Todays results cover a epic Italian brand and a somewhat lesser known (and extinct) Japanese/American Hybrid.
Adriano, Marcello, and Bruno , the Ducati brothers, got together in Bologna in 1926 and founded the Societa Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati. Their goal? To produce electrical comp0nents like vacuum tubes and condensers. Less than a decade later they had enjoyed sufficient success that they were able to build a new factory in the Borgo Panigale section of the city. They persevered through WWII despite regular visits from Allied Bombers. With the coming of peace the brothers sought new opportunities for the growing family business.
In 1950, in collaboration with Turinese firm SIATA, the Ducati firm created it’s first motorcycle offering, based on (and named for) SIATA’s Cucciolo engine. That first Ducati motorcycle was a 48 cc bike weighing 98 lb and having a top speed of 40 mph. It was capable of a fuel economy approaching 200 mpg. A short time afterward the Cicciolo name was dropped in favor of the Ducati moniker.
In 1953, with the increasing success of its motorcycle offerings, the company was split into separate entities, Ducati Electronica and Ducati Meccanica SpA, with Meccanica being the motorcycle division. .
Initial success in the 50s begat even more success in the 1960s. A class leading 250, the Ducati Mach 1 received worldwide acclaim. This was followed up in the 70s by the advent of the Ducati signature “L” serives if 90 degree V-Twins with the relatively unique desmodromic valve actuation. Worldwide racing success fueled sales through this period.
Through the 80s and 90s financial difficulties prevailed and resulted in a series of ownership changes. Nonetheless the brand remained viable and it is currently flourishing under new (since 2012) owners Audi. Monsters, Hyperstradas and Panigales – descended from vacuum tubes and condensers. Fascinating!
The Pacific Basin Trading Company (PABATCO) was a firm based in the tiny town of Athena, Oregon. They were engaged in the trading of farm supplies around the Pacific Rim. In the early 1960s, when moving currency between the US and Japan was notably more difficult than today, PABATCO sought out trading partners willing to swap Japanese goods for their Oregon products – fertilizer, grains and whatnot. That’s how the PABATCO came to find themselves in the business of importing and selling the obscure Yamaguchi motorcycle brand. Unfortunately, subsequent to establishing a lively business and a nationwide dealer network, Yamaguchi went bankrupt. Left with customer demand and a clamoring dealer network the enthusiast management of PABATCO elected not to just walk away from the booming America motorcycle market. Rather, they worked a deal with Yamaguchi’s former engine supplier, the Hodaka Industrial Company. In 1964 PABATCO agreed to design, develop, and market a new series of motorcycles if Hodaka would agree to both supply engines and manufacture the entire bike. The partnership met with immediate success. Within months, thousands of bikes had been sold and competition success soon followed for the well received small displacement on/off road bikes. Well known for the quirky names of the various models (Wombat, Dirt Squirt, Road Toad, etc) PABATCO and its Hodaka brand sold over 100,000 bikes through the 60s and into the mid 1970s. The end came in 1978 when a combination of competition from the much larger Japanese manufacturers and economic conditions put paid to the tiny brand. They are fondly remembered, no doubt. But who of you knew they were the offshoot of a tiny farm supplies company in the Pacific Northwest?
More back stories tomorrow when we address current day powerhouses BMW and Yamaha. See you then!