CLASSIC MOTOCROSS IRON: JODY WEISEL’S 1974 HODAKA 125 SUPER COMBAT

BY TOM WHITE

For a short period of time in late 1973, the Hodaka Super Combat was the fastest 125 motocross bike made. It was, unfortunately, a very short period of time! As Penton, Monark, Bultaco, Zundapp and CZ were wilting, the Japanese were focusing their attention on the incredibly popular 125 class. Hodaka got there first with a serious 125 racer. The 1974 Super Combat was a spin-off of the trail-based 125cc Combat Wombat, which was spawned from the ubiquitous Super Rat 100. Unfortunately, the Super Combat’s dominance was short lived. It hit the showrooms first and was resoundingly applauded, only to be eclipsed in short order by the Honda CR125 Elsinore and strap-tanked YZ125.

The Hodaka 125 engine was not as reliable as the 100cc Super Rat engine, but it did make solid power in 1974—but was soon swamped the the new generation YZ125 and CR125.

The ultra-tall seat looks odd 46 years later, but in 1974 lots of racers resorted to tall seats to raise the very low 1974 chassis and to add more suspension in the rough.

While the $900 Super Combat was the most advanced Hodaka ever made, it wasn’t built by a megabuck company with the finances to retool every year. When the CR125 and YZ125 leapfrogged over the Super Combat, the bell had tolled for the Oregon brand. It had been a great run. Hodaka had fueled the off-road motorcycle explosion of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but by 1974 Hodaka’s loyal following had been lured away by Honda and Yamaha. Even Hodaka’s most famous riders, Tommy Croft, Bob Rutten and Cordis Brooks, were switching brands.

There were no springs in Jody’s 1974 Kayaba forks—just air. Nothing trick, the forks caps were drilled and Schadeder valves threaded in. These 36mm forks were a big upgrade over the stock 32mm forks.

In the end, Hodaka executive Marv Foster encouraged the development of one last prototype Super Combat (built in Texas and California for Jody Weisel to race). Forty-five years ago, Jody was part of a thriving Texas motocross movement that included Kent Howerton, Wyman Priddy, Steve Stackable, Jody Foust, Danny Doss, Jack O’Leary, Tim Riddle, Steve Wise, Jumpin’ Jack Hicks and Bobby Pickard.

Jody’s bike was in the AMA Hall of Fame “Motocross America” exhibition.
 The exhaust stinger did not extend out the back of the bike—it barely cleared the aluminum side number plate. The silencer was welded inboard about 8-inches.

The Swenco swingarm extended the very short Hodaka wheelbase by three inches.

Frame breakage was an issue and the Super Combat frame had lots of gussetting added. Note the strap welded around the head tube and backward towards the frame. Most of the frame was totally rebuilt.

The end result was the most advanced Hodaka 125 ever made. The list of innovations included a handmade Alex Steel aluminum coffin tank, a 3-inch longer Swenco swingarm, moved-up shock positioning, 34mm Kayaba air forks (the stockers were 32mm), a Rickman conical front hub, a GP Specialties up-pipe (with a stinger that exited under the seat), a reinforced frame, aluminum side panels, and a built-up seat.

Jody’s bike was in Ken Smith’s “Hodaka” history book.

This is what Jody and his 1974 Super Combat looked like when it was on the cover of the September 3, 1974, issue of Cycle News. It didn’t stay like that for very long.

What Jody’s 1974 Hodaka 125 Super Combat looks like today in Tom White’s “Early Year’s of Motocross Museum.”

This prototype was a last-ditch effort to bridge the gap between new and old and the haves and have-nots. It was too little, too late. Hodaka was too small to fight the juggernauts. In the end, Hodaka closed its doors. Marvin Foster got a job at Grab-On grips, Jody Weisel signed on as a professional test rider, and the one-off 1974 Hodaka Super Combat ended up in a motorcycle museum never to be ridden again.

 

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