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History of the ATV

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.


The First ATV Came From Canada

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.

The Jiger was an amphibious vehicle capable of being driven on land and in water. The commercial mass production of Jiger started in 1965, but unfortunately, the company ran into financial troubles and production ceased in 1968.

Honda Introduces the Three-Wheeler

honda US90

However, in 1967, American Honda searched 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.

Japan Honda came up with the idea of 20-inch low-pressure balloon tires, and Takeuchi modified them to 22-inch. Later, the United States saw its first ATV in 1970, when Honda started producing the US90 model with a seven-horsepower engine.

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 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.

ATV Accidents Rising

With their increasing popularity, accidents also increased. Upon detailed investigation, studies showed they were mainly due to improper driver behavior, rather than vehicle design. In 1988, the ATV industry pledged $100 million to implement and expand safety programs and courses.

Suzuki introduced first four-wheeled ATV in 1982. 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. During the same period, Honda introduced the highly acclaimed FourTrax TRX250R, which remains popular for its performance even today.

1989 Honda FourTrax 350

Multiple Use Vehicles

Honda introduced the FourTrax 350 4X4 in 1986, which was the first ATV with four-wheel drive. The model remains the most popular and versatile in the history of ATV. 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.

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