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Tree Viper



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

While Ed Roth attracted much criticism for his outrageous trikes during the late 1960s, he remained characteristically unruffled and even welcomed the controversy. In fact, he is quoted in the book Kustom Kulture as having said, “If they aren’t cars and they aren’t bikes, what are they? Isn’t the point to do something different?” In another swipe at the established standards of the era, Roth’s trikes certainly challenged the validity of the massive American cars of the mid-to-late 1960s. In later years, Roth reflected on this era of his career and argued that in fact, all of his custom creations, regardless of the number of wheels, were rather small and light in their design and execution, eschewing the prevalent “bigger is better” mentality.

Stylistic and cultural arguments aside, Roth found a ready audience for his trikes among the members of the biker culture that exploded in numbers, particularly in California, during the late 1960s. As Roth colorfully explained in his autobiography, Hot Rods of “Big Daddy” Ed Roth, “…I’d get those Big Mamas with the Harley hats full of ride pins & invite ‘em to go for a spin. They’d climb on & then I’d take ‘em outta town a ways & then do this bit where at 40 mph I’d do a 180. It’d scare the women but y’ know what?! The followin’ Monday after the run they’d be towin’ their old man down to my shop & ordering a VW trike.” Roth is also reputed to have placed signs in his shop windows indicating he was seeking volunteers to ride with him on a trike. According to legend, a steady stream of volunteers came forward.

With its sinuous body lines, this particular creation carries one of the kit bodies produced by Roth, which in this case closely resembles Roth’s own one-off Tree Viper. Its springer front forks mount a spoked front wheel with a drum brake, while a steel panel formed with the letters “R-O-T-H” supports the foot pegs. The trike features a rear-mounted Volkswagen powertrain and rides on a pair of cast aluminum wheels, shod with fat early-1970s Parnelli Jones tires by Firestone. Largely complete but awaiting body preparation, finishing and upholstery, this Roth trike represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire and share a piece of the “Big Daddy” legend.

Darryl Roth, Ed Roth’s son, confirmed this bike is an original Roth kit made from a mold of one of Big Daddy’s original trikes. $3,300

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