall an af­ter­mar­ket seat cover to bet­ter match the truck’s new ex­te­rior col­ors. Shuten’s re­source­ful­ness and in­fi­nite con­nec­tions net­ted some of the orig­i­nal ma­te­ri­als used for those af­ter­mar­ket seat cov­ers, which El­e­gance Auto Up­hol­stery used as a model to recre­ate a set per­fectly.

Since be­ing re­stored, the Ed Roth shop truck has been en­joy­ing a much more pam­pered life than it had grown ac­cus­tomed to, and spends its time among sib­lings in the Roth mu­seum, which is lo­cated at Galpin Auto Sports. Lucky for you, the mu­seum is open to the pub­lic by ap­point­ment. Start plan­ning that trip to Van Nuys, Cal­i­for­nia, guys.

... THE TRUCK UN­DER­WENT A COM­PLETE ORIG­I­NAL RESTORA­TION, BUT IT WASN’T ‘OVER-RE­STORED’ TO MAKE IT A FLAW­LESS SHOW TRUCK.”

AS YOU CAN SEE, THE TRUCK WAS IN REAL BAD SHAPE WHEN IT

WAS FOUND. IT’S A SHAME TO SEE SUCH A HIS­TOR­I­CAL VE­HI­CLE SO BEAT DOWN AND BRO­KEN.

IT’S HARD TO BE­LIEVE THAT THIS TRUCK WAS RE­TURNED TO ITS ORIG­I­NAL FORM BE­FORE THE RECRE­ATION OF ROTH’S PAINT JOB WAS AP­PLIED.

THE DASH­BOARD WAS ONE OF THE MOST CHAL­LENG­ING PIECES TO RE­STORE, BUT THANK­FULLY WORLD-FA­MOUS ARTIST ROBERT WIL­LIAMS, WHO ONCE WORKED FOR ROTH, WAS ABLE TO HELP OUT. IT’S IN­TER­EST­ING TO NOTE THAT WIL­LIAMS’ NEPHEW, AARON KA­HAN, IS THE CREATIVE DIREC­TOR AND RES­I­DENT ROTH AR­CHIV­IST AT GAS.

AN­OTHER ARTIST WHO POURED HIS HEART INTO THE TRUCK’S RESTORA­TION WAS VON FRANCO, NOTED LOWBROW ARTIST EX­TRAOR­DI­NAIRE. HE ALSO WORKED WITH ROTH AND IS IN­TI­MATELY FA­MIL­IAR WITH ROTH’S WORK AND STYLE. HIS RECRE­ATION OF THE TON­NEAU COVER ART­WORK ON THIS TRUCK WILL SEND CHILLS DOWN YOUR SPINE IF YOU EVER GET TO SEE IT IN PER­SON.

FOR YEARS, IT WAS RU­MORED THAT ROTH HAD SWAPPED A PACKARD MILL INTO HIS ’56 F-100, BUT THE SECOND OWNER OF THE TRUCK, OLIVER “O.Z.” BRAD­SHAW LAID THAT FALLACY TO REST WHEN HE SHARED THAT HE WAS THE ONE TO MAKE THE SWAP, YEARS AF­TER ROTH HAD SOLD IT OFF. THE TRUCK NOW HAS A COR­RECT 1956 272 Y-BLOCK WITH CAL CUS­TOM AIR CLEANER.

ASIDE FROM THE PINSTRIPED TAILLIGHT LENSES, THE GRILLE WAS ONE OF THE ONLY OB­VI­OUS INI­TIAL CLUES THAT THIS WAS IN­DEED ROTH’S SHOP TRUCK. IT HAD BEEN HUNG UP IN­DOORS SOON AF­TER THE TRUCK WAS PARKED ONCE THE SECOND EN­GINE WAS DE­STROYED, AND IT STILL WORE ITS ORIG­I­NAL ROTH PAINT. THE ORIG­I­NAL GRILLE AND TAIL­LIGHTS ARE ON DIS­PLAY NEXT TO THE TRUCK AT GAS.

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