The Rat's Hole Story
Big Daddy Rat
Karl Smith "Big Daddy Rat"
Oct. 23, 1928 -- March 4, 2002 Since 1937, thousands of bikers from around the world come to Daytona Beach, Florida to experience Bike Week. For the past 30 years (1972-2002) Karl Smith produced the most prestigious motorcycle shows in the world. His shows were known as: "Big Daddy Rat's" Rat's Hole Custom Chopper Show and were featured annually, not only in Daytona Beach, but also; Sturgis, South Dakota; Essen, Germany and other sites in Europe.
Karl Smith Jr. said when his dad first visited Bike Week in 1963, he "fell in love with Daytona." He started in business on Main Street in a 12-by-16-foot shop aptly named The Rat's Hole. Later, Big Daddy Rat's businesses grew to include seven shops in Daytona Beach, a gift shop in Las Vegas and the bike shows. His son, Karl Jr. said, "My dad was one of the very first to airbrush designs on T-shirts." A man of contradictions, he projected the image of a burly biker, but he was also a graduate with a degree in fine arts from Ohio's Wittenburg College. At the height of his success, his net worth in the mid-80's was reportedly $1.58 million.
Karl helped Bike Week
Karl lent a helping hand between the bikers and the city of Daytona Beach when in the late 80's, working with city leaders, particularly Paul Crow (1988 police chief), Smith helped make the event less about bike gang violence and more a celebration of the more acceptable side of biker culture. At Smith's request, Crow drafted a letter in 1989 promising a friendlier police presence and a more welcome atmosphere. Big Daddy distributed the letter to more than 250 publications around the world -- and Bike Week started enjoying a smoother level of existence from then on.