Ed Roth's Beatnik Bandit

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Ed with the Beatnik Bandit.
In April of 1962 "The Beatnik Bandit" was one of the Featured Cars at the 1962 Ram Rods Rod and Custom Car Show in Washington D.C..
The Beatnik Bandit at the Cars of the Stars Museum in Los Angeles, California[1]
The Beatnik Bandit was featured on the cover of Garage Magazine Number Six.

The Beatnik Bandit was designed and built by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Ed came up with the ideas, and Joe Henning helped him get them down on paper. During the build, the design of the Beatnik Bandit changed several times. Ed Roth began working on the car in 1960. He had originally planned to name his cars after cowboys of the old west and the original name for the Beatnik Bandit was actually the Bandit. But after reading about a bank robber called the Beatnik Bandit, Ed changed the name on the car.

As a concept, the Beatnik Bandit was first revealed to the public in Rod & Custom June 1960. Sketched by Joe Henning the Beatnik Bandit was presented in a story titled "The Graph of Roth".

The Beatnik Bandit was based on a 1950 Oldsmobile chassis that Ed shortened down to 85 inches. The body was built from Fiberglas and sported a 360 degree vision plexiglas canopy. The idea for the Bubble Top came from Bobby Darrin's Dream Car. The Bubble Top was made using a pizza oven. Ed put some regular plastic in the oven, and then blew it up like a balloon while it was still hot. Ed got this idea from Ron Aguirre. The top was operated by the fender mounted antenna.

Steering, gas, shifting and gears on the car were operated using a chromed center stick. According to Ed Roth the Beatnik Bandit was the first show car that he hauled on a trailer 100 percent of the time. The stick has probably something to do with this. The upholstery in the car was done by Eddie Martinez.

When the bodywork on the car was finished, Ed brought the Beatnik Bandit to Larry Watson's Watson's House of Style for a paint job. Ed didn't have the money required to paint the car, so he made a deal with Watson that he could take all the time he needed on the car, and that he got paid in Rat Fink T-Shirts.

The original Oldsmobile engine was built by Fritz Voight and featured a Bell Auto Parts blower with twin Ford carbs.

After being hauled all over the country to and from different car shows, the car had green paint and a lot of changes had been made to it. Dirty Doug painted the second version of the car. In 1970 Ed sold the car to Jim Brucker for $50. Jim kept the car until 1973 when he traded it to Harrah's in Reno, Nevada. Harrah's restored the car back to its original version in 1985. Today the car is still in Harrah's possession, and the car is on permanent display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

Revell's model of the Bandit was the second in a long series of Roth-based kits, many designed by Jim Keeler. It was part of line of popular kits that made up 16 percent of Revell's total sales for that period. When Mattel decided to make Hot Wheels, they called Ed Roth and asked for permission to use the Beatnik Bandit as part of the original 16 castings in the 1968 Hot Wheels line. Harry Bradley was the designer that shrunk the Beatnik Bandit down. The original tool was only used from 1968-1971 and then was retired. The car was retooled in 1993 as part of Hot Wheels' 25th Anniversary. It was used twice in 1994, as part of the Vintage Series and the FAO Schwarz Gold Series I. The tool then sat, unused until 2003, when it was dusted off again for the Hall of Fame Series when Hot Wheels honored Ed Roth himself. It hasn't been used since.

Magazine Features

Rod & Custom June 1960
Car Craft May 1961
Popular Mechanics June 1961
Popular Science October 1961
Car Craft February 1962


Hot Rods by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth


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