When the Honda ATC 350X was released in 1985 it was the largest-displacement production three-wheeler money could buy. Honda called it the “King Of The Hill” and the trike had no trouble living up to the hype, it could reach speeds of over 105 km/h (65 mph) on the dirt.
Three-wheelers have a well deserved reputation for being dangerous and the 1988 Consent Decree essentially ended their sales in the USA. This meant that the ATC 350X was only in production for two years, making it both the biggest and rarest of the dominant Honda ATC three-wheelers.
Fast Facts – Honda ATC 350X
- Honda introduced the concept of the modern three-wheeler in 1970 with the release of the US90. The concept proved popular, and it was helped along by the inclusion of multiple US90s in a chase scene in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”
- The “US” prefix was replaced with the “ATC” prefix in 1973, it stands for “All Terrain Cycle.” Engine capacities slowly increased, from 90cc all the way up to 350cc by 1985.
- Three-wheelers soon developed a reputation for being dangerous, many new riders had difficulty handling them and flipped them over, resulting in injury or even death. They were essentially outlawed in 1988.
- The Honda ATC 350X was the largest and one of the fastest three-wheelers ever made by Honda, the model was only in production before the shift to quad bikes, and today the surviving examples are seen as highly collectible.
The Honda ATC
When the Honda US90 three-wheeler was released in 1970 it triggered a revolution in the burgeoning ATV market. The other three major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers rushed to catch up, and by the 1980s they were selling hundreds of thousands of them each year in the US alone.
Above Image: This detailed modern review of the Honda ATC 350X gives a good look back at the history of the model, including its pros and cons, and in-depth coverage of what it’s actually like to ride off-road with plenty of footage.
The decision to use three wheels rather than four was probably driven by economic reasoning, the single wheel up front could be steered with a simple fork arrangement rather than a more complex two-wheel steering system which would have also required more complex suspension.
The downside of this was that the trikes tended to be less stable than a comparable four-wheeler. Riders soon learned how to get the new breed of three-wheelers up to speed, and racing leagues were set up across the country (and around the world).
Led by Honda the three-wheeled ATV revolution resulted in millions of sales, and the vehicles were a common sight on beaches, dunes, motocross tracks, and enduro trails. Engine displacement and power kept increasing, for Honda this culminated in the ATC250R released in 1981 and the ATC 350X released in 1985.
By the mid-1980s the sheer number of injuries and deaths caused by inexperienced riders crashing or flipping three-wheelers drew the attention of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the manufacturers reached a settlement called the 1988 Consent Decree that essentially shutdown three-wheeler production.
From this time on the manufacturers all focussed on more stable four-wheeled quad bikes, and these remain the most common type of ATV today over 30 years later.
The Honda ATC 350X – Specifications
When Honda released the Honda ATC 350X is was essentially intended as the “big” four-stroke companion to the formerly dominant two-stroke ATC250R that had been released four years earlier.
The ATC 350X was powered by a 350cc OHC single-cylinder engine with a four-valve head, a bore x stroke of 81mm x 68mm, a compression ratio of 8.5:1, and power output of 27 bhp at 7,000 rpm and 22 lb ft of torque at 6,000 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 6-speed transmission.
Suspension consists of 35mm air-adjustable forks up front with 8 inches of travel, and a gas-charged monoshock in the rear with 7.5 inches of travel. Brakes were discs front and rear, and the fully transistorized CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) helped with reliability and easy starting.
It’s been said that the ATC 350X is capable of a 60 – 65 mph (97 – 105 km/h) top speed, though you’d need to be an exceptionally skilled rider to achieve it for any length of time in the dirt.
The 1985 Honda ATC 350X Shown Here
The 1985 Honda ATC 350X you see here benefits from a restoration that was carried out in 2021, this included overhauling the engine, powdercoating the frame, re-plating the brightwork, and servicing the suspension, brakes, controls, and bodywork.
There can be little doubt that this is one of the best-examples of the ATC 350X we’ve seen come up for sale in recent memory and it’s accompanied by a tool kit, a Honda service manual, and the refurbishment receipts.
If you’d like to read more about this three-wheeler or register to bid you can visit the listing here. It’s currently being offered for sale on Bring A Trailer out of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Images courtesy of Bring A Trailer
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