Icons of Speed & Style

26 September 2009

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Lot 280

1973 Ed Roth Trike ("American Beetle")

  • Chassis no. N/A

Sold for $3,630

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.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more