Custom Car Builders

January 2, 2018

Ed Roth at Watsons




Larry Watson painted some of the most memorable Ed Roth Creations. Cars that traveled to Car Shows all around the US, and appeared on the covers of many magazines.

This article shows a selection of photos of Ed Roth creations painted by Larry Watson. Most of these photos come from the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection. More on Larry’s personal collection can be found in the Larry Watson section on the CCC-Site. Or on the Custom Car Photo Archive. Special thanks to Roger O’Dell for scanning this amazing material and sharing them with us on the Custom Car Chronicle.

In this article based on the Larry Watson Personal Photo Collection we concentrate on the photos Larry saved of cars created by Ed Roth, that Larry Painted. Ed Roth always came up with these extremely creative and wild creations. The earlier cars were usually painted at Roth’s shop, some by Dirty Doug. Ed’s Shop was not particularly clean, and there was no paint booth, or space to create a primitive paint booth. Early on they used mostly solid lacquer based paint which was very forgiving. If dust, or even flied had settled in the paint, you could just sand and rub it out. But from the 1960’s new wild painted were developed, pearl, and candy colors, which really required a clean paint-booth to use. If your made a mistake with these new paints, or a fly would drop in, you could just start all over.

From then on Ed Roth started to use Larry Watson for some of his creations. The first one was the Rotar in 1960, which Larry painted while he was at the Artesia blvd shop in Belflower, Ca. where he rented space from Bill DeCarr. Larry saved a series of unique photos of Ed working on the car, while its at Watson’s shop, first with primer, and later with base white and color. Painting the Ed Roth Cars was good for business for Larry. Ed’s cars traveled all around the US and were entered in countless Custom Car and Hot Rod Shows. Ed always made sure that the hand painted Show-Signs gave credit to Larry for the beautiful paint jobs he did. Plus Ed’s cars were very popular with the crowd, and were featured in many magazines. Lets take a look at some of these unique historic photos.


Ed Roth pushing the freshly primered Rotar to Larry’s paint booth at the back of the Artesia Blvd shop in Bellflower. Great snapshot with the hey-Trucks in the background and the white wall tires on the military jeep of one of the shop’s employees.


A bit more close up on the same photo as above.


Ed still pushing, and getting closer to the booth. in the background the front of the Jeep, and of course the famous Ayala/Barris 1949 Mercury of Louis Bettancourt and later Johnny Zupan.


Close up on that photo gives u a good look at the tail fin Ed created using ’59 Cadillac bumper sections.


The Rotar at the paint-booth with the louvered doors, with Ed talking to one of the guys on the right.


After Larry had painted the Rotar with a white base, Ed can be seen here working on masking the stars and color separations for the red and blue sections.


A closer look shows how the stars were created using fine line tape, and still needed to be cut at the ends.


Inside Larry Watson’s paint-booth shortly after Larry had finished painting the body in red and blue.


Ed busy in the paint-booth removing the masking tape of the stars on the red part of the body.


The finished Rotar in a promotional postcard.



Two photos of Larry working on the Ed Roth Orbitron. On the left in the paint booth, and on the right Larry posing for the photo “applying” some striping to the headlight pod.


The finished Orbotron at Larry’s Lakewood blvd shop in Paramount Ca.


Don Loster took a picture of his ’59 Ford that was painted by Larry and the Roth Orbitron was parked next to it. This picture is dated November 1964.


Ed Roth Orbitron photo frame at Larry Watson’s personal Museum.


Road Agent

Larry putting down the white pearl base coat over the dark gray primer on the Road Agent. Notice that Larry used news paper to mask the plexiglass top and frame.


Larry spraying the candy red/fuchsia paint over the white base.


Larry finished painting the car with the ultra brilliant candy and can be seen here carefully removing the masking tape and paper.


Some time later, in the late 1960’s Ed Roth’s Road Agent was at Larry’s Firestone Blvd shop in Downey, Ca. and this promotional photo was taken with a model in a wild plastic Metalflake dress with Watson logo.


Promotional postcard of the Ed Roth Road Agent.


Larry’s photo collection of the Roth Road Agent on the wall in his personal Museum.


Druid Princess

Larry also painted Ed Roth’s Druid Princess. For this he Larry developed a special 3-headed paint gun to apply the effect paint on the hand made body. Larry used a paint technique called veiling for this, a technique used mostly on vintage lamp shades, which Larry adapted to be used on cars using car paints.


Promotional card for the Druid Princess. This car shows the veiling effect on the cowl and rear fenders a bit better.


Larry’s framed Druid Princess photos on the wall of his museum.


This was an 1964 Ford Econoline Van that Larry did for himself. Using a 4 inch dropped front and parts left over from his abandoned space Truck project to fix frontal damage. The van was actually painted by Joe Navarro at Larry Shop. When he took the freshly finished Van over to Ed Roth to pick up an order of new shirts and flyers from Ed he found Ed drooling all over it. Ed bought the truck from Larry the very same day.


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About the Author

Rik Hoving
Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)


  1. The meeting of two very creative artists. I would have liked to have been there to hear some of their conversations. 🙂
    It is my understanding that Larry mixed the paint for the restored Orbitron. He had the formulas in his files.
    An era never to be duplicated……


  2. Larry Watson….My Hero…..

    I want to wear that 1960’s metal flake dress and paint a car in it……!!!



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