“Big Daddy” Roth Mysterion Recreation Sells for $250K

The sale was huge, but it also brought back a ton of memories of "Big Daddy."

Big Daddy Roth built the fun stuff—wild, whimsical cars that tickled the fancy and pickled a kid's imagination for life. As a rule I don't usually write news stories, or any story for that matter in first person, but I'd like to share recollections of "Big Daddy" Roth the man, as well as of the wild custom cars he built. And of course some insights on the recent Sotheby's Auction where a recreation of "Big Daddy" Roth's Mysterion sold for a whopping $246,400—double what the car was expected to command.

For a SoCal kid in the mid '60s attending a custom car show and walking up to "Big Daddy" Roth, talking to him was a thrill and he was a pretty neat guy. Ed wouldn't miss a beat; he'd just keep airbrushing a creepy monster driving a hot rod or riding a chopper and talk with you, no problem. The airbrush "Big Daddy" was using was a hot-rodded Paasche VL. The 'hot-rodding,' "Big Daddy" explained, was that the coral-colored plastic handle was missing, so a person could pull the needle back and make the VL do better tricks.

David Mann was a friend of mine, and Dave told me about moving out to California to go to work as an artist for "Big Daddy." Dave said the first thing they did was Ed driving them around town, introducing him to people. They went by Larry Watson's shop and watched Larry deal with a potential customer. The guy had a custom paint job that was going south—as in blistering up from underneath—and wanted to know how much Larry wanted to fix it. Larry told the guy he should have come to him first and he wouldn't be having that problem. No more words were spoken, the guy left, and Larry went back to talking with David and "Big Daddy."

Watson painted the original Mysterion in candy lime-green acrylic lacquer over a white pearl base. By using it instead of a silver base, the pearl white base turned the candy lime green into more of a yellow. The Candy Yellow might have had a little Murano gold pearl in it with a ton of clear acrylic lacquer poured on for a topcoat. It was never hard to tell which of Roth's creations were painted by Watson or by "Big Daddy" himself. Watson was a fanatical custom painter with a thousand awards to testify to the quality of his work, and first and foremost "Big Daddy" Roth was truly an artist for whom function followed form.

There are two recreations of "Big Daddy" Roth's Mysterion. One was sold at RM Sotheby's Icons of Speed & Style sale in 2009 at the Petersen Museum, and Jeff Jones of Bakersfield, California built the Mysterion that just sold for $246,400, the price probably helped by the car's popularity as an old Hot Wheels car.

For more, you can check out the 2005 article Chris Shelton wrote for Street Rodder about the first, Dave Shuten-built Mysterion. Jeff Jones also penned a book called Ed Roth's Mysterion: The Genesis, Demise, and Recreation of an Iconic Custom Car about building his version. In talking with Jeff we learned he went to fanatical lengths to replicate the Mysterion, and even farther than Roth to make it run.

Photos courtesy of Jon Gilbert, Street Rodder

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