ATV Trail Blazer: 1970 Honda ATC 90

I don’t get excited about three-wheelers often, but the Honda ATC 90 has to be one of the coolest motorbike contrpations ever made. The ATC really paved the way for the ATV market in the U.S., with its famous balloon tires and rorty 90cc motor giving many riders newfound access to locales far removed from the safety of the trail. This 1970 example looks like a sweet survivor, and you’ll find it here on eBay with bidding over $2K and four days left. 

Like so many other things perfected by Honda, engineering and extensive field testing led the team behind the ATC 90 to experiment with features like the 22-inch tires to increase traction on soft surfaces where conventional motorcycle tires couldn’t go. They look absolutely bizarre today, but when introduced, they made the ATC 90 a wildly popular choice among adventure-seekers and motorcycle enthusiasts who likely didn’t realize they were helping give birth to the ATV market.

The beefy motor was accompanied by a slick dual-range four-speed transmission with an automatic clutch, and helped to enhance the already impressive capabilities yielded by the balloon tires. This example seen here is said to have two owners from new and runs well with no evidence of smoking or other warning signs. The seller does note that the trick tires are weather-checked and the front one is wearing a patch. Anyone know if replacements are sold?

Our own Scotty G. has done an admirable job tracking down obscure bikes and three-wheelers, and I myself would like to add something to this effect to my garage. I’ve always dug the crazy wheels and tires on the ATC, and feel confident saying that prices for these will likely continue to climb – not only for the novelty factor, but also because industry-shifting vehicles of any type tend to become more valuable over time. Have any of you ever ridden an ATC 90?

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Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    When I was in training with USAF in Biloxi a guy on the beach used to rent these. They were a hoot on the sand, it was a small course set in beach sand and a few of us would ride these for half an hour or so and had a ball!

  2. grant

    They were a blast, for sure but with the inherent instability and resulting lawsuits Honda didn’t “perfect” it; they stopped building it. For a reason. I’m a bit surprised the author made such a nonsensical statement. Does anyone actually remember the 80’s?

    • Pappy

      These were extremely fun and reasonably safe with some basic riding skills and by following the turning protocol. I fondly remember the ‘80’s when many freedoms still existed that have since been taken away. Sigh…

      Like 2
      • Llouis200

        Never put your foot down while riding. You would get sucked off this thing in a heartbeat. It was fun and it would float if you could stay on it.

    • MrBZ

      The “inherant instability” is a ridiculous nanny claim. Every vehicle falls into that category when being piloted by an inexperienced driver/rider. Stay within the limits of the vehicle and yourself and you will be fine. Go beyond those limits and you’re in trouble.

      Like 1
      • grant

        Um, no? All 3 wheeled vehicles are “inherently” unstable, as a result of its 3 wheeled design. A 4 wheeler is naturally more stable, regardless of how (or if) it’s being ridden. A motorcycle would be even more unstable, a characteristic it inherits from its design.

      • KeithK

        I dropped my first Harley bagger due to the oversized floorboards that I was not yet experienced with even though I have decades of riding experience. Surpsingly there was no lawsuit , I still ride it and it was the impetus I needed to paint it the color I really wanted. I hauled radioactive waste for a short time. Now that’s inherently dangerous. Still no lawsuits. Did I miss that day in class or was I just busy going to man school?

        Like 1
      • grant

        @keithK
        Yes, both of those things are inherently dangerous. Motorcycles because they’re 2 wheeled and tippy, nuclear waste because it’s nuclear waste! And 3 wheelers because they’re 3 wheelers.

    • dgrass

      I recall seeing one of these drive around as a kid. Incidentally, we were at a 80s block party where the adults were drinking booze while us kids were busy chasing each other with lawn jarts.

  3. Rube Goldberg Member

    One of the most dangerous off road vehicles known to man. Originally, they were marketed for farmers mending fences in the back forty, and such, it wasn’t until the kids took these out, and EVERYBODY that has ridden these things fast, found out what the ground tasted like. Just way too unstable, (actually, the smaller tires worked better) ton of lawsuits and while I don’t care for 4 wheelers either ( I’m a 2 wheeler fan) they were an improvement. This should be in a museum, but I wouldn’t ride it, for sure.

  4. SAM61

    Change the color, add a flag, find some sand and put on a tuxedo… You can be James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever”!

    Cool find…add it to the list with the wetbike.

    • Dan

      Exactly!

      I remember them in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever” they were used in the moon buggy chase scene.

      https://youtu.be/Y03zBX_q4TM

      Like 1
  5. Rob

    I remember these from the lunar training area chase scene in Diamonds are Forever.

  6. Rob

    Jinx, you owe me a beer!!

  7. JimmyJ

    Deathtrap!
    I remember as a bike rider putting my leg down on corners and the back tire would ride up the back of your leg!
    Im with rube i like 2 wheels better but i do have a honda rubicon atv as well.
    The atv is fun but ive hurt myself worse on it than my bikes i think its because they dont seem as dangerous so u let your guard down…
    I dont think youd ever find tires and the old ct90 motor is gutless although very reliable.

    • Michael

      Agreed. I’ve caught my leg underneath those tires more than once. Luckily, I was going slow. I prefer two wheels anyway. More fun.

    • Tenspeed

      I remember the wheel up the leg and suffered it a couple of times, once on a steep and rutted hill.

      Another thing I remember was the compression release that you had to use to start it. If you forgot to release it when restarting it with wet hands that you probably had after you stalled it in a big puddle, you would be nursing swollen knuckles on sprained fingers from your hand slipping off when the started handle just stopped due to the high compression of the motor. I remember it well even though it was 35 years ago!

    • Jay E.

      Same story here, got dragged off a number of times. They were unstable, your natural instinct is to put out a leg and you got hurt. Hard to believe you could run over yourself but you could. In time you you learned, but the danger was always there. For putting ( which it really all they were good for, but it was a lot better than walking) around they were fine, but add some sport and it was easy to discover the limits.

  8. XMA0891

    Had three of these in the family over the years – Still have one – (and a cute little 70 as well). As mentioned they do handle better with the smaller tires – but never had any problems “as-reported on 60 Minutes”. Durable machines!! My jury’s out on their car quality, but the motors in these ATCs were phenomenally reliable!
    Nice find!

    Like 1
  9. Patrick S newport pagnell Staff

    I believe those “balloon/paddle” tires are about unobtanium. I’ve never seen any direct replacements.

  10. George Bauer

    Just had to do a little research on these…

    1) no replacement tires are made. Anywhere. People either repair their old ones or swap out the hubs to get a more modern tire.

    2) sounds like the gas tanks rust causing issues but there’s a company making plastic tanks now.

    3) the axles come off so it can be transported in a trunk of a car…. at least a 1970’s era trunk which would probably carry a 1995 Honda Civic fully assembled so… not too small I would gather. The splines corrode so if you buy it I would take it apart and coat with antiseize.

    4) speaking of taking the wheels off… you have to remove the hub to adjust the chain so make sure you can pull them off because you will need to adjust the chain.

    5) if you don’t adjust the chain it can pop off and put a hole in your engine case.

    Sounds like my kind of machine!

  11. Dan

    Yes the tires are unobtainable, I remember an episode of American Restoration where they went through hell finding one.

    Season 3 Episode 25 “Down & Dirty”

    “A customer brings in a 1972 Honda ATC. The front tire is missing, so Tyler has to search for one online”

  12. Bret

    I recall in the 80’s up in LA County’s San Gabriel Mtns watching 2 bozos drag racing each other on these. The words had just come out of my mouth that this wasn’t going to end well, when one caught the other’s back wheel. A horrible mess ensued and one guy had to be airlifted out.

  13. Martin Sparkes

    I still want the 250 two stroke version based on the CR250 motocrosser……

    My kids have dirt bikes and they ride to visit friends a half mile away across a plowed muddy cornfield. They cannot get across the field this time of year, but the friend on the other end has an ATC110 and he can float it right through six inches of water and mud no problem and still come and visit.

  14. Alan

    I remember back in 1987 I was just teenager my father bought me brand new Honda 125M ATC I remember I played around with it for just over a year then we sold it. This is v nostalgic for me I wish I can find an ATC for sale here in LEBANON sadly Nothing available!!

  15. Wrong Way

    I have many hours on one of these! My best friend when I was about 16 had one, I borrowed it alot! It was a great little 3 wheeler! The tires on these are really soft! You can run over someone’s feet, and the tires are so soft that they just give in to what ever you run over! Lots of memories for me!

    Like 1
    • William

      I’ll never forget growing up on the farm my dad surprised me with a Honda 90 three wheeler that he converted to a Fat Tire ATV dirt bike. But I was not allowed to ride it until I could reach the ground with my feet so I deflated the two massive low pressure tires 2 about 1 psi and Wallah I can reach the ground.

    • William

      Growing up on the farm I had a Honda 90 converted to Wheeler. There is nothing better in riding on a very comfortable seat with two huge soft flexible low pressure tires and it was fun to run over anything and everything and I so enjoyed watching stuff going under the tires as I ran it over and how smooth it was as I watch the tires flatten flex and squish ran over under the soft fat tires, but living on the farm I was instructed if I saw rabbits raccoons or possums around the chicken coops or the Garden area or the barn to just run them over and crush them flat. He was one of those jobs on the farm I didn’t like to do but the same time you can hardly feel them being ran over under the tires and that Honda 90 with the two fat huge tires was made to run over stuff and it was fun lot of memories, I just wish we could buy new tires I have a lot of fun memories with that Honda 90 converted to wield Fat Tire how fun it was to run over stuff with it I absolutely love that bike growing up

  16. Big Art

    I have a 1983 200X ATC and still ride it today …Never ran over my legs but seen someone else do it . Best said you just have to have experience and they are a Blast …

  17. Bob

    Bought one in the early 70’s and had a blast with it. used to carry it around in my van. My ex brother-in-law will never forget riding it one time. He went up a hill, tried to turn around in the middle and down he came. Him, the bike, him, the bike, probably rolled it 7 or 8 times. Bike survived unscathed, he didn’t fair as well, but he healed. Really had a lot of fun with it. Sold it with my van 5 years after buying it.

  18. Tom Justice

    You can get replacement tires but as some have said the balloon tires are not made. I did a search and I saw two rear tires for a bit over 1100.00. Lots of smaller tires with tread available, much safer too.

  19. Whippeteer

    How to safely operate one… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U20soYuIow

    Like 1
  20. Degoragon

    I love the old Three-Wheelers! I dunno why, but the little things are quite appealing to me. I have a 1983 Honda ATC 185s I ride quite often. Personally, I have never rolled one of these yet, and I will have had mine for 4 years as of March 23. Just remember to lean out (opposite of the turn) as you turn, and you can keep that outer wheel planted. (Or else you can lean in, and ride that thing on 2 wheels! )

    Not to mention, they are heaps of fun in the snow, even more so than a 4-Wheeler! I can throw my ass around, and cut doughnuts and figure eights from a near stop, and still have it track straight when I need it to!

    These little things are tons of fun!

    Like 1

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