In the 1960s and 1970s, Webco was a leading supplier of the trickest aftermarket parts to enhance the performance of anything from an AJS to a Zundapp. Based in Venice, California, Webco figured the best way to promote sales of their 125cc top-end kit for the Hodaka Super Rat 100 was to build a project bike. Jeff Heininger, son of Webco founder Tom Heininger, contacted Modern Cycle magazine about the idea, and they immediately agreed to test the bike.
Webco chose the Hodaka Super Rat because it was one of the most popular tiddlers of the time. But, at 100cc, the machine was too small to compete in the growing 125cc class. Webco used nothing but the best on their project bike. The Rickman Micro-Metisse frame and bodywork, Ceriani forks, Koni shocks and Dunlop tires were the starting point. The Webco 125cc cylinder, piston, head and 26mm Mikuni were mated to a Torque Engineering expansion chamber. The chain tension was not adjusted at the rear wheel, as the rear wheel was held in a fixed place. Instead the swingarm pivot was mounted to a snail cam and the length of the swingarm, and thus chain tension, could be adjusted.
It was not enough for the bike to be powerful and handle well, Webco also mounted a Preston Petty front fender on a Webco alloy fender brace and used their fold-up motocross pegs. To finish off the project in style, Jack O’Brien applied a bright red, white and blue paint job. Modern Cycle described the bike in the February 1971 issue as “An eye-catcher as well as a hot performer!”
Webco disappeared from the scene in the early 1980s, but their innovative business formula influenced many of today’s successful performance companies. FMF, Pro Circuit, Yoshimura and several others can thank Webco for figuring out the best way to promote products to offroad enthusiasts.
WHAT THEY COST
Back in the day, Steen’s in Alhambra, California, the U.S. Rickman distributor, would sell you a Rickman Micro-Metisse Hodaka for $1195.00. That was double the price of a Hodaka Super Rat, and you still had to purchase the Webco components. Since Webco was the inspiration for my business, White Brothers, this bike is priceless to me!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Once you clear the crowd away from this eye-catcher, look for the beautiful nickel-plated frame and exquisite fiberglass bodywork. Besides the items mentioned in the story, look for the specially designed Proto Products single-sided air-cleaner canister tucked behind the side panels.
Though Hodaka parts are easily available from vintage suppliers like Strictly Hodaka at www.strictlyhodaka.com, and Rickman Metisse bodywork can be found, there are no sources for the Webco accessories that make this replica bike so cool.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com