In April of 1963, Yamaguchi Motorcycle went bankrupt. Since only 5000 of the stamped-frame, two-stroke, Japanese motorcycles had been shipped to the United States, it was no big deal to American motorcyclists. But, it was a big deal to the Hodaka Industrial Company in Nagoya, Japan, and the Pacific Basin Trading Company in Athena, Oregon. Yamaguchi had bought its engine parts from Hodaka and the Pacific Basin Trading Company (Pabatco) was Yamaguchi’s U.S. importer. Without Yamaguchi, Pabatco and Hodaka were out of business. They decided to join forces in a marriage of necessity. The Oregon importers designed a new trail bike and Hodaka built it—the rest is history.
By June of 1964, Hodaka had shipped its first $379 Ace 90 to Pabatco. It was an immediate hit. Within two years, Pabatco had sold 10,000 Ace 90s. It didn’t take long for the boys at Pabatco to realize that they had a hit on their hands, and it was only logical for them to jump onto the booming motocross band wagon.
In 1968 the Ace 90 was bored to 100cc and Hodaka unveiled its 100cc race bike in January of 1970. It was nicknamed the “Super Rat.” Believe it or not, Hodaka sold twice as many Super Rats in 1970 than Honda sold CR250s in 2001. Super Rats ruled the race tracks of America with their “chrome guppy” gas tanks, cast iron cylinders, ball receiver transmissions, steel fenders, 19-inch front wheels and 13 horsepower. Best of all, a youngster could buy a 100cc Hodaka Super Rat for under $500.
The 100cc Super Rat was followed by the 125cc Wombat 125 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). 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. 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.
Many of the sports’ legends, like Tommy Croft, Brad Lackey, Jim Pomeroy, Tom Rapp, Gary Bailey and Chuck Sun, got their start on the marque. To this day Hodaka’s are still celebrated in Athena, Oregon, when “Hodaka Days” are held every June (sadly the 2021 event has been moved to June of 2022).