30 June 1995

Hondas new ATV leads the herd

ATVs are big business in Scotland – their ability to roam the countrys uplands is now appreciated by many livestock farmers.

Such is their integration with the livestock scene, choosing an ATV has now become akin to selecting a good sheepdog – the affinity between the two not so far removed as one might first suspect.

And now farmers have another "breed" to choose from – fresh from the Honda kennels is the Foreman 400.

Similar in size and shape as the now discontinued 350, the 400 features several innovative ideas which set it apart from what is generally perceived to be the standard ATV build.

One of the more radical departures is to be found in the engine compartment. Accepting that shaft drive is superior to chain drive in terms of maintenance and reliability, designers of the 400 have opted for shafts. But they also recognised that a conventional transversally mounted engine requires the transmission to turn the drive through a power sapping 90 degrees at some stage to convey drive to the front and rear axles.

The engine of the 400 is mounted longitudinally with its crankshaft in line with the frame to create a more efficient power flow to the axles – a centrally mounted gearbox provides one reverse and five forward ratios.

By ATV standards, the single cylinder 395cc engine is slow revving with maximum torque being registered at just 3500rpm – a situation achieved through the use of pushrod valve gear. Low engine speeds also means that the centrifugal clutch is activated early and is set to start engagement at 1750rpm. Four-wheel-drive is permanently engaged with the front axle having a limited slip differential.

Suspension on the 400 comprises two rear shock absorbers and double wishbone/shock absorbers at the front. Braking – an important requirement on steep terrain – is via drums. Two hydraulically controlled on the front and one mechanically operated on the right hand rear wheel which, in the absence of a differential, is deemed to be adequate.

Externally, the 400 borders more on the conventional, with the exception of its tyres. A specification for wide 25cm (10in) wide tyres with "chevron" treads led to a new tyre being specially produced by Goodyear.

Farmers who wish to carry bales, dogs and dead sheep may find carrying capacity rather limited although the use of a storage box equipped with a rear, rather than top opening door allows better use of available carrying space.

Other standard features include a 12.5 litre (2.75gal) capacity petrol tank, electric starter (there is a recoil back-up) and a 12 volt DC external electricity outlet. Price of the Honda Foreman 400, which will be available from mid-July, starts at £4995. &#42