October 17, 2022

A Brief History of ATVs

Ever wonder how the modern ATV came into being? Who had the brilliant idea to build a vehicle that wasn’t restrained by the terrain? 

Settle in for a story, we’ve got a little history lesson for all you riders out there.

1965: The First ATV

The very first ATV was a Canadian invention—it was created in Toronto in 1961. Though it didn’t quite look like the ATV as we know it today.

It was called The Jiger, and it had six wheels, five and a half horsepower, and was amphibious. They became quite popular in 1965, but financial problems for the company led to ceasing production.

1967: The Next Generation

In the late 1960s, Honda set out to create an all-terrain vehicle to fill the gap in motorcycle sales during the winter months. After trying out vehicles with three, four, five, and six wheels, they decided the three-wheeled all-terrain cycle (ATC) was the best option.

The ATC made its western debut in 1970, featuring three 22-inch low pressure balloon tires that could go over any terrain and leave little damage. It became so popular that it was used in movies and TV shows.

1982: Four Wheels Arrive

In 1982, Suzuki introduced the first four-wheeled ATV, the blueprint for the ATVs of today. It had five forward speeds, reverse, and an odometer.

A few years later in 1986, the first four-wheel drive ATV hit the market, courtesy of Honda. This would change the way ATVs were built going forward.

1988: UTVs Become the Newest Work Vehicle

While the ATV started as a recreational vehicle, in the 1970s there was a shortage of fuel across America. People were looking to find vehicles that didn’t use as much gas and could still be used for work.

ATVs fit the bill as they are much less expensive than a tractor and can still do a lot of farm and agriculture work. Thus began the crossover into utility terrain vehicles, or UTVs.

The first UTV was the Kawasaki Mule (the name really drives that farming aspect home, doesn’t it?) and it appeared in 1988. For more information on the differences between ATVs and UTVs, check out our article ATV vs. UTV.

1985: Ready To Race

As ATVs got more popular, racing them took off and the first ATV National Motocross Championship roared to life in 1985 and has been going ever since.

Many communities across Canada have a motocross track, and you’ll find people out in droves on the weekends in the warmer months. The competitive spirit continues to this day with racing organizations all over the country.

1988: ATV Safety Institute 

As ATVing grew in popularity, safety and training became a much bigger priority throughout the 80s as incidents were disproportionately attributed to adolescents and children who weren’t using the vehicle properly. 

So began the implementation of rider safety rules and expanding ATV safety courses. The ATV Safety Institute was formed in 1988 and ATV distributors in the U.S. signed an agreement to offer free training and other incentives to buyers of new and used ATVs. 

After this, the number of ATV accidents decreased.

1990-2000: Rising Popularity

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, ATVs have been steadily growing in popularity. In 2012, ATVs were outselling dirt bikes (225,244 ATVs vs. 71,535 dirt bikes), be it for racing or recreational riding.

That doesn’t even take UTVs into account, and with the development of side-by-sides for both work and recreation, the popularity of all-terrain vehicles isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Are you thinking of getting an ATV? Then check out our Beginner’s Guide to ATVs.

Call Us Today!

Throttle Powersports has the right ATV for your needs, be it for recreation, racing, or work. 

Visit one of our locations to see what we have in person, or call us now at 1-866-668-6386 to find out beforehand.



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