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ATV / Quad were made in the United States a decade before 3- and 4-wheeled vehicles were introduced by Honda and other Japanese companies. During the 1930s numerous manufacturers offered similar small off-road vehicles, that were designed to float and were capable of traversing walls, ponds and streams as well as dry land. Typically constructed from a hard plastic or fiberglass "tub", they usually had six wheels—all driven—with low pressure (around 3 PSI) balloon tires, no suspension (other than what the tires offered) and used a skid-steer steering setup. These early amphibious models were the original all-terrain vehicles—or ATV / Quad. Contrary to today's ANSI definition of an ATV / Quad they were intended for multiple riders, sitting inside, and would usually have steering wheels or control sticks rather than motorcycle-type handle bars as stipulated in the current definition.
Since the advent of three- and four-wheeled, straddled ATV / Quad, these have more or less 'taken over' the term, leaving the 6x6 and 8x8 floating variety now mostly known as AATV / Quad (Amphibious All-Terrain Vehicles). Current brands of these machines include Argo and MAX. Though not as fast as other ATV / Quad, they can be operated with precision at slow speeds, and of course, have the ability to float. The spinning action of the tires is enough to propel the vehicle through the water, albeit slowly. Outboard motors can be added for extended water use.
Honda made the first three-wheeled ATV / Quad in 1970, which were famously portrayed in the James Bond movie, "Diamonds Are Forever". Dubbed the US90 and later—when Hoda acquired the trademark on the term the ATC90, it was designed purely for recreational use. Clearly influenced by earlier ATV / Quad, it featured large balloon tires instead of a mechanical suspension. By the early 1980s, suspension and lower-profile tires were introduced. The 1982 Honda ATC200E Big Red was a landmark model. It featured both suspension and racks, making it the first utility three-wheeled ATV / Quad. The ability to go anywhere on terrain that most other vehicles could not cross soon made them popular with US and Canadian hunters, and those just looking for a good trail ride. Soon other manufacturers introduced their own models.
Sport models were also developed by Honda, which had a virtual monopoly on the market, due to effective patents on design and engine placement. The 1981 ATC250R was the first high-performance three-wheeler, featuring full suspension, a 248-cubic-centimetre two-stroke motor, a five-speed transmission with a manual clutch and a front disc brake. For the sporting trail rider, the 1983 ATC200X was another landmark machine. It has an easy-to-handle 192-cubic-centimetre four-stroke that was ideal for new participants in the sport.
Over the next few years all manufacturers, except Suzuki, developed high performance two-stroke engined machines to compete against Honda's monopoly on the market, but did not sell as many due to the reputation already secured by Honda in the market. These models were the Yamaha Tri-Z YTZ250 with a 246-cubic-centimetre two-stroke engine, manual clutch and 5 or 6 speed gearbox, and the Kawasaki Tecate KXT250 with a 249-cubic-centimetre two-stroke, 5 speed gearbox, and a manual clutch. Other smaller and lesser known companies such as Tiger ATV / Quad, Can Am, Franks and Cagiva also produced racing three wheelers, but in much smaller numbers. Few of these machines are known to exist today and are highly sought by collectors.
Suzuki was a leader in the development of 4-wheeled ATV / Quad. It sold the first ATV / Quad, the 1982 QuadRunner LT125, which was a recreational machine for beginners.
In 1985, Suzuki introduced to the industry the first high-performance 4-wheel ATV / Quad, the Suzuki LT250R QuadRacer. This machine was in production for the 1985-1992 model years. During its run, it underwent three major engineering makeovers. However, the major core features were retained. These were: a sophisticated long-travel suspension, a liquid-cooled two-stroke motor and a fully manual 5-speed transmission for 85–86 models and a 6-speed transmission for the 87–92 models. It was a machine exclusively designed for racing by highly skilled riders.
Honda responded a year later with the FourTrax TRX250R—a machine that has not been replicated. Kawasaki responded with its Tecate-4 250.
In 1987, Yamaha introduced a different type of high-performance machine, the Banshee 350, which featured a twin-cylinder liquid-cooled two-stroke motor from the RD350LC street motorcycle. Heavier and more difficult to ride in the dirt than the 250s, the Banshee became a popular machine with sand dune riders thanks to its unique power delivery. The Banshee remains hugely popular, but 2006 is the last year it will be available in the U.S. (due to EPA emissions regulations).
In Canada, however, the Banshee will be back for the 2007 model year, still featuring the same parallel-twin, 350 cc, two-stroke engine that made the machine famous.
Shortly after the introduction of the Banshee in 1987, Suzuki unleashed a bombshell of its own with the release of the LT500R QuadRacer. This unique quad was powered by a 500 cc liquid cooled two stroke engine with a 5-speed transmission. This ATV / Quad earned the nickname "Quadzilla" with its remarkable amount of speed and size. While there are claims of 100+ mph stock Quadzillas, it was officially recorded by 3&4 Wheel Action magazine as reaching a top speed of over 79 mph (127 km/h) in a high speed shootout in its 1988 June issue, making it the fastest production ATV / Quad ever produced to this day. Suzuki discontinued the production of the LT500R in 1990 after just 4 years. By doing so, the rare Quadzilla is a common topic of ATV / Quad folklore and legend.
At the same time, development of utility ATV / Quad was rapidly escalating. The 1986 Honda FourTrax TRX350 4x4 ushered in the era of four-wheel drive ATV / Quad. Other manufacturers quickly followed suit, and 4x4s have remained the most popular type of ATV / Quad ever since. These machines are popular with hunters, farmers, ranchers and workers at construction sites.
Safety issues with 3-wheel ATV / Quad caused all manufacturers to switch to 4-wheeled models in the late '80s, and 3-wheel models ended production in 1987, due to consent decrees between the major manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission—the result of legal battles over safety issues among consumer groups, the manufacturers and CPSC. The lighter weight of the 3-wheel models made them popular with some expert riders. Cornering is more challenging than with a 4-wheeled machine because leaning into the turn is even more important. Operators may roll over if caution isn't used. The front end of 3-wheelers obviously has a single wheel, making it lighter, and flipping backwards is a potential hazard, especially when climbing hills. Rollovers may also occur when traveling down a steep incline. The consent decrees expired in 1997, allowing manufacturers to, once again, make and market 3-wheel models, though there are very few marketed today.
Models continue, today, to be divided into the sport and utility markets. Sport models are generally small, light, two wheel drive vehicles that accelerate quickly, have a manual transmission and run at speeds up to 90 miles per hour (145 km/h). Utility models are generally bigger four-wheel drive vehicles with a maximum speed of up to 72.5 miles per hour (104 km/h). They have the ability to haul small loads on attached racks or small dump beds. They may also tow small trailers. Due to the different weights, each has advantages on different types of terrain.
It has been surprising to the manufacturers the ingenuity of many people in adapting their quads to farming needs.
Six wheel models often have a small dump bed, with an extra set of wheels at the back to increase the payload capacity. They can be either 4-wheel drive (back wheels driving only), or 6-wheel drive.
ATV / Quad also refers as Quad or Four-wheelers or All-terrain-vehicle.
Sport models are built with performance, rather than utility, in mind. To be successful at fast trail riding, an ATV / Quad must have light weight, high power, good suspension and a low center of gravity. These machines can be modified for such racing disciplines as motocross, woods racing (also known as cross country), desert racing (also known as Hare Scrambles), hill clibing, ice racing, speedway, Tourist Trophy (TT), flat track, drag racing and others. Examples of high-performance models(racing) include the Yamaha YFZ450, Honda TRX450R. ,Suzuki QuadRacer R450, Kawasaki KFX450R, Can-Am DS450,Polaris Outlaw 525 S,Outlaw 450 MXR and the no longer produced Hond TRX250R. ATV / Quad designed for fast trail riding include the Yamaha Raptor 700R/660R,Suzuki QuadSport Z400, Yamaha Raptor 350, Kawasaki Mojave 250, Kawasaki Lakota Sport 300, Honda Sportrax 400EX, Kawasaki KFX400,Bombardier/Can-Am DS650, Can-Am DS-450,Arctic Cat DVX400, Polaris Scrambler 500, Polaris Outlaw 500, Polaris Outlaw 525 (independent rear suspention IRS), Kawasaki KFX700, Polaris Predator 500 and Can-Am Renagade 800. Three wheeled performance models included the Honda ATC250R (1981-1986), Yamaha YTZ250 Tri-Z (1985-1986), Kawasaki KXT250 Tecate (1984-1987), and the Tiger 250 and 500 (mid 1980's). Three Wheelers designed for fast trail riding include the Honda ATC350X and the Honda ATC200X.
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