Vintage MX: 1971 Hodaka Super Rat

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Vintage MX Motorcycles

For the legion of teenage motocrossers across America that were spurred on by Bruce Brown’s legendary 1971 documentary, “On Any Sunday,” to fall in love with motorcycles and motocross, there was a ready-made off-road machine that became ubiquitous with the MX scene in this country: The Hodaka Super Rat.

The 100cc Hodakas were the weapon of choice for an entire generation of kids who weren’t big enough yet to straddle one of the menacing, larger displacement bikes on the market. One of the things that stood out was Hodaka’s penchant for quirky model names.

The most popular Hodaka was the 100cc Super Rat. 125cc bikes included the dual-sport Wombat, racing Combat Wombat and, later, the Super Combat. Toward the end, there was a 100cc dual-sport bike with the unlikely name of Road Toad. The designers at Hodaka must have had fun naming these bikes. Although Hodaka produced a 125cc, it was the 100cc that proliferated like rabbits at the local MX tracks.

The Hodaka Super Rat had a signature chrome gas tank and a red frame, which set it off from the competitors. The bikes were virtually indestructible–just the thing an overzealous teenager needed as he went about the trials and tribulations of learning to ride moto.

And if you did manage to wad it or blow it up, the parts were ridiculously inexpensive–just like the under-$500 base purchase price (about $3000 in today’s dollars). The simplicity of the machine also made it easy for a nascent mechanic to wrench on.

Simplicity was the name of the game with Hodaka. The bikes were basically a frame, a 2-stroke motor, shocks and forks. Basically a kid could fill the Super Rat up with pre-mix and ride all day. Clean the air filter now and then and you were set.

Check out the diameter of the swingarm and the complete lack of traction with those rubber-covered footpegs.

I was riding a Honda MiniTrail 70 in 1971, completely content, until I saw a local motocross race at Indian Dunes. There was a 100cc class back then and it was virtually dominated by the Hodakas (the Super Rat’s main competitors were the Yamaha 90 MX and the Kawasaki Centurion 100cc, as well as the much more expensive Penton 100cc and other Sachs-powered machines).

The sound of 35 100cc machines–probably 31 of them Hodakas–all revved in unison for the start, created the most beautiful beehive of sound for a 13-year old. Next time you watch “On Any Sunday,” notice how many Hodakas you see in the various scenes of MX and desert racing. With their shiny chrome gas tanks they’re incredibly easy to spot.

In one of the pictures above is the Super Rat before it went under the Kelly Owen transformation to full restoration. Take a close look. It’ll help you appreciate the work that went into bringing this timeless classic motocross machine back to life.

Visit theowencollection.com to see more of the glorious vintage MX machines.

 

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