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Roth's Mysterion


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picked up a semi glue bomb partial build of this notoriously fiddly kit sometime last year and it sat on the shelf until a month ago when I decided to get serious. Now to say it was a "semi glue bomb" is really doing an injustice to what was there, a built up frame, engines and running gear, because it was actually nicely built and most importantly, very sturdy and well constructed. The body had been painted but must have run because it was sanded partially back to original plastic, and the interior and bubble top were untouched.

So I started by a dip in the purple pond for the body parts, then I glued together the body (three pieces) and sealed up the seams, also the little op-art headlamp/nose piece (what a wonderful little piece of sculpture that is, I think I am going to build another nose piece just to display by itself I love it that much) needed assembly. then painted the body and nose with Tamiya chrome yellow, which is too bright for the real color but this is a quick build so I left it as is since there was nice coverage and all. Let it sit around for a couple weeks while I flocked the lower interior shell, made a back for the seat, dug up some decals for the gauges, and did some detail painting and chose a black and yellow color scheme. The bubble top on these are always a PITA to tint and detail but actually turned out to be not that bad if you don't look real close. used Tamiya clear blue and then outlined the clear portion (masked during the tint) with a black sharpie.

some problems began to manifest as I tried to join the body shell to the pre-built chassis, and I was expecting that to happen given I didn't build the chassis so I didn't know about compromises made, etc. as it turned out, not big problems, out of box the interior has some extruded pieces of plastic that rest on one of the crossbars of the rear chassis area, but those made the interior, and hence the body, sit way high in the rear so I chopped them down and the body settled down approx. 6 scale inches lower in the rear. the front could have used some lowering as well but the frame is firmly resting on the notched part of the firewall and also the interior on the pair of engines, so decided it looks good the way it is.

then the final fitting of the bubble top to the body, almost always a traumatic experience but in this case, some sanding the bottom of the bubble and then gluing it to the surround (delicate process to not get glue on bubble but apply enough to make it sturdy enough to handle), and it fit right down in its hole pretty good. a bit more fiddling and surfacing the lower surface of the bubble snugged it down even further.

but then some of the famous Revell fiddliness got to me: the bubble is hinged, but the supplied hinge seems to be at a weird angle and at least in my trying never let the top sit down properly in its hole like it would without the hinge. then there are these little chrome rods with a tiny tiny ball on top, that is supposed to fit inside this equally tiny tiny little socket which is to be glued to the underside of the bubble top, which is relieved to accept them. then the shaft end of the rods is supposed to fit inside these tiny tiny holes to each side of the seat in the interior piece. yeah that all looks kool in the instrux but let me tell you...I had no more luck with it than I did when I ended up throwing the whole thing against the wall when I was 12 years old! only this time I had the wisdom (ahem) and patience to just laugh at the lunacy of expecting some 12 year old kid to be able to put that puzzle together and decide it looked totally good without that "feature" while telling oneself that you can always go back and do that when you are either more sober or more drunk than you are now. but for now the bubble looks good in place and can be posed in partial open mode or of course removed to see interior detail.

anyway turned out pretty good if you don't look too close at the tint in the bubble and disregard the bit of glue on front suspension and ignore the fact the motors are not wired (I would have done that), but I am happy to add another Roth car to my collection and this one in a relatively painless manner. next up I would like to try the Road Agent I think.

as always comments suggestions questions cheerfully responded to.

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thanks again!

edit to add: think I will ink in that fuel door on the rear deck!

jb

Edited by jbwelda
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Great commentary and a fantastic job done on this model. Ed Roth was a master at his work, and way ahead of his time.

Just the other day my girlfriend asked me "If you could meet any car builder/designer, which one would you want to meet?"

I didn't even have to think about it. Rat Fink!!!

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Just the other day my girlfriend asked me "If you could meet any car builder/designer, which one would you want to meet?"

I didn't even have to think about it. Rat Fink!!!

I came close to meeting Ed Roth. I was going to the GSL for the first time and he was supposed to be there. He died right before the show!

Very nice build on that finicky Revell kit! I do own all the Roth kits, thanks to reissues, and I built the Surfite. Man! Nothing fit, I added plastic to the interior edge where it meets the body to fill in the gap, same with body parts. I was gluing them on and puttying the gaps to then scribe a correct one. As mentioned, a lot of the parts were very ambitious for Revell in thickness and scale fidelity but didn't work in practice. And every part had massive mold seams and ejector pins all visible, especially on chrome parts. I built mine before Alclad so much of my chassis was done in Testors Metalizers.

So while I love the Roth cars, and would love to have them all on the shelf, every time I look at those boxes, I kinda shiver!

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thanks for all the comments. yeah Tom I built the Surfite a couple years ago and while it was challenging in areas I was surprised how well it went together and how minutely detailed it was. built it so the body would lift off to expose the chassis and Austin motor. don't remember if I had to add plastic to the interior but that does sound familiar. if interested do a search in both under glass and on workbench forums for the threads I posted on it.

I actually met Ed Roth a few times, first time wasn't exactly a "meet"...we (mom dad brother and I) had just moved out to California and we were in SoCal to check out the sights (not eds shop unfortunately...more like Dizzyland etc) and were stuck in traffic somewhere in east LA (I was about 14 at the time). I was busy checking out all the cars on the freeway and who should pull up next to us in a beat up 56 chevy gasser with tube front axle but Ed Roth himself! I about had a fit, jumping up and down on my seat, nearly yelling "DAD ITS BIG DADDY ROTH!" and pointing wildly to the car next to us. I just couldn't believe it, basically my hero (aside from the rolling stones) right there right now! Some years later I ran into him at a car show and told him about that and he was pretty amused, and asked me if I was a friend of Ricky Nelson, I guess I resembled someone he had met through him. in prior years I had heard he (after his infatuation with motorcycles and subsequent exile to HA land by pretty much anyone who dealt with him) worked as a sign painter at Knotts Berry Farm, so one year I went there espressly to meet him and see if I could interview him for a car fanzine I wrote for but he wasn't there that day and no one was exactly sure who I was talking about so maybe he did not work there at all. I thought that kinda strange but maybe he got requests for his time all the time and so had fellow workers there cover for him and tell people who asked that they didn't have a clue who was being talked about.

I too have always had a thing for all his cars and the models of them but like Tom, I too shiver when I open the boxes and see all the mold lines and pin marks on the fine chrome trees etc. Can be pretty daunting and that's why when I got this with the chassis built up so solid and nice (still lots of imperfections if you look close) I just had to finish it because most of the hard work was already done.

jb

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in prior years I had heard he (after his infatuation with motorcycles and subsequent exile to HA land by pretty much anyone who dealt with him) worked as a sign painter at Knotts Berry Farm, so one year I went there espressly to meet him and see if I could interview him for a car fanzine I wrote for but he wasn't there that day and no one was exactly sure who I was talking about so maybe he did not work there at all. I thought that kinda strange but maybe he got requests for his time all the time and so had fellow workers there cover for him and tell people who asked that they didn't have a clue who was being talked about.

I had heard that he worked at Knotts, so I believe that's fact. Part of the lore was that once he went to Hells Angels, it was too nasty an image for Revell and they cut him off. I was told that was why the Surfite kit was so rare, that they pulled it from the market. Of course we know that Revell eventually reissued it, that was the version I built. I always liked the car and thought it intriguing to build a kit that only months before was a $500 model.

I did talk with Bob Paeth who worked for Revell in that era. He told me that the Revell / Hells Angels story was bunk. He said the Surfite was rare because it didn't sell well and they only did the initial run because of that. He said that in their initial assessment of the kit, the Surfite was so small that it looked lost in the model box. They perceived that kids would think they hadn't gotten a good value since the box was 3/4 empty, so they came up with the Tiki Hut pretty much just to fill the box and add value. Even that didn't work, kids just weren't into the Surfite since it wasn't a big V8 car.

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>just weren't into the Surfite since it wasn't a big V8 car.

a problem that persists to this day if you ask me. I think Ed Roth was way ahead of his time what with using Austin motors and Corvair motors and stuff like that to propel what were essentially personal carrier vehicles. I thought that was part of his genius...while much of the world went on with their big blown bad motors...dinosaur land even back then to anyone with a bit of forethought.

not sure I believe that story about HAs either; it came from someone with a vested interest in the situation and paints Revell in a very good light, compared to what I believe the reality was. and that is supported by what Revell did to his cars' models after they cut Ed loose...basically butchered them with goofball parts and dumb designs while still retaining the Roth look but removing the Roth name (not to mention royalties). if they really wanted to cut him loose they should have ceased selling his models instead of bastardizing them. I think it was a very dark day in Revell history but they didn't know what to do about "hippies" until some marketing genius decided to co-opt them into all those dumb flower power designs they attempted to foist on the public. on the other hand ole Ed pretty much went off the deep end with his support for the Vietnam war and all his jingoistic decal designs with dead VC and outlaw motorcycle themes. but such were the times and now even Sonny Barger says he regrets the 81 involvement in beating anti-war protestors because as time proved to him, the government they supported in no way returned the favor and in fact the 81s were way more aligned with the counter culture than the military industrial complex at the time, though they might not have realized it or wanted to admit it.

edit: I meant to summarize that as the country was at odds with what was happening on the streets so to speak, so were companies like Revell, and that confusion led to some strange, in retrospect anyhow, decisions and moves and I think getting over sensitive about who Ed Roth was in private life is an example of that. I think Ed Roth would probably have told me I was full of * too.

jb

Edited by jbwelda
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and that is supported by what Revell did to his cars' models after they cut Ed loose...basically butchered them with goofball parts and dumb designs while still retaining the Roth look but removing the Roth name (not to mention royalties).

I don't think that was a slight against Ed, they were just looking for ways to extend the tooling life. Bob Paeth spoke at length about how back then they were in the toy business and never thought anyone would want their work in a year or two. It was either find some new way to sell another run of kits to the public... who were mainly schoolboys back then... or scrap the tooling. Bob took blame for destroying the Revell VW bus, turning it into a custom van thingie. He said they had no crystal ball and thought nobody would ever want a kit of a VW bus again. The whole idea that the work they did back then was now revered and collected absolutely amazed Bob and he was honored to participate in the hobby and GSL right up to his death.

End analysis is that it's good that they did those things to the Roth kits. It preserved them and they've been reissued as Roth cars in the past 20 years, so we can all have them. Otherwise, those tools would have been scrapped back in the 1960s and every Roth custom would be a $500 kit today!

If we want a straight story, Jim Keeler was there too. Jim is a good fun guy who started at Revell right out of high school. He was on this board this past week, so he's approachable!

Edited by Tom Geiger
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