History of the ATV
By Midwest Traction on August 31, 2018
Have you ever wondered how the ATV first came about? What did the first ATV look like? Most people credit Honda for developing the first ATV in 1967, but this may not actually be true.
Canada Creates the Jiger
Six years prior to Honda's first ATV model, Canada developed the Versatrek Jiger in 1961. The Jiger was a six-wheeled vehicle with 5.5 horsepower at 200 pounds. It was an Amphibious All-Terrain Vehicle (AATV) that could be driven on land and in water. 1965 saw commercial mass production of the Jiger, but due to financial troubles, production halted in 1968.
What we think of as today's ATV was not produced until the early 1970’s. In the late 60’s, Honda was looking for a product to sell in the winter when motorcycle sales were low. One of the engineers, Osamu Takeuchi, made several design drafts similar to the Jiger, which had six, five, four, three, and two wheels. Ultimately, the three-wheeled design won due to its maneuverability in slippery, muddy and snowy driving conditions. The challenge? Finding suitable tires for the vehicle.
Honda dominated the ATV scene throughout the 70’s, but three-wheelers proved to be unstable, and production halted in the late 1980’s.
Near extinction, Suzuki began churning out four-wheelers in 1982, taking over as the most popular brand in the market. The QuadRunner 125 came equipped with a reverse transmission and an odometer. Suzuki took the quad revolution further by introducing the high-performance QuadRace LT250R in 1985.
Throughout the 80’s, multiple companies jockeyed for supremacy. Tires became increasingly important, and there were suddenly a wealth of brands from which to choose, including Carlisle ATV tires, Kenda ATV tires and Duro ATV tires, to name a few.
Honda's FourTrax Models
During this time, Honda introduced the highly acclaimed FourTrax TRX250R, which remains popular for its performance even today, and the FourTrax 350 4X4, which was the first ATV with four-wheel drive. The model remains the most popular and versatile in the history of ATV.
Though the ATV was targeted as a sports and adventure vehicle, the gas crunch in the 70's led people to use the ATV for farming and agricultural activities, transforming it into a utility vehicle as well. The ATV was far less expensive than a tractor, and only it needed 8% of the fuel. By the 80's, the ATV had become a multi-purpose vehicle with tremendous demand.
The industry expanded, and in 2006, engine emissions were added to the list of things to be monitored. The number of races and ATV events per year boomed. Innovations in every industry produce new and exciting models.
Today, ATVs are much more than mere recreational vehicles, with uses for farming, hunting, and agricultural activities. Though Honda played a major role in the history of ATVs, ultimately, user requirements shaped its design and demand.