The Roswell Rod – A Spritz by Fritz Creation
Originally appearing in Gnarly Magazine print issue #15. Buy a copy.
By Lou Stands
Mothers Worry, Mr. Gasser, The Orbitron, Tweedy Pie, The Mysterion, Road Agent, Mega Cycle, and Rat Fink, to name a few, were Revell model kits based on the automotive art of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. With names like that, what kid didn’t want to build their very own Roth Monster?
Ed Roth was one of Southern California’s largest “Kustom Kulture” influencers, alongside Von Dutch, George Barris, and Dean Jefferies. They each had their own idea of what was cool and what was not, creating a subculture embedded in hot rodding’s history. Roth built several cars, most wild and cartoonish, and was able to capitalize on his low brow art notoriety better than anyone. At first, it was done with airbrushed “Weirdo Shirts.”
You were cool if you were wearing these threads while cruisin’ or standing in the pits of Lions Drag Strip. Usually grotesque heads or the famed Rat Fink, an unsightly rodent that became Roth’s alter ego. Then, in partnership with Revell, several model kits were made as exact replicas of Roth creations. Roth would sell shirts and trinkets at shows and his one-off custom creations would be showcased by show promoters. In 1974, Roth was set up at the New York Custom Car show and it was there that Fritz Schenck got to meet his hero.
Fritz, a Long Island New York native, was captivated by the odd creations at the age of 10. He built these models as a kid and still is today. Fritz teamed up with “Indian Larry” in Brooklyn, NY as a painter and fabricator.
Check out issue #13 for more on that.
Channeling his idol, Fritz began work on the Roswell Rod back in the early 2000s. The frame is all hand made in square tube with the exception of a 1970 Buick Skylark front-end. The rear is held in place with a 4-link and coil overs. With the frame done, attention was turned to dialing in the shape of the body. Made from hand-laid fiberglass it features quad headlights stolen from the Skylark and big rear fins that disclose afterburners, I mean, taillights from a 1960 Thunderbird. Below the headlights and nose peak is a bitchin’ grille made from a couple of Model “A” wishbones. You see that’s Fritz; he uses what he has and can see past the traditional use for something and truly turn it into rolling art.
The Roswell Rod is the first east coast custom to feature a bubble top! It’s actuated with a linear screw and truly channels the feel of the Beatnik Bandit and other Roth cars. Inside the bubble are some handmade seats and interior, covered in white pearl vinyl with red zodiac piping, done by a fellow named Dondi of Trek Automotive in Huntington, Long Island. The steering wheel was also hand made by Fritz and appears to be out of an Airplane or U.F.O. perhaps. Moon gauges keep the vitals in check.
Protruding through the fiberglass body sits a chromed to max 327 Chevrolet with a 6-71 blower. Adding to the reflection is the unbelievable paint job, again, all done by Fritz while living in Bellmore, Long Island NY. The color? “Roswell Radiation Flow Orange” a custom and one-off color from House of Color. The scallops are a candy red detailed with neat painters’ trick of using plastic wrap. This is done by laying down a wet coat of paint then placing plastic saran wrap over that coat and manipulating the plastic to give a marble or depth effect.
Fenders are molded into the rear of the body to cover the white wall Radir cheater slicks wrapped around chrome Astro Supremes. Up front, the Supremes are shod in Firestone bias ply tires.
Fritz has built other Roth-inspired cars such as his clone of the famous “Outlaw” now on display at the Speedway Motors Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. And just as Ed Roth toured the show car circuit, the bubble top Roswell Rod has made its rounds touring all over the U.S. and Canada while on lease by the I.S.C.A. However, it now lives in Newburgh, NY at the Motorcyclopedia Museum alongside “Big Daddy” Roths Mega Cycle coincidentally also restored by Fritz. Also shown are Roths VW trike, the Mailbox Chopper, and the Candy Wagon! The museum is a must-see if in the area.
From every angle, the Roswell Rod seems to be ready to take off into outer space, or maybe transport back to a time of Roth Weirdo shirts, monster models, and “Gnarly" kustom show cars.
Photos: Trent Sherrill
Model: Brittany Jean
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