No one really knew him as Ed; he was “Big Daddy” and Ratfink’s alter ego. Big Daddy was an accurate nick name though, as he was 6’ 6” and more than 250 pounds (sometime a lot more)! There are many ways to try to label Big Daddy; a rebel, a fighter, an artist, a fabricator, a musician, a lover, a philosopher, a poet, a California boy; yet none alone come anywhere to hitting the mark. He is now gone, yet the phenomenon continues in his creations.
His artwork typically depicted imaginative, out-sized monstrosities driving characterizations of the hot rods that he admired. The most recognized character he developed is “Ratfink”. In the late 1950s, he perfected his use of the airbrush and made cash by selling "Weirdo" t-shirts at car shows. He started publishing in the Car Craft magazine in 1958 and within a year his art work had become a full blown craze with Big Daddy at lead of the movement. He called it the "Monsters in hot rods" art form.
And he built hot rods! One of his early got rods, the “Outlaw”, was finished in 1959 and he showed it at all his favorite hot rod shows. It was a huge hit and got published in Car Craft magazine and Rod and Custom. He said he started in fiberglass about then because he got bored with what was coming out in the hobby. He kept building hot rods and set up a shop near LA which became a magnet for bikers, hot rodders and his police buddies. Other hot rods he built include The ”Beatnik Bandit”, “The Orbitron”, “The Road Agent” and the amazing twin Ford engine “Mysterion”! These were breakthrough, insane, creative machines which set the tone for car shows to this day!
His art and cars became the subject for the Revell model company which began selling plastic models of Big Daddy's cars and his “monsters” including “Rat Fink”, “Drag Nut”, and “Mr. Gasser”. They are still selling them! EBay has older ones for sale as collectibles. When Mattell started making Hot Wheels toy cars in the late 60s, the “Beatnik Bandit” was one of the first cars they made! On top of all this, he built motorcycles as well. His first bike was a Harley and he painted the tank right away. From there he started to build trikes, choppers and VW powered three wheelers! Many were very well known such as the “Candy Wagon”, the
“Rubber Ducky” and the “Great Speckled Bird”!
Now Ratfink is the icon for Big Daddy, even with all the other creations to his credit. Ratfink just stands out as the symbol for the Kustom Kulture era, the rebellion, and the wild imagination of his creator! As early as the late 70s, Ratfink was the masthead for large car shows, “reunions” and events. “Rat Fink Reunions” are still held and new ones crop up each year. Big Daddy is not really gone at all. He lives on a bit in every hot rod, rat rod, custom car, chopper and cool vehicle; and in every show and gathering where ‘motor heads” get together.