Growing up in the 1970s, I remember loving to look at the work of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, though back then I didn’t know he was the creative genius responsible for those crazy caricatures of cars with big slick tires and fiery exhaust.
Tom Peters was so influenced by the timeless work of “Big Daddy” Roth that he was inspired to launch a career as a long-time designer for General Motors, including work on Corvettes, of course.
Now retired, Peters is helping pay tribute to Roth by co-curating a year-long exhibition in 2020 at the National Corvette Museum called “Car-Toon Creatures, Kustom Kars & Corvettes.”
Included in the exhibit will be a re-creation of Roth’s garage, where vehicles like the Orbitron, Mysterion, Orchid, Bubble Ray, and Tweedy Pie will be on display, along with his personal truck used in his pinstriping business, vintage toys and T-shirts, and model kits. Peters’ design studio at the GM Tech Center will also be re-created, and a display of Corvettes he created is planned.
“Back in the 1950s and ’60s, kids who liked cars bought hot rod magazines along with T-shirts, models, stickers and toys from Roth Studios,” said Bob Bubnis, historical media coordinator and lead curator for the “Big Daddy” exhibit. “They featured caricatures of cars with giant smoking slicks and fire coming out of the exhaust, with blown engines and cartoon monsters at the wheel. Tom would begin copying those drawings, and in the process, he learned about how to draw cars with personalities and attitudes. The monsters were just cool. The most notable one was Rat Fink, who will serve as the mascot throughout this exhibit.”
Bubnis says the exhibit will appeal to more than just older enthusiasts.
“Anyone from that era will love taking a trip back through time to see these cars and artifacts together in the same place,” said Bubnis. “In addition to that though, we will be introducing Rat Fink and his gang of crazy creatures to a new generation. There will be lots of friendly monsters throughout the exhibit to keep young people entertained.”
Bubnis says he won’t be surprised to see grandparents bringing their grandchildren to the exhibit “and sharing their stories from that important time in history. Maybe they’ll even want to buy one of the models they built back then to put together now.”