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Hodaka, another of those brands made in Japan unknown in Europe
Hodaka, another of those brands made in Japan unknown in Europe

What does the brand sound like to anyone Hodaka? well or at least almost no one is familiar with the brand. Not until a long time ago when I decided to look for more information about this mysterious motorcycle brand that seems more like a mistake when writing the name of Honda than a serious company that is dedicated to manufacturing and selling motorcycles. Although I have to say that after reading the interesting story they tell us in Motorcycle Classics I think that the brand was not exactly the most serious of the moment.

But we go in parts to know Hodaka, a brand of motorcycles made in Japan, which were only sold in the USA and that popularized the Off-Road in the sixties and seventies of the last century. The economic and social situation of the moment was that in the USA they were experiencing a baby boom that in the sixties and seventies filled the streets of the country with adolescent kids. To this must be added a country in which asphalt roads are not exactly the majority and we find that the bosses of a chemical company called PABATCO They decided that to diversify their business they could import japan-made motorcycles to sell to this crowd of teenagers.

Said and done, in 1961, PABATCO started importing 50cc and 80cc motorcycles manufactured by Yamaguchi, a Japanese brand that unfortunately went bankrupt in 1963. Of course, the North American gentlemen did not give up and knowing that the Yamaguchi engines were manufactured by Hodaka, they took a step forward and tried to save the business that had done quite well for them. previous years. With some designs that the gossips say came from meetings in a bar near the headquarters of the chemical company, they went to Japan and convinced the Hodaka men to build the rest of the motorcycle in addition to making the engines.

Hodaka in 2006

The result was the Hodaka Ace 90, a small and light motorcycle with a single-cylinder two-stroke engine that triumphed in the North American market because it did not have a single rival. At that time, Harley Davidson made some two-stroke motorcycles that were the source of its alliance with Aermacchi, but they were road motorcycles. The four big Japanese brands were not interested in making small-displacement motorcycles for the field. And European brands produced field bikes with four-stroke mechanics that made them heavy as an elephant and too complicated for a novice to ride.

So a 90 cc motorcycle, with a two-stroke engine that gave 8 hp. A declared weight less than 55 kgdesigned for the field with tall fenders, overhead exhaust and long suspensions, and priced at just $ 379 of the time, he made the Hodaka Ace 90 a top seller. 17,000 units sold between 1963 and 1968, year in which the displacement was increased to 100 cc. The secret of success? Well, in addition to the benefits The Hodaka was a motorcycle that could legally circulate on the street and also win competitions.

Continuing with the product line from 1970 on, Hodaka launched a series of motorcycles a little more specific. Thus was born Hodaka Super Rat, a motocross bike but with the same 100 cc engine. In 1972 the Hodaka Wombat 125 appeared, a 125cc version of the Super Rat. A year later the Hodaka Dirt Squirt. In 1974 the entire range would be revised, with models called Hodaka Combat Wombat, the Super Combat and a revised version of the Hodaka Super Rat. But by that time the other brands had already realized the piece of cake that Hodaka was enjoying and put motorcycles like the Yamaha DT-1 or the Honda Elsinore on the market. Hodaka's only solution was to make motorcycles with more displacement, 175 cc and 250 cc models appeared including the Hodaka thunder dog. But sales fell rapidly in the face of push from the big four Japanese brands.

Hodaka's lace gave it to him Shell, which bought the parent company of PABATCO and decided that the motorcycle business was not profitable. The brand officially disappeared in 1978, although at that time the legend of those field bikes with curious names that were manufactured in Japan but only sold in the USA was born.

Hodaka Combat Wombat at the Barber Museum

Note on the names of the Hodaka: Interestingly the names of the entire range Hodaka used almost joking names during its brief history. For example a Wombat is a four-legged marsupial that lives in Australia. Dirt Squirt could be translated as dirty spit. Super Rat, I don't think you need translation and Thunder Dog literally means thunder dog. For a long time a drawing of a Wombat with a helmet was used as the mascot of the brand, but as much as I have searched I have not found any image that can assure that it is the original of the brand.

When the company was closed, some of its directors stated that It had been like twelve and a half years on a paid vacation site. They certainly had a good time, designing the bikes and then selling them so that people would also have fun riding them in the fields or on the asphalt. If today the entrepreneurs took it with this philosophy I am sure that another rooster would sing to them. When I published the article on the Husqvarna Baja Concept and said that it seemed like an affordable motorcycle I was referring to bikes like these Hodaka. Motorcycles that anyone can drive without having to be a specialist in field motorcycles and that you can also use during the week to go to school or work and at the weekend go out for a few jumps without changing anything other than your equipment. Of course, as long as the authorities allow it, the field is still very delicate in our country.

To finish this article about a brand so unknown in our country, here are some videos of the motorcycles in action.

Hodaka wombat

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