Learn about why hot rod monsters such as Rat Fink are such a popular design in hot rod culture with Lethal Threat.
We'll shoot straight: We love monsters of all kinds in hot rod culture:
- We are HUGE fans of horror movies.
- Every ride could be our last. That's why you often see the Grim Reaper in hot rod culture.
- Society loves to think of us as monsters, because we don't care about the same things as the normies. We have no problem with being their monsters.
But there are a few monsters unique to hot rod culture. They were spawned and steeped by people tuning engines or gripping handlebars. And they can all be traced back to one insanely talented, artist. The Rat Fink-style monsters made famous by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth during the late 1950s and early 1960s are some of the most influential characters in hot rod culture.
Big Daddy's beginnings
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was an artist, cartoonist, illustrator and custom car designer and builder in Southern California who created the hot rod icon Rat Fink and other monster characters. During the late 1950s, with the increasing worldwide popularity of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom, Ed Roth saw that things were not so wonderful for everybody in the U.S. as Disney's funny and fun-loving characters may have suggested. The depiction of a perfect life and happy family enjoying all things Disney inspired Roth to develop his anti-hero to Mickey Mouse, Rat Fink.
If you were born on the wrong side of the tracks and life was not a bowl of cherries, Rat Fink was for you. Rat Fink is usually portrayed as either green or gray, comically grotesque and depraved-looking.
This large, overweight rat has bulging, bloodshot eyes and an oversized mouth with sharp narrow teeth. He is wearing red overalls with the initials "R.F." on them. He is often depicted as driving cars or motorcycles.
In the late 1950s, Roth began airbrushing and selling weirdo T-shirts at car events across California. Along with Rat Fink, Roth created a series of other weirdo-style monsters that became popular in the Hot Rod scene.
All these years later, Roth's designs and influence are still here today in the Hot Rod and Kustom Kulture world. Big Daddy died in 2001, leaving the rights to his famous characters and creations to his last wife.
Since Ed's death, an annual Big Daddy Roth open house has been held at Manti, Utah, on a day near the anniversary of his death. A museum his wife created hosts the party as a tribute to her late husband and his amazing artwork.
Now you know the story of Big Daddy Roth and the fabulous creatures he created. It is part of Big Daddy's creative genius that these outlandish, colorful critters are intimidating yet somehow reassuring at the same time. They are creepy yet funny and fun at the same time.
When you see a Rat Fink motorcycle decal or hot rod design detail, take a moment to think about Big Daddy and his creative contributions to the Kustom Kulture and Hot Rod lifestyle. You will also notice designs inspired by Big Daddy's original ways in patches, on T-shirts and many other media. Many artists today owe a debt to this pioneer of offbeat art.
Big Daddy's genius will be sorely missed, but his art will live forever or for as long as his fans respect and appreciate his contributions to pop culture. In his way, Big Daddy was as much of a giant of the art scene as Andy Warhol and other pop art artists.
At Lethal Threat, we make sure our hod rod monster designs pay tribute to Roth and all the great counterculture artists. Authenticity is what makes our shirts, stickers and other gear so popular. While others try to copy without context, we pay respect to a lifestyle that is 100% genuine, and genuinely out of the mainstream.