Unlike a lifted chevy, an ATV, or all terrain vehicle, has a very specific definition stating that it has a seat that is straddled by the driver, has handlebar for steering, and travels on low-pressure tires. ATV’s can handle a large variety of different terrains which is why so many people enjoy using them for off-roading and racing. Most ATVs are single operator but there are a few models which allow for one passenger to sit behind the driver, similar to a two person motorcycle. Most of the differences between ATVs occur with the number of tires, three, four, and sometimes six, and engine size, from 49 to 1000 cc. Though there are many trails and park to go off-roading, there are not many places that allow ATVs to be a legal form of transportation on civilian roads.
The first vehicle to resemble an ATV was created all the way back in 1893 by a man named Royal Enfield. It was primarily used as a form of horseless carriage. However, the first time the phrase ATV was coined wasn’t until the 1960’s when describing amphibious, six wheeled vehicles that were primarily used by military only. As ATVs became more mainstream and available the six wheel models were traded in for the three and four wheel models that are commonly seen today.
Three wheel ATVs have been around since around the late 1960’s. The first model ever created was the Sperry-Rand Tricart, but it was unable to withstand the competition of large motorcycle companies like Honda who entered the market about the same time. Honda began their own work on ATVs and their first model, the US90, was very popular, so much so that they were used in tv shows such as Magnum, P.I. and movies such as James Bond: Diamonds are Forever. In the 1970’s Honda trademarked the term All Terrain Cycle and changed the name of the US90 to ATC90. In the 1908’s Honda introduced the ATC200E which was able to traverse rougher terrain compared to the ATC90. It became an instant hit with North American hunters. Other companies tried to compete with Honda but they couldn’t stand up to the reputation that had already been secured. Today the Honda ATC205R is still considered the best three wheel ATV.
Four wheel ATVs didn’t hit the scene until the mid 1980’s where Suzuki was the leader in their development. They first model was the QuadRunner LT125 which was an ATV for beginners. However, their most popular model the LT250 QuadRacer, which has a multiple speed transmission, long-travel suspension, and liquid-cooled engine, was for skilled drivers only. Honda fought back by releasing their own four wheel model the FourTrax TRX250R which eclipsed Suzuki’s vehicle. In 1987 Suzuki released the LT500R QuadRacer, which was nicknamed “Quadzilla” because of its amazing acceleration, large size, and speed, clocking in at around 85 miles per hour. it is the fastest four wheeled ATV ever produced but was discontinued in 1990. Honda could not compete and chose to focus on their 4×4 ATV the FourTrax TRX350 which were used by farmers and other landworkers.
The four wheel ATV market is still divided into two parts, utility and sport. Utility models are four-wheel drive and accentuate their ability to carry large loads, while sport models are two-wheel drive and are fast and lightweight. Six wheel ATV models still exist but are still used mostly by the military.