With bikes named Combat Wombat, Super Rat and Road Toad, as well as Thunderdog and Dirt Squirt and more, Hodaka made a big mark on the motorcycle industry in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Nearly everyone of a certain age either rode a Hodaka or lusted after one, and tens of thousands of the funny little bikes made their way across the country. Most of them could be found in the Northwest, because the neat little bike with the silly name didn’t come from a warehouse in Los Angeles, it came from a division of a chemical fertilizer company in Athena, Oregon.
Hodaka’s parent company, Pabatco, closed down in 1978, and might have been forgotten since then, until a group of enthusiasts and former employees got together and decided to celebrate the past. This was in 2005, and since then the Hodaka Days celebration has been growing like a newborn wombat.
Hodaka Days started this year on June 21, 2012, with a road-bike poker run and a cookout at Harry Taylor’s house in Athena, Oregon. It continued the next day with a trail ride dedicated to the memory of the Bad Rock ISDT Qualifier from the early ‘70s. The original Bad Rock was 200 miles per day, over some rugged terrain, and of course the trail ride for the Hodaka Days was a lot more tamed down.
On Saturday a full day of events kept the event organizers and attendees running around in circles, starting with a pancake breakfast downtown at the American Legion, moving on to the Main Street parade (led by Grand Marshal Preston Petty), to a Hodaka bike show in the park, a flea market, and an observed trials event in the early afternoon. There was also a huge banquet Saturday night, followed by a premier showing of Peter Starr’s newly remastered Bad Rock Qualifier DVD. Sunday wound down with some fun vintage motocross races.
What should I watch, the view or the mud ruts? It was a good idea to pay attention to the mud, especially if your Hodaka was shod with the typical trials-type tires of the day. Some of the guys got stuck, but only briefly.
Paul Stannard of Strictly Hodaka (left) and film maker Peter Starr (right) share a joke with Harry Taylor. Taylor was the head of the R&D department at Hodaka, and manager of the race team. Hodaka’s big “name” racer was Tommy Croft, before he moved over to Team Honda in the 1970s.
Gregg Floren (left), this year’s organizer of the Hodaka Days celebration, and Ed Chesnut, formerly of Hodaka advertising and promotion, swap lies at a cookout at Harry Taylor’s house on Friday evening.
Who could imagine that some day you’d be able to buy Preston Petty fenders again, brand new? Strictly Hodaka’s camp at the flea market did a brisk business in new and used Hodaka parts, and Petty fenders.
Many vendors participated in the flea market. You could buy anything there, from a completely restored Hodaka to a basket case fixer-upper, or just about any of the parts you might need in between.
Lined up for the parade, Saturday morning. Many of the bikes there looked like they had just rolled off the showroom floor.
Harry Taylor leads the parade in his Hodaka red golf cart. For a few minutes, Main Street in Athena was filled with Hodakas!
Both ends of Main Street were decorated with Hodaka banners, welcoming guests to the town.
Even Athena’s finest was Hodaka mounted.
Preston Petty and Jack Broomall. Jack restored a 125 Wombat in 2011, and then rode it to Hodaka Days from Pennsylvania to Oregon. His 3000 mile trip made him a local hero in Hodaka-land!
The featured model of the Hodaka Days celebration this year was the Road Toad, a bike that celebrated lime green before Kawasaki made it popular. There were a number of beautifully restored Road Toads in attendance.
The bike that started it all: The Hodaka Ace 90 appealed to people who wanted a fun machine to play in the dirt. It was also street legal, making it a frugal around-town buzz bomb.
The plastic tank and no-nonsense styling are hallmarks of the Super Combat, a 125cc machine that spent its share of time on the motocross tracks in the early ‘70s.
Look real closely at the details of the Thunder Dog 250 and you can see that, for their time, the later Hodaka models well very well advanced in technology. Even today it’s not a bad casual trail bike!
The Combat Wombat in all its glory. How can you argue with the combination of olive drab and chrome?
Airbox detail of the Combat Wombat. This was a very desirable machine, in its day. And of course, it’s the darling of Hodaka collectors everywhere.
Hodaka trials bike? Oh yes, there’s quite a few of them, owing to the fact that some of the original Hodaka employees were die-hard trials enthusiasts.
The Saturday bike show involved all of the original Hodakas, as well as a number of Hodaka-powered machines.
This 100cc Hodaka café racer drew a lot of attention. Harry Taylor rode a 100cc Hodaka Ace 100 roadracer to the class win at the Daytona 100 in 1968.
Peter Starr autographed DVD cases all day at the Hodaka Days flea market. He made his first motorcycle film at the Bad Rock Qualifier in 1973.
Get out your Hodaka Bullfrog trials bike! One of the friendly competition events at the Hodaka Days was an observed trials, which was unfortunately truncated by a vicious rainstorm.
The Gem Theatre in downtown Athena has ambitious plans to house the world’s only Hodaka museum, once all the restoration plans are completed. The Hodaka Days raffle and auction donated at least $5000 to the Gem for the project.
Found on Harry Taylor’s garage wall: a crayon drawing of Hodaka’s “last supper,” with all the bike characters at the table. The Thunderdog is at the right end of the table, with the Dirt Squirt at the other end, and how many other characters can you name?
Hodaka Days poster in an Athena coffee house. You have to hand it to the Hodaka Club; this was an ambitious event!
Ed Chesnut holds up a poster of Harry Taylor’s epic Daytona win, at the fundraiser auction Saturday night. The poster went for $500, to help out the restoration efforts at the Gem Theatre.
Bill Grubin was the winner of the raffle bike at Hodaka Days. The bike was a 1973 “model 95” Combat Wombat, set up with a powder coated frame and every imaginable trick thing you can do to a restored Hodaka. Bill was blown away by his win!
Peter Starr presented a digitally remastered DVD release of his Bad Rock Qualifier movie from 1973 at the Long Branch Saloon in Weston on Saturday night.
There were a number of veterans from the original Bad Rock Qualifier on hand for the showing of the film on Saturday night. Most also rode the Bad Rock trailride on Friday morning.
How can you have a gathering like this and not include a little friendly motocross racing? Of course you can’t! Hodakas of all sizes and shapes were raced on Sunday morning, on a vintage-friendly track laid out over the Diamond Eye Mfg. property.
Ed Chesnut going full moto on his 125 Wombat during the Sunday morning races.
Ron Pomeroy was the official flagman at the Sunday motocross.