The 1962 Ed Roth “Mysterion”


Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.

If that’s the case, then Ed “Big Daddy” Roth fanatic Jeffrey Jones essentially created a driveable compliment.

Specifically, a banana-yellow one that looks like it should be piloted across Mars by a Minion.

A California gearhead with a great fondness for the creations of the cartoonist/car customizer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth (which include animated hot rod driver Rat Fink and other characters), Jones was a particular fan of a UFO-like show car Roth designed called the Mysterion.

Built by Roth – who Tom Wolfe once called “the Salvador Dali of hot rodding” – in 1963, the Mysterion, which wasn’t actually driveable, made it to a number of hot rod shows and appeared in magazines before it was damaged during transport and ultimately stripped for parts later in the decade.

Jones fell in love with the Mysterion and, even though no specs or blueprints for the model existed outside of Roth’s imagination, he vowed to build a replica model of the car when he was able.

A petroleum engineer by trade, Jones began his recreation in the early 2000s and used everything from interviews and magazine articles to photographs and model kits as sources for information about the mysterious car.

What Jones did know about the original custom creation is that Roth had installed a twin-engine set-up featuring two Ford V8s paired with two transmissions at the front of the Mysterion.

In front of the exposed engines, Roth installed an oblong front grille and an asymmetrical nose with a single large headlight mounted on the left. Behind all of that, Roth installed a hydraulically operated bubble cockpit onto the foundation he had previously crafted from welding together two rear ends.

In his new model, Jones used a frame covered in pre-polished stainless steel and added several inches of clearance and a coil-spring suspension so the car would actually be able to drive.

Jones also installed both engines but hollowed out the one on the passenger side to conceal the car’s alternator. He did install a cross belt to make it appear as if both engines are functional, but only the one on the driver’s side works.

Jones became so familiar with the legendary car during the build process, he could’ve written the book on it. So he did, penning the 2016 tome Ed Roth’s Mysterion: The Genesis, Demise, and Recreation of an Iconic Custom Car.

“Ed, like all great artists, did not rely on tape measures for his creations,” Jones wrote in the book. “This emphasizes that Ed was not a car customizer as his contemporaries were. He was an artist who used the automobile as his medium.”

Documenting the car as well as providing a bolt-by-bolt look at how Jones fashioned the replica from custom parts, hand-sanded fiberglass and materials bought on eBay, the book offers tons of insights about Roth and his thinking as well as hundreds of “how-to” illustrations.

“I was forced to make a few tough decisions on some big changes to several details,” Jones wrote. “The first obvious decision was, do I honor Ed’s blatant refusal to use a tape measure and build in the huge variations from symmetry he built into the body, or succumb to the urge to make them uniform? The next big difference in the cars is I wanted mine to run and be somewhat drivable.”

Up for sale at the Petersen Automotive Museum Auction on December 8 along with more than 50 other blue-chip automobiles, the RM Sotheby’s lot includes a custom trailer and production molds for the recreation model in case the buyer wants to make more.

RM Sotheby’s hasn’t given a price estimate for the car but it’ll probably be, ahem, out of this world. Considering the replica is the only one of its kind and the original is no longer in existence, we’d estimate at least six figures.


Article and Photos courtesy of Evan Bleier at Real Clear Life.


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