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Show Rods


Mega Cycle



Buick V6 engine, independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms and coil springs, live rear axle with coil springs and a lateral stabilizer bar, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Custom Triumph motorcycle by Bob Aquistapase and restored by Fritz Schenck.

During the mid-1960s, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth had begun a massive change in creative direction from his wild, car-based show rods to smaller and lighter Volkswagen-based trikes. The move, which began to alienate Roth from mainstream car culture, did nothing to change Roth’s work and in fact, it only encouraged “Big Daddy” to explore this design theme further. His radical Mega Cycle of 1966-1967 is a very interesting example. Small, light and decidedly futuristic, the Mega Cycle successfully defied nearly every automotive design and custom-car cliché of the era with its compactness, angular cab and compact pickup-style cargo bed, with just enough space to carry a single full-size motorcycle.

With the Mega Cycle, Roth also explored asymmetry further, using a Buick V6 engine, cooling system and drivetrain positioned at the right side of the vehicle, while the weight of these components was offset by a motorcycle carried within the cargo bed at the left side. Utilizing innate engineering skills that were too often overlooked by many, Roth devised a very rigid, simple and effective rectangular-tube frame with a raised section at the left side to support the cab and cargo bed. The vehicle’s layout may have shocked many, but it represented the natural progression of Roth’s prior designs, including the Mysterion and Orbitron.

Once completed, the vehicle blurred the distinction between cars, dune buggies, motorcycles and pickup trucks in one fell swoop. Robert Williams, the rising custom culture artist, suggested the vehicle’s original name, “Captain Pepi’s Motorcycle and Zeppelin Repair”. However, car-show promoters successfully pressured Roth to amend the moniker, with the car known on the show circuit as the Mega Cycle.

Incredibly, after a brief show tour in 1967-1968, Roth loaned the Mega Cycle to a junk dealer for a one-year period, in exchange for a Volkswagen rear chassis and powertrain. When Roth returned to pick up the Mega Cycle, it was in a state of disrepair, after having been used as a doghouse. Roth sold the vehicle to Jim Brucker in 1969, who then passed it on to Bill Harrah. Following Harrah’s death, Darryl Roth attended his automobile auction, purchasing both the Druid Princess and the Mega Cycle. Darryl and Ed Roth then restored both cars with the help of the famous automotive painter, Pete Santini and once the restorations were complete, both vehicles were sold to Jay Ohberg, who returned them to show duty.

Under its current owner, the Mega Cycle has undergone a complete and painstaking restoration effort by Fritz Schenck, with the recent restoration of the Druid Princess and the creation of the Roth-inspired Roswell Rod already to his credit. Since very few period photos of the Mega Cycle exist today, the restoration effort sometimes took on the character of an archaeological dig, with the car’s paint finish replicated by using carefully recovered original paint chips. Schenck also tackled the restoration of its motorcycle, the famed and award-winning custom Triumph built by Bob Aquistapase of Hollister, CA in the 1960s for Ed Roth, after he was inspired by a Revell model. The custom chopper is painted Fire Red metallic and has a modified rigid frame with an integrated fuel tank.

Ever the innovator, Roth’s widely misunderstood Mega Cycle represents a true design achievement that might not seem so out of place in today’s diverse automotive market. In fact, a number of mainstream vehicles, including the Subaru BRAT and Baja, as well as the very successful Dodge Rampage and a host of other compact and sporty vehicles, owe at least a spiritual nod to “Big Daddy” and the Mega Cycle.

Sold at auction by RM Auctions on Saturday, September 26, 2009 for $60,500

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