4 Sale / 1973 Hodaka Dirt Squirt: When Motorcycles Were Extra Fun
Ever wonder why Honda is so enamored with the Minimoto lineup? The Minimoto line (including
Ever wonder why Honda is so enamored with the Minimoto lineup? The Minimoto line (including the Grom, the Trail 125, the Super Cub and the Monkey) offers an affordale entry point into the world of motorcycling, but it also has a secondary market. A lot of buyers are older riders who remember the first time we saw showrooms filled with small-cc bikes that emphasized fun over performance, back in the 1970s. But then, Honda didn’t own the market alone like it does now—it shared it with Hodaka, who initially outdid Big Red with its own Japanese-built line of goofy, versatile minibikes, including the Dirt Squirt.
Designed in America, made in Japan
Most mid-century motorcycle manufacturers were industrial giants of some sort who just added motorcycles to an existing lineup of products. Hodaka was a bit different. In the early 1960s, Hodaka supplied two-stroke engines to Yamaguchi, a major player in Japan’s motorcycle market then. In turn, Yamaguchi sold those bikes to PABATCO, an Oregon-based company, for resale in the US. When Yamaguchi went bust, the people at PABATCO still wanted to sell Japanese motorcycles, so they went directly to Hodaka in Japan. Hodaka inked a deal to build complete motorcycles, not just engines, to PABATCO’s specifications.
Thus started one of the most interesting motorcycle companies ever. Motorcycles are usually sold on promises of performance, adventure or machismo. Hodaka took a different approach—it emphasized the fun of motorcycling with goofy names for many of its bikes, and cartoon mascots. Machines aimed at more serious riders came with straight-up names like the Ace or the Super Combat, but for riders who just wanted to have fun on the trail, you had bikes like the Combat Wombat, the Road Toad, the Thunder Dog and as seen here, the Dirt Squirt.
Hodaka was fairly successful for a few years; its bikes performed well in off-road racing, and the idea of building a bike for American riders with Japanese quality made them popular with riders. However, the rest of the Japanese manufacturers eventually flexed their muscle and drove Hodaka out of the market in 1978.
The Dirt Squirt
So what about the Dirt Squirt? It’s a classic trailbike built exactly in the style that was popular back in the early 1970s. Before plastic bodywork took over, you had bikes like this, with chromed tank, fenders and shocks, and shiny, polished engine cases. The Dirt Squirt came with a two-stroke 100cc single delivering power aimed at usability, not racing wins. It rolled on a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, and it was targeted to the same market as the Kawasaki KLX140RF is today. As Hodaka’s original marketing said, it was “Built like a big bike for Sons, Daughters, Wives, Short Friends, Beginners and People that just want a super-handling fun motorcycle… .”
That market is a lot bigger than you might think. However, the Dirt Squirt wasn’t enough to save Hodaka. The Big Four, Honda in particular, were building better and better motorcycles all the time, and Hodaka’s emphasis on fun (who designs a motorcycle with a clam for a logo?) wasn’t enough to keep customers excited. They wanted a DT, an XL, a CR, whatever. Most riders then are the same as they are now.
This bike here
This machine is for sale at Mecum’s March 28-April 1 auction in Glendale, Arizona. There is no reserve price. The listing has the following information on the bike:
- Professional no expense spared restoration
- Rebuilt engine with polished case covers and other upgrades
- Aluminum details have been polished
- Redone chrome
- New paint
- Bike has not been started since this project was completed
- On indoor display for several years
That’s it. Looking at the bike, it’s obviously in gorgeous shape and it will probably never again take a beating off-road, like the designers originally intended. Is that good, or bad? If you’re the buyer, it’s your money and your choice.