By Tom White
Introduced in America in 1964 by the worldwide distributor Pabatco (Pacific Basin Trading Co.), the Hodaka Ace 90 was an immediate success. A strange marriage between the Hodaka Company in Nagoya, Japan, and Pabatco in Athena, Oregon, combined the offroad know-how of the Americans and manufacturing expertise of the Japanese. Hodakas were fun, inexpensive dirt bikes that could be ridden hard and required very little maintenance.
In 1968 the Ace 90 was bored to 100cc, and in 1969 the motocross version was dubbed the “Super Rat!” Hodaka originally planned to call the bike the Ace 100 MX, but the prototype bike had “SR,” meaning “special racer,” painted on the airbox cover. It was Roger Phillips at Pabatco who made the sarcastic statement, “What is that? A Super Rat?”
Aftermarket companies, like Roehr Brothers, Tiger Distributing, Tracys, Alex Steel, Major Distributing, Van Tech, Swenco and Webco sold hop-up parts like high-compression cylinder heads, expansion chambers, high-flow air boxes, swingarms, footpegs, forks and gas tanks. The suggested retail in 1970 was $495 for the chrome-tanked, red-framed, stainless steel-fendered Rats. And they sold like popcorn at the movies! From 1970 to 1973, more than 18,000 Super Rats were sold. If you wanted to win in the early 1970s in the 100cc class, you had to be on a Rat. Many of the sports’ legends, like Tommy Croft, Brad Lackey, Bob Rutten, Cordis Brooks, Jim Pomeroy, Tom Rapp, Gary Bailey and Chuck Sun, got their start on the marquee.
But Hodaka was too small to survive the technology wars of the Big Four Japanese brands in the late 1970s, and while they tried to expand their base with a minicycle, 125, 175 and 250 (and with name like Dirt Squirt, Road Toda, Combat Wombat, Super Combat and Thunder Dog) — even going so far as building prototypes like the Bob Rutten raced 125 and Jody Weisel raced 250 motocrosser — Hodaka went out of business in 1978 when owner Shell Oil pulled the plug. “The Little Bike That Could,” couldn’t survive,To this day, Hodakas are still celebrated in Athena, Oregon, when “Hodaka Days” are held every year June.
1971 HODAKA 100 SUPER RAT FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
A nicely restored Super Rat can sell for as much as $5000, but as with the original Hodakas, Rats can be one of the least expensive ways to enter the vintage market.
The 100cc Super Rat was followed by the 125cc Combat Wombat and 125cc Super Combat. Trail and street versions included the uniquely named Wombat (125), Dirt Squirt (100), Road Toad (100) and Thunderdog (250).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
A good “core” for restoration should have the original chrome tank with only minor dents (they can be removed), the original stainless steel fenders, and an unmolested frame. Make sure yours has the beautiful airbox that distinguishes the Rat.
Paul Stannard at Strictly Hodaka was our technical source for this article and has just about every part you would need to do a 100-point restoration. Contact Strictly Hodaka at (401) 364-3427 and on the web at www.StrictlyHodaka.com
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com