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Volo's Outlaw Replica

By John Gunnell

During a recent visit to the Volo Auto Museum ( I saw a car that looked like Ed Roth’s famous “Outlaw” hot rod. Volo’s President of Sales Jay Grams told me the car was a replica, but it still brought back memories of a long ago World of Wheels show in Boston where I met Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.

I was working for Old Cars Weekly newspaper at the time and the World of Wheels folks wanted to start a division for genuine classic cars. They asked me to line up three or four cars for the show and to fly to Boston to be at the show. Back then, businesspeople often shared rooms and my roommate was a Detroit policeman who was in charge of keeping the show proceeds secure. It was my first trip to Boston and I knew I was going to have a safe trip.
In the morning, a Word of Wheels executive picked us up in a passenger van. We were waiting in front of the hotel for another rider. Looking out of the van window, I could see a little blue Isuzu pickup truck with some kind of homemade cargo box sitting in the bed. The tailgate was stamped “Peterbilt” instead of “Isuzu” and the truck had Utah license plates. It was all kind of weird. “That’s my truck,” said a guy who was climbing into the van. He had dark hair and a goatee. “I don’t fly,” he said, as if to explain the out of state license plates. “You’ll never see Ed Roth on an airplane.” So, that’s how I met Ed Roth.
During the show, they took metal waste paper baskets and let Ed paint Rat Fink cartoon characters on them. Then, they auctioned the waste paper baskets off for thousands of dollars that went to a charity. The box on his truck also contained several models of the Outlaw that he was hoping to sell. 
The real Outlaw came about after Ed Roth returned to California in 1955 after a stint in the U.S. Air Force. Big Daddy built his first show car at that time, a ‘30 Ford Model A Tudor he called “Little Jewel.” A year later, he started the more radical Outlaw. It was designed to look like a T-bucket, but with a molded fiberglass body. Amazingly, the budget for the car was $800 and Roth met it. 
The Outlaw was based on a fabbed up frame and a junkyard drive train from a Cadillac. The fiberglass body was hand-molded by Roth. Larry Watson squirted the paint and Fritz Voigt, who wrenched for Mickey Thompson, built the motor. Big Daddy had to sell Little Jewel to raise funds to finish the Outlaw. 
The Outlaw was originally called the “Excaliber” because of its sword shaped shifter. It went on the show circuit in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The car was in more than 100 shows, but Big Daddy liked car show circuit hassles as much as he liked flying. In 1970, Roth sold the original Outlaw to Jim Brucker, who operated the Movie World Museum in California. Later, it went to Harrah’s Auto Collection and the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it is today.
The Volo Auto Museum’s replica of the car is not the only one around, but it is a good one. Jay Grams said it’s one of about 175  “Hollywood” cars that Volo has become known for. These are movie and TV cars, cars owned by famous people and one-of-a-kind cars like a Carroll Shelby prototype. Since Volo started this collection, is annual attendance has grown from 150,000 people per year to 250,000. It’s no wonder that a new cable TV show called “Volo: House of Cars” will soon be appearing on The History Channel. .