“America’s Favorite Trailbike” is Reborn…
Ever heard of a Hodaka? Neither had we — not until we came across Utopeia Moto Company‘s staggering 1967 Hodaka Ace 100 on the floor of The Congregation Show in Charlotte, NC, last month.
Hodaka was a joint Japanese-American company that built an array of trail bikes from 1964-1978, boasting some of the greatest model names ever: Dirt Squirt, Super Rat, Road Toad, and Combat Wombat. Rumor has it that the Hodaka founders — the Oishi brothers of Japan — traveled to Europe in the late 50s and brought more than 50 motorcycles back home for study. A couple years ago, the company was the subject of the book Hodaka: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Trailbike, which has been featured Jay Leno’s Garage!
Enter Chris Tope of Utopeia Moto Company, who bought a $20 chrome gas tank at a swap meet — knowing nothing about the Hodaka brand — and ended up building this staggering Hodaka Ace 100, aka “Navajo.” Chris, who is a full-time traveling biologist, works out of the 10×12′ space of his 44′ Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler!
Below, we get the full story on this incredible little scrambler from builder Chris Tope himself!
Hodaka Ace 100: In the Builder’s Words
As a full-time traveling biologist as my main career, bike building is merely just a side hobby. I believe by doing it this way, it has allowed me to still enjoy building different projects without ever getting stressed due to limited budget or client requests. It actually is my stress reliever from my main job. To date, this next build is my seventh custom motorcycle I have built. I usually only build about one bike every two years. Being a biologist consists of main hours and not much time off due to time constraints. Another building disadvantage for me, is by being a full time traveling Biologist, not many people know but I live in a 44′ Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler. So all of my bikes I have built have all been built in the little 10′ by 12′ space where the “Toy Hauler” section is located. This makes building very difficult especially when welding or painting.
The bike story begins when I was at Rice-o-Roma Swap Meet and found a vendor selling a chrome gas tank. I thought this would be a cool lamp project so I bartered with him and got it for 20 dollars. Then as I got home I started doing a little research on the manufacturer of the tank, Hodaka. Seems that this was a tank from a Super Rat. That’s when I decided to look at the ol’ interweb and found someone selling a 1967 Hodaka Ace 100 that was all together but without a tank. Perfect, so I placed a low bid and the next day I won, for a whopping 120 dollars! This was the beginning of the Navajo.
Going into the build, the concept was a lamp for my man cave, but after buying the 120 dollar bike on a whim to go with the tank, my mind started thinking of ideas. I grew up in a house with parents who loved Native American culture. We had art and paintings all over my house which had inspired some of my sketches in my journal of an Indian chief, feathers, a dream catcher, and a Teepee. When thinking of ideas for the build, I had flipped through my sketchbook one day and thought, this was it, I was somehow going to incorporate this into my Hodaka build. And so began the designing of the “Navajo,” with elements of fire, air, water and earth (such as the turquoise inlay).
I knew I needed a really unique feature to the bike that paid homage to Native American culture, so I found an artist that hand-engraved an 1882 Morgan coin and two 1937 Buffalo nickels (also called hobo coins, interesting history behind those) with a skull in full native headdress along with petroglyphs.
I wanted the chrome tank and vintage Native American saddleblanket seat to attract people from afar and pull them in closer to discover the small, intricate details such as the hidden gold Hodaka symbol among the petroglyphs in the coin and the dream catcher hanging under the seat — a gift from my mom. Also, reading about the history of Hodaka and how unique they were with their nomenclature (Combat Wombat, Dirt Squirt, Road Toad, Super Rat), I knew I wanted to do a desert Native American inspired build (hence the beefed up tires and chola cactus grips).
Trying to find Hodaka parts is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, especially the vintage custom parts. For majority of the general parts I found a couple of good sources around the country who had these in stock. For the parts I had from the bike, it took elbow grease and long hours to get them salvageable.
Before the project, honestly, I had never heard about Hodaka’s which is funny because they were stout bikes back in the day after doing some research. You had always heard about the vintage TT and track bikes like Bultaco, Husqvarna, and Penton, but Hodaka never came up in conversation. After the project and doing so much research, I definitely have a love for Hodaka’s. They are fun bikes with pretty simple motors to work on and not all the bells and whistles that make working on a bike frustrating. I’m sure later down the road there might be a Dirt Squirt or a Combat Wombat that might need to be customized and stored in my garage.
As a builder, I don’t think we feel like we are ever fully finished with a build. Heck I’ll admit, I’m a perfectionist, so any little piece that was not perfectly polished would bother me on end, but overall, I am very pleased with the results. I didn’t think a sketch on a notebook or a tank purchased at a swap meet would turn into one of my favorite builds to date.
As for doing anything differently, I would probably not try to build this bike or another in my fifth wheel toy hauler. Not a lot of people know that my bike builds are done in a 10′ by 12′ section of a trailer that I travel the country in for my ‘real’ job as a biologist. The limited workspace wore me out, but luckily this year, we had nice weather in New England so I could do a lot of the work outside.
- Build Time: 8 Months, 10 days
- Shop: Cyclone Fifth Wheel Toy Hauler
- Fabrication: Chris Tope
- Assembly: Chris Tope
- Base model : 1967 Hodaka Ace 100 B+
- Engine size : 98 cc Piston-port 2 Stroke Bored to a 125cc, and the Head/Jug ported
- Carburetor: Mikuni 28mm
- Air Filter: Modified K&N Cone
- Transmission: OEM, 5 speed wet multi-plate
- Exhaust: OEM, Ceramic Powdercoated
- Fuel Tank: OEM, re-chromed tank with custom 1882 Hobo Morgan coin emblems by J.H Ranger, CNC coin bezel
- Gas Cap: Custom Titanium CNC
- Frame: Fabricated/Modified, stretched 3″ longer and filled-in all weld seams
- Frame Paint: Distressed Maroon Finish
- Wheels: OEM, 19″ Front, 18″ Rear Powdercoated Black with new Buchanan spokes
- Tires: Maxxis Maxxcross IT (Front) Maxxis Surge (Rear)
- Front fork: Ceriani 30mm
- Shocks: Koni
- Front Brake: OEM
- Rear Brake: OEM
- Rear Sprocket: Modified CNC, Joey Cole
- Handlebars: Emgo Chrome 7/8
- Handgrips: Cholla Cactus Wood inlaid with Turquoise, CNC sleeves, CNC bar ends inlaid with 1937 Hobo Buffalo Nickel
- Handcontrol: Joker Machine
- Headlight Ears: Ceriani
- Headlight: Vintage CEV Headlight
- Taillight: Prism Motorcycle Supply
- Footpegs: Joker Machine
- Blinkers: Joker Machine
- Seat: Fabricated seat pan
- Upholstery: Vintage Native Saddleblanket material