History of Honda ATV

An ATV or All-Terrain Vehicle is considered the best off-road vehicle to exist in the world in 2022. Across countries and regions, it has got different names such as quad bike, light utility vehicle, and simply ‘quad’. The ATV has got numerous updates and changes since it was first launched into the market. But the aim and purpose of the vehicle have been quite the same all along. The dedicatedly built All-Terrain Vehicle has been created and supplied by many giants of the automotive industry. In 1969 when Honda ventured into the ATV industry it was already a humongous company of automobiles. Honda is now a multinational public conglomerate manufacturer of various types of vehicles and technological marvels. Honda has been on top of the motorcycle manufacturing sector since 1959.

They ventured into the All-Terrain Vehicle Industry with a sit-on three-wheeled ATV called US90. This model got more popular as similar variations of it were used in Hollywood movies and many other reputed TV shows. Thus as it was a three-wheeled ATV the four-wheeled was not yet introduced around the early ’70s. Thus Honda had trademarked the term All Terrain Cycle or ATC. There were many other small manufacturers who got into the market before Honda, but later on, no one was able to be competitive enough. This All-Terrain Cycle from Honda had balloon tires which compensated for low mechanical suspension and also had a low environmental impact.


Honda Atv History
Picture of Two latest ATVs from Honda.


The popularity of early ATV called ATC 

Due to their trademark, patents on the ATC design, and engine positions Honda was able to hold the top position in the industry in the early 80s. For getting into the basic ATV industry to create ATC kind of vehicles other companies had no other choice but to pay royalties to the Honda company to function in the ATC sector with their own models. As the vehicle had performance and features which was not found on any other vehicle, the basic ATV or ATCs became highly popular across the United States and Canada.

In 1981 Honda came up with an innovative model known as ATC250R. This was the very first Sports category ATC dedicatedly made for competitions. Honda impacted the ATV industry much big when the ATC200E model came into the market. The ATC had first of its kind features like dual suspension and racks which were not present on other ATCs. This made this model the best-selling ATC of the globe as it was dedicatedly designed for utility riding.

The next Honda model which got highly popular was the ATC200X which had prime features of easy handling and compact design. This model was especially suitable for all new riders of off-road vehicles like ATC. A year later in 1984 ATC 200ES was launched by Honda which had all the features of ATC200X with more additional qualities. The extra features were reverse gear and maintenance-free shaft along with a heavy-duty towing capacity of seven hundred pounds. The vehicle also had a single cylinder of high performance with four-stroke capability. The aluminum wheels had durability and great longevity which made this ATC from honda stand out. The Big Red ATC 200 ES also came into the market in 1984 that had a reverse gear feature and shaft drive which didn’t require maintenance. The seven hundred pounds towing capacity was able to serve the purpose of hunting and camping very well.

In 1987 the manufacturing of All Terrain Cycles came to an end on an all-around scale. Every manufacturer including Honda ceased the new vehicle manufacturing of all their ATCs. The major reasons for this step were directly related to the safety concerns before any legislation. A moratorium of ten years was brought into effect and was agreed upon by all manufacturers of ATC. Campaigns of safety were financed for more than a hundred million dollars worth. But even after the moratorium period was over none of the manufacturers returned to building ATCs. After this, there was a noticeable shift towards ATVs by the manufacturers and consumers too.

The auto transmission models

As the popularity of ATVs began Honda’s first-ever All-Terrain Vehicle came into the market which was the TRX 200. The vehicle had sturdy front and rear racks which made the ATV carry out more tasks in much less time. The TRX 200 was equipped with a single-cylinder engine of four-stroke type. The vehicle also has a dual-range transmission that has a five-speed capacity. The ATV also had a modern reverse feature with shaft drive. Later on in 1985 a milestone ATV was introduced by Honda which was hard to compete with for other companies. This ATV was the FourTrax 250R which had an unbeatable performance. This ATV had won several prizes and was not replicated in terms of performance and features for several years. The ATV had a single-cylinder engine that had liquid cooling and two-stroke features.

The manual transmission present in this ATV was of a six-speed clock ratio.  The front and rear suspension present in this FourTrax 250R is totally adjustable. The presence of triple-disc brakes lets ATV get smoothly controlled in all rough trail conditions. This ATV was extremely favored by competitors of ATV stunt and racing tournaments. The FourTrax 250R weighed only 328 pounds and has easy maneuverability. Just before this, another similar model was the ATC250R from Honda. A more high-performance model was introduced after the 250R and named TRX 350 in 1986.

Honda Atv History
Honda ATC 250R Model.


The Honda ATV Scenario after 1986

This was known fully as the FourTrax 4×4 and this was the first ATV that had a four-wheel-drive of a full-time variant. The bounded slip front differential of this vehicle was very unique and supreme in quality. As the engine was a 350cc variant the performance was quite predictably much enhanced than other models of Honda ATV. The engine was a specific four-stroke kind that had an oil cooler fitted with a fan for utmost performance in extreme trail conditions. The ATV also had a counterbalancer for reducing vibrations in the vehicle and providing a much more comfortable ride on uneven surfaces.  Around this time in 1986, the demand and manufacturing of utility ATV were rapidly escalated. The TRX350 could be considered a milestone vehicle that paved the path towards the beginning of the ATV era.

The 4×4 popularity had rapidly grown after the Honda TRX350 came into the market and other companies started manufacturing similar 4x4s. Since then these 4x4s can be considered as the most popular All-Terrain Vehicle type. Still, today models are getting divided into two categories of ATVs which are Sports and Utility. The sports category ATVs are known to be light weighted and smaller in size than most Utility type ATVs. These sports category vehicles have a manual transmission, quick acceleration, and have a maximum speed of around 130 km/h. Honda introduced a sports category model named FourTrax 250X which had five-speed transmission along with alterable suspension and reverse transmission. The engine present in the vehicle was of 246cc capacity. This ride got highly popular with riders in the sports category and very soon Honda trademarked the FourTrax name around 1986 for all its ATV lineup.

Then in 1987, another similar model from Honda came into the market which was called FourTrax Foreman 4×4 and modeled as TRX350D. The vehicle has an engine capacity of 350cc and has front and rear racks of excellent quality. The ATV also has a powerful alternator of about 310 watts that keeps the vehicle performing amazingly in extreme conditions without any of its conditions getting affected. The TRX350D had a towing capacity that was beyond comparison with other vehicles in 1987 that was the time of its release. Another ATV named as FourTrax 300 or TRX 300 came into the market in 1988 which was more of a sports category model. This ATV was about forty-two pounds lighter in weight than the TRX250 model of Honda and the engine capacity was 282cc. The newer updated models are having authentic strut front suspension from McPherson. This lets the ATV have smooth maneuverability and enhanced torque to easily take on sharp turns.


Stepping to ’90s for better ATV models from Honda

Then the FourTrax 300 4×4 in 1988 came with various attractive features. This model of TRX 300FW had a front differential of bounded slip and front suspension of double wishbone kind. This four-wheel-drive of full-time features soon become the best-selling ATV from the house of Honda. The two variants of the FourTrax 300 series which are 4WD and 2WD was in exceeding demand which witnessed a spectacular production rate.

In the late ’90s, there were more versatile models which had excellent features. In 1998 Honda introduced the FourTrax Foreman S/ES with the models TRX450S and TRX450ES. This was considered the most powerful ATV from Honda with engine power unmatchable by any other model. The Foreman had an electric shift for which the ES tag was used in its name. The Foreman S had a manual shift. The ES version was also awarded the title of “ATV of the year” by the famous ATV magazine.

This vehicle came under the Electric Shift Program of Honda that allows automatic transmissions to occur very smoothly along with the durability of a manual transmission. Later on, in 2001, the FourTrax Foreman Rubicon came from the house of Honda. This ATV was groundbreaking for its one-of-a-kind features that showcased technological breakthroughs in ATV manufacturing. The vehicle had a 500cc capacity liquid-cooled engine with four valves and four-stroke features. The single-cylinder engine also came along with the Hondamatic automatic transmission.

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