To Snuff or Not to Snuff—By Steven L. Thompson

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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.”

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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.