Making a 30 year old ATV into a monster

Imagine rummaging lazily on Craigslist and seeing the perfect ATV.  Cheap.  Reliable and safe.  That’s what happened four years and what seems now a  century ago.

The Honda FL250 comes action-packed with a 250cc 2-stroker.  Blue smoke ’til  you choke.  Four wheels and a roll cage.  Keeps the lil’ ones safe.  Knobby tires hold onto anything.  And a CVT transmission makes pedal to the metal seem like a walk in the park.  No gear or clutches to get in the way of a fun ride.

So, I bargain with Mr. CL to the tune of minus $100 and kicking in a free four-by-eight trailer.  It ran around the track for two spins, then died.  “I know exactly what that is, is,” he snorts.  “I work at a tire shop and can get that going in no time.”  I had to wonder how a tire jockey gets to fine tune a carburetor.

A week later, I bring a wad of twenties and am ready for another ride around the track, also known as his backyard.  Conveniently, it’s all bound to the trailer and ready to go.  Without an ounce of suspicion, I grab the title, hook up the ball to my hitch, and drive off read for adventure.  Dumb mistake.  Tire boy was more flim flam man than motor geek.  The ATV sparked when pulled on and fired right up……for 20 seconds.  My son looked at the blue cloud spewing from the exhaust and pronounced:  “It’s not very powerful.  Can we put in a stronger motor?”

Here’s where two things happen all at once.  The dad ego kicks in and says, “Of course we can.  Throw in a double pumper and spit fire.  This would be a great father-son project.”  Disappointed dad chimes thinks it might be cheaper than fixing up the 250 smoker.  Engineering dad is already mapping out where the new motor would go and mentally signing up for the community college welding class.

Stupid idea?

Not when the testosterone is doing the talking.  Blood flows out of the brain and into the netherlands.   It makes men stupid.   More power is better.  More torque must be good.  More of anything.  Faster.  Bigger.  Better.  Bragging rights at the track and in the office.  NASCAR step aside, we’re gonna bring in the cavalry.

We are gonna’ rebuild her.  Make her better.  More power.

Faster.  Bigger.  Better.

So it was that fine Sunday afternoon when the disappointed look of my son turned into an adventure for the manually challenged and foolhardy.  We had the technical savvy, but did we have the manual skills to rebuild a cart with no experience?

Of course we did.   More testosterone talking.  Then reality settles in.  It’s gonna’ take a boat load of time.  What motor fits?  Will it be powerful enough?  Or, too powerful?  Air or water cooled?  How much will it cost?  Too many questions.  My head was spinning a little. Time for a beer and a mental cool down.

The next day, it came down to bargaining time.  How do I talk my way out of this one?  I’ll buy the motor, if you help with the work.  Deal?  “Yes, dad.”  You do the welding.  I’ll do the grinding.  “Ok, dad.”  It will take 8 or 10 weekends.  “I have the summer off, dad.”    He’s stepping up and willing to participate.  Can’t say no to that.  Father-son project.  Our first.

And so the adventure begins.



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