The all-terrain-vehicle market barely
existed in the 1960s, but one of the
available amphibious six-wheelers was
featured in Honda ATC development.
American Honda sent some of the
six-wheeler’s high-flotation tires to
Japan. Unlike current ATV tires, those
early tires were complete; they didn’t
mount on rims. Recommended air
pressure was between 1.5 and 2.0
psi. The tires met one design goal—a
machine that was very easy on terrain.
In fact Takeuchi wanted less impact
on terrain than a man walking! After
deciding on the high-flotation tires, he
presented six variations for approval.
THE RIGHT PLACE
Pismo Beach, now known as
Oceano Dunes SVRA, is more than the
single spot on the planet that saw the
most US90/ATC90 use. Honda insisted
that the US90 be kept a simple design
with only the tires for suspension and
a price under $600. To excite and educate dealers, Honda used production
parts to hand-assemble 130 machines
for a huge, week-long press introduction at Pismo Beach.
Honda could not possibly have
known the far-reaching effect that
the lowly US90 (later the ATC90 after
Honda trademarked the ATC designa-
tion) would have on off-roading and
the industry. They admitted that the
number of people that embraced it for
work was a surprise. It is unlikely that
Osamu Takeuchi could have imagined
Honda ATCs leaping over 100 feet on
motocross tracks or being competitive
in the Baja 1000.
At this point the ATC is 47 years old
and now a collectible. A significant
number of those wanting to relive
owning the original three-wheeler
contacted Palmgren. He has restored
about 15 of these fun little machines,
so when Honda wanted a US90 for
Vintage Motorsports’ Mike Palmgren calls this Parrot
Green 1970 US90 restoration, “As perfect as I have
ever built.” It is stunning to look at and still fun to ride.
It hides being 47 years old quite well.
Even the 1970 Honda graphics
treatments were designed to
make the ATC90 look fun and
safe. Honda was careful to keep
the power mild.
This clever flip lever allowed the handlebar
to fold and rotate, then be locked back in
position. The concept, like the engine and
switch-over low-range transmission were
borrowed from the CT90 trail bike.
Motorcycles of the era didn’t find the
need to label the gas cap, a concession that signaled Honda was marketing the ATC90 to customers unfamiliar with motorsports.