Extinct Three Wheeler: 1986 Honda ATC 250R

When it comes to vintage ATVs, Honda’s lineup of rowdy three-wheelers have earned a somewhat legendary reputation. These ATVs were a way for Honda to make it through the winter season on something other than snowmobile sales, but there was a big problem: the bikes were intended for mature riders only, and dealers were selling these three-wheelers to everyone from kids to adults who couldn’t much drive a car correctly, let alone a high-powered three-wheeler. Sales ended abruptly as lawsuits began to mount, and that makes survivor examples like this 1986 Honda ATC 250R here on eBay so collectible today.

When the promotional videos debuted for Honda’s ATC line, it was hard not to be tempted into ownership. The professional riders shown hurtling the ATCs into impressive drifts across sand dunes or dusty trailers were inspirational to the average rider, but the three wheeled Hondas weren’t the kind of vehicle that permitted amateur riders to look more talented than they were. It became obvious within short order that Honda’s dealer network wasn’t properly advising inexperienced riders and parents of children that the ATC wasn’t intended for rookie riders. Deaths and serious injuries resulting from roll-overs soon began to pile up, along with the lawsuits.

Honda eventually agreed to stop selling its three wheelers as a way to a quell the building firestorm, but not before releasing a high performance model for 1985/1986. The 250R seen here was a monster (in the best way possible), equipped with a new, more powerful liquid cooled engine and a stronger frame. The popular Pro-Link suspension technology continued to be used, while front and rear suspension travel was increased to almost 10 inches. Incredibly, with the new engine and a six-speed transmission, the 250R was capable of a top speed north of 70 miles per hour.

Image courtesy of SiloDrome

The seller of this example has found one of the very few 1986 models left that hasn’t been damaged or modified in any way. It’s all original except for a new front tire and replacement air cleaner. The ignition switch is cracked, and there are some cosmetic blemishes to the plastic fairings. Overall, that’s not stopping bidders who know how hard these are to find both due to the limited production and to so many examples being wrecked or otherwise damaged and rebuilt. I’ve said for a while the lineup of Honda three-wheelers is one of the smartest ones to buy cheap right now, given you can still find them at the occasional estate sale or local classifieds if you keep your eye out.


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  1. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Over 7K now with a day left, and owner mentioning several cosmetic issues.

    Who would have thought that these things would be worth anything like that? Of course the “R” adds to the value.

    Like 2
  2. John b

    Geeze- i have a 1986 Honda ATC 125 with reverse…is it worth much?

    Like 1
  3. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Rancho Santa Margarita, California

  4. Howie Mueler

    It does look like a nice one. The sellers feedback is (1).

    Like 4
    • JB

      Yeah, and the current “bidders” look like SHILL bidders!! Zero to low number feedbacks! Be careful with this one!!

      Like 1
      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        You are correct, and I have been seeing a lot of this on Ebay lately. They need to fix this so the crooked seller can’t bid up their own auction. It’s a shame, but this hobby is turning into nothing but greed and deception.

        Like 1
  5. qmmq

    These things are scary fast and extremely dangerous, fun albeit though.

    Like 2
  6. benjy58i

    My brother bought one and if you have ever rode a motorcycle this is not for you. The minute I put my foot down the back wheel tried to pull it off. I ended up limping for a month.

  7. Drew

    Not for casual trail riding.

  8. JB

    Yeah, and the current “bidders” look like SHILL bidders!! Zero to low number feedbacks! Be careful with this one!!

  9. Martin

    To go fast on a two wheel dirt bike you need some skill or you quickly get dumped off. But when you add one or two more wheels then suddenly poorer riders can get into far more trouble because they do not realize the need for body language and control until they are in way over their heads. I see it with quads all the time. Many of our search and rescue calls are for people who thought they could climb anything just because they were on a 4×4 quad. No lawsuits though anymore for some reason.

    Like 2
  10. rusty6

    I’ve got one of the last Big Red trikes built. Good to hear they are getting to be collectible. Its not real fast but 70KPH is fast enough for me. I can run it up on two wheels in a turn. In fact I’ve done myself more injuries on a two wheeler than i have on this trike.

    Like 2
  11. David

    I received my first 3-wheeler for my 10th birthday (Kawasaki KT 110). The first year I had it, I would take off my helmet when I got out of my parent’s sight. My next 3-wheeler was a Yamaha Tri-Moto 125, and my last 3-wheeler was a Honda 200X. There were four
    families of us kids who rode 3-wheelers with our Father’s. There were some crashes, but no broken bones or stitches for any of us. 3-wheelers were no more dangerous than any other off-road machine ( I got hurt A Lot more on my BMX bike). I suppose all those people getting badly hurt or killed on 3-wheelers was a combination of bad luck and Natural Selection.

  12. Gary Rhodes

    I had a souped up R back in 89-90. Lengthened swingarm, pro built motor, God she was a beast. I’ve had many bikes/three wheelers and only got hurt on the two wheelers

    Like 3
  13. SSPBill

    I had a riding buddy way back when who raced 4-wheelers semi-professionally. His dad picked up one of these cheap after the legal troubles started. He was only brave enough to flat track it. No way I was getting on it. Mind you, I was riding a ‘89 CR250 back then. Rowdy was an understatement.

    Like 2
  14. Scott Stewart

    If you are going to try and get big money out of this thing at least put a front tire on that resembles what it came with. Not even close.

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