Say it’s the summer of 1964 and you’re 17 years old, living in a California suburb, and you’ve saved enough money from your job working at the local Mobilgas station to buy a Honda 305 Scrambler—the CL77 that every moto-minded teenager in America seemed to want and a whole lot got. Once you had the thing, you bought and installed the most vital components any self-respecting CL rider could buy: Snuff-or-Nots.
For the historically minded, the important questions regarding Snuff-or-Nots are: What were they, who invented them, where and when?
For the practically minded who remember them fondly, the only important question is: Can I still get some that will fit my restored Honda Scrambler?
And for the obsessive restorer who wasn’t around then, the question is: Why would I install Snuff-or-Nots instead of keeping the pipes and muffler stock?
First things first: Allan N. Lader of Gresham, Oregon, applied for the patent on Snuff-or-Nots on November 5, 1964, and got the patent on October 10, 1967. A computer programmer back when computers understood Fortran and took up entire climate-controlled rooms, Lader was also a keen on-and-off-road rider who disliked having to put in and take out exhaust baffles—or what he calls “snuffers”—on his four-stroke dual-purpose bikes for different riding environments.
The fix, Lader thought, would be what amounted to a flat washer that could be pivoted inside the exhaust pipe to silence the exhaust or turned edge-on to allow it to flow freely, depending on whether the bike was on- or off-road. Doing most of the test riding on his Ducati 250 Single, he invested two years and some $8000 of his own money (more than $57,000 today) to create, develop and test it before even trying to manufacture what became the Snuff-or-Not.
Being market-savvy and about a decade older than the first wave of the Baby Boomers, he read the tea leaves correctly when Honda’s ohc twin-cylinder Scramblers started selling in serious numbers. Lader sold more than 100,000 Snuff-or-Nots in the first year of manufacturing at $1.95 each (retail—and Twins, of course, needed two), through Pacifico, the company he co-owned with his brother, Randy.
The Snuff-or-Not was just one of Allan Lader’s products to change the motorcycle aftermarket scene and with it, the motorcycle world itself. As his wife, Myra, wrote in an e-mail to me, knowing that Al doesn’t like to toot his own horn, “One of Al’s fortes is looking at a process and adapting it to new uses. For example, when Randy brought home a piece of ABS plastic from Hyster, it was Al’s idea to try to make an unbreakable motorcycle fender from it. Al learned that shower enclosures and bathroom sink counters were made from vacuum-formed pieces of plastic and rigidized by spraying the back with chopped fiberglass, so he tried making handlebar fairings using that same method. They had been made with individual fiberglass molds with custom bosses for each specific motorcycle model. Pacifico started making handlebar fairings on an assembly line and soon was producing 200 a day. Dealers had to stock only a black and a white one along with small bracket kits to fit 25 or more different bikes. Handlebar fairings jumped from not even on the Top 10 accessory list to near the top of the list in just one year.”
Because of the significance of Allan Lader’s Snuff-or-Nots, when my buddy, Paul Adams, called me from John Proto’s shop—Performance Cycle, in Diamond Springs, California, in the Northern California Sierra Nevada foothills—to say that John’s son, Matt, had unearthed a New-Old-Stock (NOS) Snuff-Or-Not from Proto’s parts bin, I wasted no time in getting up there to look at it.
You can still find NOS Snuff-or-Nots on eBay, but they’ll cost a lot more than $1.95 each these days, and they’re getting rarer. So, the answer to the second question is: Yep, you can still find them.
But the third question, about whether a restorer ought to depart from showroom-stock in bringing a now nearly half-century-old Honda Scrambler back to life is not easily answered. There were shops back in the day that wouldn’t even work on a bike with Snuff-or-Nots. Joe Bolger, legendary AMA Hall-of-Fame scrambles and MX racer, inventor and former Honda shop owner, reminded me of this when I asked him if he’d ever installed any. On the other hand, Carl Cranke, another AMA Hall-of-Fame member and my high-school classmate (Bella Vista, in Fair Oaks, California, ’66), told me that when he worked at and raced for a Honda shop, he installed what seemed like thousands of them. Carl had a fast Super Hawk with factory-look megaphones, but it seemed like every other bike we ran across in those days was a Honda Scrambler with Snuff-or-Nots, often left in the “open” position so we could all savor Mr. Honda’s contributions to the sounds of the Sixties. There are YouTube videos available for those who’ve never heard that unique sound signature, but they don’t really capture the high-rpm snarl emitted by those sweet-looking upswept pipes.
Allan and Myra Lader say that they sold Snuff-or-Nots mainly through small magazine ads. Gene Rocchi’s Rocky Motorcycle Parts and Accessories was their primary distributor from their first year through the end of the Scrambler era—say, early ’70s, after the Yamaha DT-1 had triggered a ferocious battle between the Japanese Big Four in the dual-purpose market and rendered those Scramblers yesterday’s news. Some people think that Honda essentially created that market with the enormous success of its 250 and 305 Scramblers in the mid-’60s, giving all sorts of riders the opportunity to wander off the pavement, where they’d twist the Snuff-or-Nots to wide-open and then roost along the dirt and gravel of an America that hadn’t yet been gated and “protected” against, well, us.
That America is long gone, but Snuff-or-Nots are still with us. With luck and enough restorers brave enough to replicate the rides as they were really when they and dual-purpose riding was new, they always will be.