Will “Big Daddy” Roth’s Orbitron Get “Pimped?”

The long-lost Orbitron, a one-off fiberglass custom show car built by hot rod pioneer Ed Roth and discovered last summer being used as a dumpster outside a porn shop in Mexico, may soon be able to hold its head high…and put its seedy past behind it.


The Orbitron as it was found outside a shop in Mexico.

    Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Auto Sports (G.A.S.) recently purchased the car, which disappeared shortly after gracing the cover of many custom car magazines back in 1964.

    As many of you know, Boeckmann and his shop star on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride.” However, Boeckmann, who also owns several other Roth creations, has assured Roth fans that he will not be “pimping” this ride.

    “Being a huge fan of Big Daddy Roth, it’s a great privilege and honor, not only to own this car, but to bring it back to its former glory,” Boeckmann said recently. “Our goal is to make sure this piece of automotive history receives the accurate restoration it deserves.”


The Orbitron as it appeared in its glory days.

    Built in 1964, Orbitron was designed to look like a slingshot dragster with “space age” influences, as evidenced by the car’s raked stance and dragster slick rear tires. The unique nose incorporated a strange half-round/half-rectangular headlight housing that shone a white headlight on the rectangular side, and a set of red, green, and blue lights in the round side. In a play on the era’s latest electronic invention, the lights were intended to function like television tubes, which when illuminated together would create a strong white light beam.
 
    Other key characteristics included Roth’s signature acrylic bubble top, flashy candy blue paint and an interior featuring fur carpeting and an actual color television. Under hood was a midship-mounted small-block Chevy engine wearing early finned Corvette valve covers and three chromed Stromberg 97 carburetors, backed by a Powerglide two-speed transmission. The asymmetric fiberglass and plywood body rode on a ’56 Chevy rear end and an early Ford dropped axle. Buick finned drums and early Ford brakes sat inside Astro slotted chrome wheels wearing single-groove Inglewood whitewall cheater slicks and Cal Custom fake knockoff caps.

    The story of how the Orbitron came to be parked outside a porn shop in Mexico is nearly as colorful, and probably embellished, as the man who created it.

    We know that Roth sold the car to fellow custom car builder Darrell Starbird, who planned to use the Orbitron in his own traveling car show. At this point the history starts to get a bit hazier – and harder to follow. As the story goes, Starbird eventually sold the car and it ended up in El Paso, Texas, where it changed hands a few more times.

    All that is known for certain is that eventually two Mexican businessmen bought the car to use in a carnival, and it stayed south of the border for the next three decades. Eventually the car ended up in Juarez, Mexico parked in front of a sex shop being used as a dumpster. It remained there, untouched, until a U.S. car collector managed to strike a deal with the owner and proceeded to drag it back to the United States.

    Stories vary about how the nose and bubble were removed. One version claims that the snout was removed to make the car look more like a T-Bucket roadster, another is that the nose was accidentally torn off when the owner attempted to tow the car by its bodywork. At one point it was driven daily by a high school student, who purportedly got trapped in the car on a hot summer day, forcing him to kick the bubble off.
 
    Once the car is restored to its original glory there will be a public unveiling, according to its new owner.

    Roth passed away on April 4, 2001.

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