Powersports vehicles like ATVs and UTVs have been rapidly growing in the consumer field since the 1980s. Within the last 40s years, the car industry itself has been innovating alongside audio technology as a no-brainer synergy to bring the maximum amount of joy to driving. 

As similar vehicles, the creation of both the ATV and UTV run parallel. The All Terrain Vehicle was the first to be integrated into consumer culture in the 1960s, followed by the Utility Task Vehicle in the 80s. 

The Jiger, as featured in 1961 Popular Science.

All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

The first creation of an ATV-like contraption was a response to wartime gas prices. Soichiro Honda, who established the Honda automotive company, thought about attaching a small motor to his bicycle to get around more economically. Over 18,000 bike shops participated in a study which eventually culminated in the advent of the Honda Dream Motorcycle in 1949.

In Canada, a 6 wheel drive amphibious vehicle was made public by John Gower of JGR Gunsport called the “Jiger.” Built to order from 1961-68 before small engine technology was fully developed, the Jiger utilized two chainsaw-style engines. The tires themselves were called “balloon tires” which operated on super low air pressure. These wide tires left little to no footprint while providing a comfortable ride for its occupants. This is the first recognizable prototype of an All Terrain Vehicle.

A three-wheeled ATV, the all terrain cycle Honda US90, hit the U.S. in 1970. With seven horsepower at $595 – The company marketed and sold it as a recreational vehicle. It was featured in the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever” as well as “Magnum P.I.” These Hollywood cameos contributed to ATVs’ popularity boom in the 80s. 

The 1980s saw the rise of powersports with the likes of BMX, personal water crafts and even scooters. 

1949 Honda Dream (Type D)
In 1981, another Honda ATC, the 250R won the Arizona desert Parker 400 race.

Utility Task Vehicle (UTV)

Modern Utility Task Vehicles differ from ATvs primarily in their seating configuration. ATVs are built to comfortably host a single rider, but have enough space for two. Depending on the ATV make and model of today, its backend may have enough a small section to haul equipment. 

1940s Willy Quad by Jeep was first developed for the military as a “light reconnaissance vehicle.”

Utility Task Vehicles are also a product of war.  Jeep can be credited with making the first UTV. In 1940, the United States Military solicited prototypes for a four wheel drive “light reconnaissance vehicle” from over one hundred companies. Jeep completed the design for the Willy Quad, a 4WD side-by-side, in 75 days with only two prototypes.

The Dune Buggy took over California deserts in the late 1960s.

While this Jeep was never made commercially available – this was the beginning of UTVs. A multi-passenger all terrain vehicle with extra towing and hauling capacity and metal cage or roll bars for accident protection. 

Again in the United States, engineer and artist Meyers Manx had unleashed the Dune Buggy onto the California deserts from 1964-71. They were sold as car kits to be installed on a shortened chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle. Dune buggies were designed with a lighter frame and extra engine power.

A decade later in 1988, the Kawasaki Mule was introduced. While Honda especially began cranking out ATV models – Kawasaki saw that there was a gap in marketing and production for a reliable utility vehicle for agriculture and commercial use. A year later, Honda released the Pilot – a single rider UTV. The $6,000 price point was a bit high to only carry one person. The name was eventually recycled for the Honda SUV we know today.

Aftermarket Upgrades

40 years later, ATV and UTV have become a multi-billion dollar business. It’s projected to reach roughly $12 billion by 2027.

Belva BPS6RGB sound system

It’s success could partially be attributed to a 1984 investigation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission who were concerned with the number of accidents associated with these vehicles. When the results were released it was deduced that most accidents were caused by irresponsible driving practices rather than the vehicle. In 1988, an agreement was reached between CPSC and ATV distributors to commit $100 million to safety courses and expansion for riders and vehicle production.

In the new millennium, there is no limit to aftermarket products that can be added to an ATV or UTV. Sonic Electronix offers a wide range of audio and lighting gear for your powersports hobby. The Belva BPS6RGB is an amplified sound bar with 6.5″ excursion woofers and built-in 1″ tweeters. Bluetooth enabled with controllable RGB LED lighting, this sound system was developed for easy plug-n-play installation. A Bluetooth enabled speaker system is great for hobbyists who don’t want to fuss with a stereo interface and would rather stream from their phone.

A more traditional audio set up would be the NVX NMPS20 stereo + MVPA4 Amplifier. The IP66 marine rated stereo comes with a Class D amp and necessary installation equipment to get you on the trail faster.

Consider adding a spotlight or lightbar to your vehicle for trail safety or to create the right mood for your ride.