Honda's Foreman: A Proud Lineage Of Hard-Working Machines

11/22/2004 9:55:00 PM

Honda officially introduced the very first All Terrain Vehicle to America in 1970. This unprepossessing machine, the US 90, was quickly rechristened the ATC90 and it birthed an entirely new segment of off-road riding. Although it initially made its name as a recreational vehicle, the ATC soon caught the eye of farmers, who instead saw a valuable tool that could be applied to a sizable void in their field-literally speaking. As these machines made their way into the workplace, Honda engineers followed so they could gather first-hand data that would steer the course of evolutionary improvements in this particular application.

People who earned their living outdoors couldn't find praise high enough for these little workhorses. On the farm, a tractor cost exponentially more to purchase, outfit and maintain, and an ATV uses roughly eight percent of the fuel necessary to feed a tractor. Consequently, utility usage exploded in the 1980s and ATVs became multi-purpose machines, serving both recreational and utility purposes. As the market's swing toward utility continued, Honda's research made it clear the next step in the ATV's evolution would be another wheel. Thus Honda's first four-wheel ATV, the TRX™200, debuted in 1984.

1984 TRX200; The four-wheel workhorse

Factory-equipped for work with standard front and rear racks and powered by a durable, single-cylinder four-stroke engine running through a five-speed dual-range transmission with shaft drive and reverse, the TRX200 was truly a wonder in its time. The market responded with a roar, making 1984 Honda's biggest sales year ever for ATVs. The 370,000 units delivered in 1984 remain the high-water mark for Honda ATV sales, and they comprised no less than 69 percent of total ATV sales in the U.S. that year.

1986 FourTrax 350 4x4; Four-wheel-drive technology arrives

Almost overnight, four-wheeled ATVs became the tool of choice for a wealth of outdoor professions. But there was a strong call for more advanced technology. So in 1986, Honda unveiled the first full-time four-wheel-drive ATV. The FourTrax™ 350 4x4 arrived at its coming out party in grand style-lowered from a helicopter to show all four wheels moving under their own power. Honda's four-wheel drive workhorse featured a limited-slip front differential, and it also boasted a tough 350cc four-stroke engine, vibration-reducing counterbalancer and a fan-assisted oil cooler as standard equipment. In short, it was a machine born to work, and work hard. One year after the successful launch of the FourTrax 4x4, the celebrated Foreman name was born. From the factory, the 1987 FourTrax Foreman 4x4 included front and rear racks, a high-output 310-watt alternator and a remarkably brawny 850-pound towing capacity. But as far as its legendary reputation for hard work and extraordinary durability is concerned, that came from the everyday users out in the field.

1995 Foreman 400 4x4; Honda's efficient longitudinal engine layout

With amazing speed, a huge portion of the American workforce comes to view the ATV as a vehicle capable of getting thousands of different jobs done faster and easier. In short, the Honda FourTrax Foreman becomes an essential part of the great American toolbox. In America, having a Foreman on the job makes a host of tasks more efficient. And so the 1995 Foreman™ 400 4x4 introduced the working world to the strongest, most efficient Honda ATV yet. Powered by an innovative longitudinal engine design that positions the crankshaft perpendicular to its axles, the 400 Foreman's front and rear drive shafts transfer power to all four wheels with fewer power-robbing directional changes, fewer parts, less weight and a lower center of mass. A new overhead-valve design shortens the height of the engine, permitting more ground clearance and a lower center of mass. Weighing up to 50 pounds less than its rivals, the Foreman also proves to be a nimble machine when the workday is over and the fun begins.

1998 FourTrax Foreman 450; More innovations for the American workplace

In 1998, Honda's largest and most powerful ATV arrives in two 450cc versions: the manual-shift Foreman S and the electric-shift Foreman ES Electric Shift Program™ (ESP™)-another Honda innovation. Introduced in a market increasingly drawn to automatic transmissions, the ES is named the ATV of the Year by ATV Magazine. Combining the convenience of an automatic with the control of a manual gearbox, ESP allows Foreman ES riders to shift up or down with push-button ease while also delivering the durability and engine braking of a conventional transmission.

2001 FourTrax Foreman Rubicon; The age of true automatics arrives

Responding to market demand for even more hard-working horsepower and a true automatic transmission in an ATV with Honda innovation and durability, the 2001 FourTrax Foreman Rubicon is introduced in the spring of 2000. The largest, most powerful multi-purpose Honda ATV ever is also the most innovative. Muscle from its liquid-cooled longitudinally mounted 500cc engine flows through an all-new, continuously variable Hondamatic transmission with enough original ideas inside to have more than 100 patents pending. The Hondamatic is compact, quiet, rugged, maintenance-free, sealed against external contaminants, and features engine braking-all refinements lacking in widely used but less sophisticated belt-drive transmissions. Honda's most powerful multi-purpose ATV, the Rubicon features many innovative design features of its siblings: dry-sump overhead-valve engine; torque-sensing front differential; and ESP-controlled shifting in addition to the automatic shifting modes.

2005 FourTrax Foreman TRX500; Three variations on one hard-working theme

Since its debut in 1998, the TRX450 has gained a tremendous following, but an all-new and bigger-displacement FourTrax Foreman succeeds this worthy precursor. The 2005 TRX500 features a completely new engine and frame, and it can be had in three variations: an super-affordable two-wheel-drive version with conventional shifting; a manual-shift four-wheel-drive model; or four-wheel-drive with ESP. The 4WD models feature a host of sophisticated amenities including TraxLok and Honda's torque-sensing front differential. All three models share a brand-new air-cooled OHV 475cc four-stroke engine mounted longitudinally in the frame, super-heavy-duty automatic clutch and a patented new dual oil-cooler system. And the chassis is all new as well, boasting dual front disc brakes, next-generation shocks and new SUV styling.

For nearly two decades, the Honda Foreman name has come to be synonymous with the work environment all across the USA. It's impossible to gauge exactly how much more productive the American workforce has become, thanks to the various iterations of the Foreman, but without a doubt the impact has been large indeed. As we enter 2005, a question that's even more difficult looms ahead: Just how many more job-site applications of the Honda Foreman will the American workforce dream up in the coming years?