The term "ATV" originally referred to a completely different type of off-road vehicle. The Jiger, Amphicat, and Terra Tiger were amphibious 6-wheeled vehicles. Riders in these vehicles sat in a seat rather than straddling one. When straddle-riding powersports vehicles became popular, the term "ATV" was coined, and the initial models just mentioned became known as AATVs (amphibious all-terrain vehicles). Keep reading to discover how these vehicles have evolved through time!

 

Who was the first to make an ATV?

The first person to make an ATV was a Canadian from Alberta named John Gower who was tired of struggling in the snow to bring back firewood. The original prototype of the machine was created in 1960 and was run by a couple of chain saw engines operating on a throttle-controlled belt and clutch system. It was called the Jiger.

What's the difference between an ATV and a quad?

 

The history of the ATV

Here is the history of the ATV chronologically:

  • The Jiger, 1961 - 1968
  • The Amphi-Cat & Osamu Takeuchi’s prototype, 1967 - 1970
  • The Sperry-Rand Tricart, 1967
  • US90 ATC, 1970
  • QuadRunner 125, 1982 (first four-wheeler)
  • FourTraxa 350, 1986 (first 4x4 ATV)

The Jiger, 1961 - 1968

It was the Jiger Corporation in Toronto, Canada that kicked off the ATV arms race. The Jiger was a 6-wheeled amphibious ATV with 5 1/2 horsepower and 200 pounds of payload that could travel on land and water. Because the vehicle was nuanced, it makes sense that all of the earliest Jigers ATVs were made to order, typically being purchased by sportsmen, and military personnel.

The Jiger was first mass-produced in 1965 and was billed as a "Go Anywhere Vehicle". Because of its popularity, the company fell behind production-wise and financial difficulties forced it to cease manufacturing in 1968.


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Amphi-Cat, late 60s – early 70s

Osamu Takeuchi is an engineer who played a major role in ATV history. With the rise of the Jiger combined with the reduction of Honda motorcycle sales in 1967, Takeuchi was entrusted with commissioning a new product that would revolutionize the industry.

Using the Jiger as inspiration, Takeuchi designed vehicles with two wheels, three wheels, four wheels, and even six wheels. In snowy, slick, or muddy circumstances, the three-wheeled idea vastly outweighed two-wheelers and also provided improved mobility. Finding tires that would grip soft terrain like snow was a difficulty, but they quickly found a solution.

The Amphi-Cat, a Honda design with six 20-inch low-pressure, high-flotation balloon tires, was later sent to Takeuchi for inspiration. In the end, Takeuchi's tires would be 2 inches longer, resulting in three full 22-inch low-pressure balloon tires. Those tires allowed the vehicle to go areas that others couldn't, and they did it with little or no damage.

Sperry-Rand Tricart, 1967

The very first three-wheeler was the result of a graduate project by Cranbrook Academy of Arts student John Plessinger in 1967. The Tricart was a machine with a seat that resembled an old-fashioned huge wheel tricycle (without the big wheel). It had a steering handlebar, as well as footpegs linked to the front wheel for additional steering, and two very wide tires to balance the machine's back end.

It began with a lawnmower-style engine of 5 horsepower but subsequently upgraded to a JLO230 engine positioned beneath the bucket seat and between the rear wheels. It was a low-profile, wide-set machine with a 60mph cornering speed. The Tricart came in a few different variants and was a lot of fun for everyone who rode it. Production lasted for a few years before the Sperry-Rand Tricart era came to an end due to an internal dispute.

US90 ATC, 1970

When the Tricart was booming, Honda entered the scene and released the US90, a three-wheeler built for recreational usage. When Honda trademarked the term ATC, the name was modified to the ATC90 (All Terrain Cycle). It was in 1970 that Honda introduced the world's first three-wheeled ATV and it was a huge success.

It was promoted and sold as a recreational vehicle, and it was featured in James Bond films such as Diamonds Are Forever, Magnum P.I. and Hart to Hart which quickly integrated the new vehicle into pop culture.

The three-wheeled US90 ATV had a seven-horsepower engine and cost $ 595, but Honda also released the ATC 70, a smaller version of the ATC 90 geared at kids. Though ATVs were originally designed for sportsmen, people began purchasing them as utility vehicles for agriculture and farming during the 1970s petroleum crisis. This was because ATVs were far less expensive than tractors and consumed only 8% of the fuel required by tractors.

4-Wheeler, 1980s

Suzuki introduced the QuadRunner 125 in 1982, the world's first four-wheeled ATV with an odometer, five forward speeds, and a reverse gear! The four-wheel ATV revolution started with this quad. Suzuki stunned the ATV industry in 1985 when it unveiled the Suzuki LT250R QuadRace, the first high-performance 4-wheel ATV.

However, Honda was concurrently developing its own four-wheeled ATV idea. They unleashed their beast known as the FourTrax TRX250R in 1984 after studying research and testing prototypes with riders wearing 50-pound instrument packs that recorded information on every element of the machine's operation.

The performance of the FourTrax 250R continues to garner awards to this day. Honda's highest year for ATV sales was 1984. In that year, 370,000 ATVs were delivered, accounting for 69 percent of overall ATV sales in the United States.

4-Wheel Drive ATV, 1986

Honda introduced the FourTrax 350 4x4 as the first four-wheel-drive ATV in 1986. It was lowered from a helicopter for its grand reveal to show all four wheels moving independently. This type of machine would go on to become the most popular and versatile ATV in history.

Modern Day

The major manufacturers signed a preliminary Consent Decree in 1987 to put a stop to new three-wheeler production and sales. Due to ATV safety concerns about three-wheelers being unstable, the design was banned for ten years.

Although the manufacturers agreed, they had already focused their resources on the new four-wheeled ATV models, either automatic transmissions or manual transmissions. Each manufacturer, once again, followed suit and released their own designs. The rest, as they say, is history.

These off-road vehicles have evolved from recreational vehicles to crucial instruments in a variety of industries, including farming, agriculture, hunting, industry, and ranching, as well as a recreational vehicle and an important mode of transportation for individuals with disabilities.

Many of the uses and applications for ATVs have come from their owners, who have aided in the development and design of the vehicle. When you consider the designs, specifications, horsepower, and engine size of today's ATVs, it's obvious to see how far the industry has progressed. The debut of the UTV demonstrates that the industry is far from keeping steady!

Who knows what the ATV will look like 20 years from now? All we know is that Perfex will still be here to help you obtain high-quality ATV products at the lowest prices.

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May 05, 2022 — Eric St-Cyr