its Collection Hall in Japan, it contacted Palmgren. Seeing the coming
collectability, Palmgren collected as
many new old stock parts for the
machines as he could. He realized
that he could build a complete US90
from new parts—not a restoration, but
a hand-assembled, brand-new 1970
three-wheeler. He felt that the machine
should debut at Pismo Beach like
those 130 pre-production machines at
the original Honda intro, and he offered
to share the occasion with Dirt Wheels.
A machine can only be new once,
and the US90 rimless tires are so rare
Tim Pappas’ modified
is representative of
the best modified
play machines of the
era. It isn’t actually
race spec but what a
serious duner would
Honda’s clever forward-kickstart
system and the FMF pipe are all good
stuff, but how about those skinny
footpegs? We have definitely made
progress over the decades.
In stock form the ATC250R was shockingly quiet
and civilized yet potent. Paddle tires, engine
and exhaust mods, and suspension upgrades
sharpen the performance of Tim Pappas’ three-wheeler.
Whoever built this
machine decided that the
airbox was superfluous
and instead went with a
pod-type Uni filter.
that they cost as much as $4000 a
tire. Palmgren started to question his
decision to take this irreplaceable new
machine into a saltwater and sand
environment. We were actually starting
to question his decision as well, so we
were game when he called to ask if we
would settle for a full restoration.
Palmgren’s friend and customer
Tim Pappas brought his modified, but
largely perfect, 1986 ATC 250R. So, we
had the beginning ATC story with the
US90 and the end with the final version of the most powerful and capable
Honda three-wheeler ever made.
GOING BACK IN TIME
The US90 predates Dirt Wheels by
more than a decade, so none of the
staff had actually ridden one before.
Pull-starting the 89cc SOHC engine
is a breeze, and the altitude-compen-sating carburetor let the tiny engine
respond cleanly. Performance is leisurely, with a claimed six horses on tap
to motivate the 200-pound machine.
The engine is closely related to the
Honda CT90 trail bike, so it has a
trail switch on the transmission that
drastically lowers the ratios for the
four-speed, auto-clutch transmission.