Ed's famous "plaster and fiberglas" method.
Ed created his show cars like no one else. Ed's show cars were not just an off-the-assembly-line model modified with bodywork, all were unique creations.
Seeing a picture of Henry Ford using a sledgehammer on a fiberglas trunk lid was enough to give Ed the fantastic idea to build a fiberglas car. He liked the idea that fiberglas was very cheap and that it didn't require a lot of training to use, as Ed put it, "It could also be done by people with little or no talent and I had both."
In 1957 Ed started to experiment with fiberglas with his first fiberglas creation "Outlaw", Finding help with this new process was hard, at first Ed was going to use wood to build the body to lay the fiberglas on. Things started getting too complicated trying to use wood, "Wood and me don't jive." Ed said. Looking for something other than wood to use Ed went to a local lumberyard and picked up some casting plaster. Casting plaster was better than wood and very cheap.
Making adjustments on the plaster body was easy, Ed would use a saw if he needed to take something off, if he needed to add something he would just poke a coat hanger into the body for support and start building it up with plaster. After the plaster body started to take shape, he would then start smoothing it down using sand paper. All the sanding would create a deep layer of plaster dust on everything in the garage. Finding it harder to keep the garage clean Ed decided only to clean the floor after finishing each car. Dirty Doug (Doug Kinney) helped Ed create his show cars, they would find all sorts of screwdrivers and as Ed put it "neat junk" in the sweepings, mostly screwdrivers. Along with the plaster dust there was a lot of fiberglas dust too. Ed said, "fiberglas dust is worse'n itching powder, but Me and Doug wuz pretty use to it."
Not until the plaster body was shaped and smoothed, as Ed wanted did the fiberglas get applied. Ed said, "it's one of the gooiest messes you would ever want to see." Pants were ruined and thrown away by the end of each day and shoes would last up to four days before he would spray a coat of black paint on them. The fiberglas process combines the use of a special epoxy resin and fiberglas fabric that once applied dry into a very strong material.
After the fiberglas body had time to harden, the plaster underneath was knocked out using rubber hammers. It has been said that in some of the tight areas of certain show car bodies the plaster still remains. More sanding took place to get the body ready for painting. Ed painted most of his cars before '59. Starting with the Beatnik Bandit Ed started using Larry Watson, Ed said, "Paintin' cars wasn't my favorite trick" and he felt that if one didn't stay on top of the latest techniques the results could be disastrous.
With the body out to be painted Ed would finish up on the chassis, engine, drivetrain and wiring. Ed liked gathering extra parts for his show cars in junkyards and through trades. Usually everything would get chromed plated. He would assemble all the pieces after everything was back at his shop, saving the interior for next to last.
Using his plaster and fiberglas method Ed would repeat this process though out his show car career, making not only his show cars unique creations but the process they were created unique also.
Find out more about Ed Roth's Show Cars at his MrGasser.com