Early ATV: 1971 Honda US90 Trike

In decades past, finding your way into the wilds over soft surfaces involved either throwing your leg over some hooved beast or climbing aboard a vehicle that offered four-wheel-drive capabilities. Traditional off-road motorcycles could get you some of the way to your destination, but they could also be defeated by sand and snow. When the Honda US90 Trike appeared in 1970, it was a bit of a game-changer. It was light and agile, and its balloon tires meant that it was less prone to disappearing up to its frame on those softer surfaces. It wasn’t a serious off-roader, but one that could be fun and practical. While they were built in significant numbers, many have gone the way of the dodo. Our feature creature is a 1971 model that is a tidy survivor. It is in sound health, and returning it to a pristine state would be an enjoyable task for its next owner to tackle in a smaller workshop. Located in Grove City, Pennsylvania, you will find the Honda listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has leaped to $2,375 but remains short of the reserve.

Two unmistakable design characteristics define the US90. The first and most apparent is the enormous balloon tires, while the second is a color palette that could best be described as bright. Honda finished this example in a shade called Parrot Green. It is a color that owes nothing to subtlety, but it suits the almost cartoon-like proportions of the US90 perfectly. For potential buyers, there are a couple of positives to consider. The first is that the little Honda appears to be complete. The second is although the paint is worn, there are no appreciable dents in the tank. That means that it could be a great restoration project for the right person. If you have limited space or have never tackled a project, it could be perfect. The construction is straightforward, making them a breeze to dismantle and reassemble. Any paint shop should mix the correct color without breaking the bank, and the decals to complete the process are available online for $50. The only other issue that the buyer will need to consider is the state of some of the plated surfaces, like the handlebars. These show their age, but a quick trip to the platers should sort that out. One final positive to consider is the state of the seat. These could be prone to physical damage and deterioration, but this one looks pretty good. If the buyer seeks perfection, they can find replacement covers for around $90. Put it all together, and this could be one of the most affordable restoration projects you are likely to find.

While it may only feature a 90cc single-cylinder engine that produces 7hp, the US90 is still a pretty lively performer. The engine is a model of simplicity, but its transmission makes it something out of the ordinary. It is a four-speed unit with an automatic clutch, so there’s nothing earth-shattering in that. However, it is also a dual-range unit, which, in theory, gives the US90 an eight-speed transmission. That means it should have the legs to roar down a beach at a reasonable speed but then crawl over dunes and other obstacles at low engine revs. The owner indicates that this Honda is driveable, and it seems that it could be in sound mechanical health. Some general cleaning and polishing would have that little engine sparkling, and this would be a task for the next owner to tackle as part of any restoration. While those balloon tires are what give the US90 its excellent off-road credentials, they also can be the vehicle’s Achille’s Heal. Finding suitable replacements for faulty ones can be a challenge. However, the owner includes a pair of good spares in the sale.

Finding an affordable project in today’s market can be a challenge, and finding one that won’t drain your bank account once it slides into your workshop is more so. That is what seems to be on offer with this 1971 Honda US90 Trike. For a person with limited space or a first-timer, it could be a satisfying project that turns a profit once complete. It isn’t unusual to see spotless examples sell for beyond $6,000. Considering what the buyer would need to spend to lift it from its current state to as-new, it could be a project worth considering if the reserve isn’t too high. If you like what you see, it might be worth watching this auction carefully.

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Comments

  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    The market really took off after Sean Connery as James
    Bond “flew” over sand dunes in “Diamonds Are Forever”-but more moviegoers remember the ‘71 Mustang up on 2 wheels.
    This one is not bad for its age. Considering that many were shunned because of bad publicity it’s good to see one in decent condition.
    These were initially great for what they were designed to accomplish but when they were given more suspension/ power more knotheads got more stupid and then they were no more.
    Sometimes “bigger is better” can lead to “stupid hurts”…

  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    The market really took off after Sean Connery as James Bond “flew” over sand dunes in “Diamonds Are Forever”-but more moviegoers remember the ‘71 Mustang up on 2 wheels.

    These were initially great for what they were designed to accomplish but when they were given more suspension/power more knotheads got more stupid and then they were no more. Sometimes “bigger is better” can lead to “stupid hurts”…

    This one is not bad for its age, and considering many were shunned because of bad publicity it’s good to see one in decent condition.

    Like 11
  3. Raymond L Saunders

    Seemed like a good idea at the time…

    Like 3
  4. Gary

    Death on three wheels. These should require mandatory life insurance so you don’t leave your survivors destitute and have to live off the public teat.

    Like 9
    • 4spdBernie 4spdBernie Member

      Death on three wheels, lol. This would look great parked next to my ’61 Corvair Monza 900, lol…again.

      Like 10
      • Cav427

        Heck, put it in a collection, the corvair, pinto, vega and astre, world’s deadliest vehicles. I included the vega and astre because they exploded at the same rate from rear end collisions as the pinto. Death’s and Injuries from 3 wheelers were so high that they were banned in 1988.

        Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Well, Gary, I wouldn’t go that far. After all, they sold literally thousands to folks that never had an incident. It’s the same old thing, someone, generally inexperienced, took a tumble, now everything is a death trap. I’ve seen it in everything from motorcycles to snowmobiles to toilet seats( added that last one for effect), fact is, just about every RV has some sort of “death trap” moniker attached to it, when nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than a life ins. policy, perhaps training would be a better way, but dealers were so interested in profit, you were on your own. Originally intended for ranchers and farmers, to save some steps, the poor 3 wheeler was subjected to abuse it was never designed for. I say, you screw up riding something like this, or ANY vehicle, for that matter, you have it coming.

      Like 25
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Exactly right, Howard A.! Common sense seems to be becoming one of the least common of all the senses.

        Like 15
      • F. Paul

        Exactly. And well said. I raced three-wheelers for many years. They were only dangerous for idiots.

        Like 5
      • Beel

        YOU! Out of the gene pool. Personally, I agree.

        But seriously, and we’ve had this conversation before here, my wife’s uncle was a fire captain. On his death bed, he made my wife and her ex promise to sell their three wheelers. He had made many heart-breaking visits to families to tell them of the death of a loved one while riding a three wheeler.

  5. Steveo

    Looking at it makes my ankles hurt.

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Smart riders only did that once,,later models had guards in front of the back tires.

      Like 3
  6. Ton T

    I had one of those as a young teenager. It was so much fun and I had about 450 acers of not my hunting land to ride on. Was in low range 98% of the time. Tires got punctures in them but sort of a fix was Shoe Goo. Never got hurt. Once on a frozen pond I broke through the ice and just floated. Super fun!

    Like 10
  7. Rob

    The tires are impossible to find. The fact that this one has original tires makes it much more valuable.

    Like 4
  8. wjtinfwb

    The ATC danger issue is way over-hyped. Do they handle like a car? No. Look at it, why would you think it handles like a car. Can you tip it over, Absolutely, just like any tricycle. Should you get liquored up, ride one with no shoes, no shirt, so helmet, no you should not. Should you buy one for your 9 year old kid, No you shouldn’t. ATC’s were like every other tool… highly valuable in the right hands, potentially lethal in the wrong hands. But that doesn’t stop us from selling circular saws, fireworks or 500 horsepower Mustangs does it? I started riding these back in the early ’70s, first at a Honda “rodeo” out in the Glades at the Hollywood FL Sportatorium. They had dozens of 90’s and 50’s for demo rides and a track set up to run them on. No one died. Stupid people doing stupid stuff results in hurt, stupid people. Why the Govt. feels it’s their job to insulate American’s from their own choices, smart or dumb, is beyond me.

    Like 10
  9. Howie Mueler

    Ended $2,957, reserve not met.

    Like 3
  10. chris bartku

    A neighbor had one I used to ride regularly in the 80’s – kind of like a
    modern trimmed out jet ski – you have to lean on the front to get it to turn or slow down lol – otherwise would go straight even when turning the handlebars – as most stated only as dangerous as you make it! awesome looking little 3 wheeler!

    Like 1
  11. Insane Payne

    SCREW IT!! LOOKS GOOD TO ME!!! JUST RIDE IT LIKE IT IS!! no need to restore it and beat it up again!!!!

  12. Scott

    Just saw one at the Petersen Bond exhibit. They are smaller than you think. Also, the one there had the front fork reinforced or repaired near the bend.

  13. On and On On and On Member

    Always negativism on 3 wheelers. True, there is inherent instability on ANY 3 point terrain vehicle. The problems arose when city kids drove them too fast and on inclines………up or down. As said here many times before, the farmers and ranchers who used them as work vehicles already knew how farm tractors tipped over on inclines or turning at speed……….anyone who’s ever driven a tractor knows that.

    Like 7
  14. wuzjeepnowsaab

    These were the Lawn Darts of motorized vehicles…seemed like good ideas in the pitch meetings

  15. Michael Streuly

    My Grandfather in Arkansas had one he used for hunting. I would visit during the summer and ride the piss out of it. Never had any tommy tipovers.

    Like 3
  16. thomas glashaw Member

    still got mine in the polebarn 1970 u.s yellow and runs good . the bad p.r they got were from people that don’t have any brains and should’nt have been on 1 in the first place. safety first read the owners manual before riding this machine was in the manual can’t fix stupid. nice machine .

    Like 2
  17. Kenn

    It was kids getting hurt and killed on these that ended them. Not “stupid”, not lacking in “brains”, just not old enough to have “common sense”. Yes, drunk, mindless, careless adults probably “had it coming”, but kids not so much. With respect to power saws and 500 hp Mustangs, my youngsters would have never handled either.

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Kenn, good point. I think the “mindless, drunk adults” would get killed on anything they operate, and I don’t remember many fatalities on these, in this form they simply didn’t go fast enough, but injuries, some serious enough for a lifetime of disability, certainly happened. Common sense has to be passed down, and for many unsupervised youngsters, this was the 1st motorized contraption they ran. With little or no advice, usually the 1st obstacle had dire results. Case in point, years ago, my then ex-nephew-in-law(?) was from the city, never been on a snowmobile. He begged to ride mine, I said, “okay, but go easy”. Yeah, yeah, how hard can it be? He hopped on, and put the throttle to the handlebar, and promptly ran it into a snow bank, and flew off it. I think that kid learned a lesson that day.

      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Testosterone and tequila – perfect combination for retroactive birth control…

  18. Jon.in.Chico

    We used them on the farm to look for strays … had a “race course” and we’d try for best times … they’d flip backwards on a steep climb from a dry creek … and only about $400-600 – tons of fun for low cost … definitely not for road use – strictly ranch lands …

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