Their personas are still larger than life, and their legacies still linger in the wings of a flying eyeball and the bug eyes of a big green rat. Kenny Howard, a.k.a. Von Dutch, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth propagated Kustom Kulture in Southern California’s hot-rod and motorcycle scene, and their work is still highly prized. This was evident by the big bucks collectors shelled out for original works from Roth and Von Dutch at the RM Sotheby’s auction last weekend at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Their work was part of a themed collection the auction house put together, with Petersen namesake Robert E. Petersen in mind. Petersen was a prominent figure in the Los Angeles scene who played his own major role in the culture by creating Hot Rod Magazine. The publishing magnate also once owned our sister publication Motorcyclist.
Up for grabs in Sotheby’s auction were many of Roth’s iconic works, like original T-shirt and decal art including Swinger by Dodge, 426 Ramcharger, and Ford Man. On the motorcycle side, Roth’s Kawasaki sold for $3,300 while Mini Choppers of America and Abominable Snowman (a V-8 snowmobile) sold as a pair for $4,500. One of the higher-priced items was a framed painting of Roth’s signature Rat Fink creature that garnered $12,600. The highest-priced item in the Roth montage was a re-creation of his 1962 Mysterion, the alien-looking hot rod with the twin 390ci Ford big blocks. Jeff Jones built this version based on magazine articles and Revell’s scaled-down Mysterion model kits because the original had been disassembled long ago. Apparently Jones did a bang-up job of re-creating the first Ed Roth “Mysterion” because the winning bidder paid $246,400 to take it home.
The variety of Von Dutch works in the Sotheby’s sale demonstrated that he was much more than just a motorcycle pinstriper, as it included knives, paintings, cartoons, and signs. One of the most interesting items was Von Dutch’s personal photo album. The cover is made out of a stop sign, and intermingled among the family photographs are pictures of the motorcycles and cars he pinstriped along with timeless shots of the hot-rod scene. That album sold for $7,200. A pair of handcrafted signs he painted for Movie World, one a “Wanted” sign for old BB guns, the other for Jungle Jim’s Shooting Gallery, fetched $5,040. But it was the “Von Dutch Originator of Modern ‘Pin’ Striping” sign that easily eclipsed everything else in his lot, selling for an eye-popping $75,000. It’s a solid score as the metal sign features his flying eyeball and was the original tailgate to his Kenford pickup.
Check out these other Kustom Kulture originals auctioned off last weekend along with prices they sold for.
- 373 Cal Backwards Pistol by Von Dutch - $5,100
- Danny's Knife by Von Dutch, 1986 - $2,400
- Dept of Petty Tyrants by Von Dutch, 1991 - $1,680
- TriCentennial by Von Dutch, 1976 - $10,800
- Truck Driver Lessons by Von Dutch, 1991 - $1,440