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Show Rods


Secret Weapon



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.

According to the autobiography Hot Rods by Ed Roth, the arrival of the Beatles in America nearly spelled the end of Roth’s commercial success, with millions of car-crazy teenage boys immediately shifting their interests from model cars and “weirdo” imagery to dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom. The Druid Princess of 1966-1967 marked the end of Roth’s purely automotive show rods and beginning with the V8-powered California Cruiser, Roth created a succession of radical custom tricycles that blurred the distinction between automobiles and motorcycles. So much so, that Roth quickly found his wild tricycles excluded from the car-show circuit for his creative heresy.

In 1968, Roth first saw a Volkswagen Beetle-based custom tricycle at an eastern car show and seized upon the simplicity, power and many aesthetic opportunities afforded by this layout. Shortly thereafter, Roth purchased a 1957 Beetle for just $100 and set about removing the bodywork and front portion of the car’s platform-frame structure. Honda front forks were used and initial wheelstanding tendencies were simply corrected with the addition of five pounds of lead. The resulting vehicle was dubbed Hitler’s Revenge and drew even more controversy, but Roth found a ready clientele in the burgeoning outlaw biker community, which related to Roth’s own unbridled style and counterculture ethos.

The “Secret Weapon” trike offered here was another anti-establishment statement, complete with an army-inspired olive drab livery and white star reminiscent of U.S. Army vehicles of the era. Comically introduced with Roth wearing an army general’s uniform, the Secret Weapon featured a radically low and laid-back seating position. While this configuration provided great handling response and rider comfort, Roth also claimed to have been unable to avoid falling asleep while riding the vehicle.

Secret Weapon was repainted in 2006 and it is complete with a pair of slotted aluminum rear wheels shod with wide circa-1970s Parnelli Jones Firestone rubber. Exterior features include a spoked front wheel with spiked axle extensions, scythe-type foot pegs, green pin striping and a pair of rear-mounted wheelie bars. Stylistically, the hand-built fiberglass body includes a neatly faired headrest with a sun visor and a small storage compartment, with a whimsical split-window backlight, reminiscent of the scores of early VW Beetles that were recycled by Roth to express his creative visions. Perhaps most interestingly, a piece of paper was laminated to the bottom of the body by Roth, buried in the fiberglass, and it reads, “I testify that I built this bike for my wife in 1973”.

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