Rat Fink Visits The National Corvette Museum

People all over the world have viewed the insanely artistic work of Ed Roth. Known for his crazy caricatures of hot-rod riding monsters, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a trending force that shaped the car culture in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

For a limited time (and once the current restrictions are lifted) the National Corvette Museum is hosting a special exhibit of Ed Roth’s work. Known officially as the “Car-Toon Creatures, Kustom Kars and Corvettes: The Art and Influence of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth“, the exhibit features some of his most widely known creations, the NCM exhibit houses greats such as the Orbitron, Beatnik Bandit, and as you would expect, an overly life-sized Rat Fink. Other creations on display are his red-and-white customized 1956 Ford-F100 truck used for pinstriping, his tuxedo, and even a showcase of the various Hot Wheels, artwork, and vintage models that were created to highlight Ed’s work. There’s even a diorama of Ed’s garage to help authenticate the display.

The comprehensive display features Ed’s work, his vehicles, and even his tuxedo and top-hat!

Some may be asking how an icon of the Kustom Kulture would find his way into a museum solely devoted to the Corvette? But when you consider the scope of influence that Ed’s work had on the automotive scene, the connection becomes quite clear.

Iconic cars, such as The Outlaw, Tweedie-Pie, Beatnik Bandit, and Orbitron are all on display. Many youths of the '60s and '70s grew up building models of these cars. Now, you can see them all in one place.

“I don’t know if Ed Roth realized the extent of his impact over the years,” says Corvette’s Chief Designer and exhibit curator, Tom Peters. “I can tell you many designers that I’ve talked to over the course of my career, have that discussion of where you began, what inspired you. So many will say ‘I remember drawing those Rat Fink cars and building those models.’ The impact has been an incredible phenomenon within the industry.”

Tom explains how he hopes Roth’s enthusiasm and passion for pushing the envelope of automotive design will be carried over to the next generation of designers and enthusiasts. “This exhibit will inspire young people to get involved. Whether it is with cars or some other avenue for a career. It really speaks to a level of heartfelt creativity and an explosive way of generating new ideas to rock the world and rock the boat. I’m really excited about that.”

Coming Together

The exhibit could not be possible without the generosity of several Rat Fink fanciers. Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Auto Sports and owner of many of the original Roth cars helped with the exhibit and was present at the display’s opening in January. “What I love about Roth,” Beau explains, “he was incredible and did things on his own terms. He didn’t care so much about what others thought, and that’s what really made him great. He took the automobile and turned it into artwork in a way that hadn’t been done before.”

Interactive displays bring the exhibit to life while artifacts from Roth's and other enthusiasts' own stash of memorabilia round out the scope of the display.

Ed Roth’s wife, Ilene was on-hand and shared information, artifacts, and other bits to complete the comprehensive display area. “It is amazing to have it all come together in this beautiful facility, she says. “The talent is just dripping when you see everything. There has never been a more humbling experience for me than being here and seeing what they have done with Ed’s things. I know that my sweetie would totally appreciate how they have it displayed. It wasn’t about himself, it was about sharing his life with others.”

The exhibit illustrates the work that Ed Roth completed while he was with us, and the influence that it continues to exude on the automotive arena, even today.

You too can have the opportunity to experience the broad scope of creativity and talent that Ed Roth shared with the world once current restrictions are lifted at the NCM. You can sign up for their newsletter on the NCM’s website and keep updated as to when the museum exhibit area is again open for visitors.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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