The Honda Pilot was developed by the Japanese company in the late 1980s and released in 1989. At the time it was the only UTV (utility terrain vehicle) in production by a major manufacturer.
The slew of features that had been baked into the Honda Pilot were impressive and it became an influential UTV within the still young genre. Honda only kept the model in production for two years and now they’re highly collectible.
Fast Facts – The Honda Pilot
- The Honda Pilot was released in 1989 as the successor to the earlier Honda Odyssey line of off-road buggies, known as ATVs or UTVs depending on who you talk to.
- The 1980s were a tumultuous time in the ATV world, constant accidents had led to the shutdown of three-wheel ATV sales and manufacturers were looking for the next big thing.
- Honda had pioneered the original three-wheeler craze and they wasted no time in developing both four-wheel “quad” ATVs and buggy-like ATVs like the Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot series.
- The Honda Pilot is powered by a 400cc two-stroke engine, it has a fully automatic CVT with forward, neutral, and reverse, independent front and rear suspension, and a steering yoke that controls all driving functions (there are no pedals).
The ATV Is Dead – Long Live The ATV
By the mid-1980s the rising death and injury toll attributed to three-wheeled ATV had ensured that the very existence of the ATV may be in question. Ultimately the manufacturers would agree to cease production and shift their focus to safer types of all-terrain vehicles – like the quad bike.
Honda had been the key earlier pioneer of the three-wheeler and the largest manufacturer of them, so they stood to lose significant revenue following the demise of the market.
They had already developed a line of quads of course, but these were only somewhat safer than three-wheelers, and there were concerns that public sentiment may swing against them in the not too distant future.
With all of this in mind it was decided to develop what might have been the safest production ATV (or UTV) available for sale in the United States, if not the world – The Honda Pilot.
The Short Life Of The Honda Pilot
The Honda Pilot was developed with two key criteria in mind – performance and safety.
Safety would be such a paramount concern that the steering yoke was even fitted with two wrist tethers – so your hands would stay attached to it in the event of a roll over accident and not go flying out the sides where they could be crushed by the roll cage.
Honda engineers developed a tubular steel frame for the Pilot with a full roll cage for maximum protection. Plastic body panels were used to help keep weight down, and relatively advanced suspension was used.
Most small buggies at the time used either no suspension at all or primitive suspension, the Honda Pilot used double A-arms front and back with coilover shock absorbers offering 5.9” of front travel and 7.1” of rear travel.
Accessibility was seen as an important factor so a CVT (constantly variable transmission) was chosen due to its automatic nature and its clutch-free operation.
Instead of pedals all of the controls were fitted to the steering yoke, more like a quad bike perhaps, and the seat was fitted with harnesses to keep the driver firmly in place.
With its liquid-cooled 397cc two-stroke engine driving the rear wheels the 592 lb Honda Pilot was a quick little buggy. It’s not known why Honda kept it in production for just two years but after the 1989 and 1990 production it was discontinued.
The 1989 Honda Pilot Shown Here
The 1989 Honda Pilot you see here is from the first year of production, there wasn’t actually much that changed between the two years of production however – apparently just some decal changes to freshen things up.
This Pilot is almost certainly the most pristine example we’ve ever seen, in fact it looks new from most angles with only the faintest signs of use – this is unusual for a vehicle that was designed specifically to go out and get as filthy as possible.
If you’d like to read more about this Pilot or register to bid you can visit the listing on Bring A Trailer here. It’s being sold out of Fort Myers, Florida.
Images courtesy of Bring A Trailer
Ben has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with millions of readers around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.