Icons of Speed & Style

26 September 2009

Lot 280

1973 Ed Roth Trike ("American Beetle")

To be auctioned on Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sold for $3,630

  • Chassis no. N/A

Rear-mounted, air-cooled VW engine, four-speed manual gearbox in rear-mounted transaxle, springer-type front forks, VW independent rear suspension, and rear-mounted VW drum brakes.

Ed Roth’s “trike phase” was no passing fancy. In fact, Roth’s series of radical custom trikes spanned from 1966 to his passing 35 years later in 2001, with many examples remaining among the most memorable works of “Big Daddy” today. In addition to his prodigious creative output over the years, Roth was extremely frugal and resourceful, often working with very limited financial resources that were supplemented by his many design and fabrication talents. These tendencies were fostered from early youth by Roth’s father, a German-born cabinetmaker who supplied a workshop and a set of tools to keep his sons busy and out of trouble.

Later in life, however, Roth’s resourcefulness sometimes attracted unwanted attention. In one particular incident, Roth and a friend were cruising the streets of Los Angeles in search of old Volkswagen donor cars for yet another trike project. Having spotted a likely donor car at a gas station, Roth attempted to leave a note with his phone number on the windshield of the VW when the gas attendant approached. When Roth tried to explain what he was doing and obtain the owner’s contact information, the attendant threatened to shoot Roth. Unfazed, Roth extended an index finger against his jacket, feigning a handgun and advising, “I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” Minutes later, the police had both Roth and his friend in temporary custody. He was a wild character, to say the least.

In 1973, Roth created the “American Beetle”, yet another trike design, which was predictably based on a Volkswagen Beetle rear chassis and powertrain with a hand-laid fiberglass body sporting a raised tandem two-seat layout. Since Roth planned to produce the American Beetle in kit form, he even applied for and successfully obtained a patent for the design from the United States Patent Office. A number of the drawings from Roth’s successful patent application can be found in Roth’s autobiography Hot Rods by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, which was written with Tony Thacker.

According to a certificate of authenticity issued by Darryl Roth, Ed’s son, this particular American Beetle is an original Roth kit whose body was made from a mold of Big Daddy’s original trike. It is mostly complete with a VW powertrain, yet requires a cosmetic restoration, detailing and seat upholstery. Its offering provides an ideal opportunity to acquire a genuine Roth creation, with the unique option to finish it in one’s individual style and taste.


Please note this trike does not come with a certificate of authenticity as stated in the catalog. This vehicle is offered on a bill of sale only.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alain Squindo

Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

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United Kingdom

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Ontario, Canada

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United Kingdom

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

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California, United States

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