Bob Rutten at the 1975 Soboba Grand Prix on the Hodaka 125 prototype.
This is Bob Rutten on the prototype Hodaka 125 that never got made. Here is Bob’s story about the bike. “This photo was shot the 1975 Soboba Grand Prix. It was an awesome race held every year at the Soboba Indian Reservatiion. Seemed like it rained every year for perfect conditions. I was first in the 125 Expert class that year.
“This bike was incredible to ride. I don’t know who ported the cylinder, but combined with the special pipe, which I remember I was told was a duplicate in cone sizing as pipes that were used on a Yamaha TZ250 road racer, that bike screamed. Much more power than any 125 I had ridden to that point, including the new 125 Elsinores. That power would have been hard to handle with the old Hodaka frame and suspension, but not on this bike. The way it worked with the cantilevered shocks and the beefier and more rigid forks just made me feel there was no limit to how fast you could ride it. It was inspiring. When I first saw the bike it looked like it was a close copy of the then very good working Husqvarna 250CR desert bike.
Bob Rutten and Brent Wallingsford back in the day.
“At that time I was riding for Tiger Distributing in Glendale, California, the west coast Hodaka distributor. I am not sure how the bike got to them, although I believe Darryl Meter, who worked at Tiger as the parts manager, and had a ton of enthusiasm for my desert racing efforts, had heard about the prototype and pushed hard to get it down here for me to try.
“I didn’t have direct contact with PABATCO in Oregon. My input and opinions would go to Daryl and Mike, the overall manager of Tiger Distributing. They would then relay the info to the guys in Oregon. I had the bike for about three months and during that time had some wins, but also some DNFs due to engine failures, mainly lower end of rod failure. I really didn’t want to give it back, it was so fun to ride. Every week, Daryl Meter and I would discuss how the bike performed and what parts to replace. I would do all the work on the bike.
The Hodaka 125 prototype never saw production and only a few photos of it have been found. Photo: Strictly Hodaka
“If you remember at that time, 1975, Hodaka was losing ground quickly against the new Honda Elsinore, the Yamaha YZ and Suzuki. I felt, and expressed my feelings, that if Hodaka would make a production bike that would run and handle like that 125 prototype did, they would continue to be a force in the small bore classes.”
Today, Bob Rutten (83) works at Ame Grips and still races. Photo: Dan Alamangos