Andy Heitman with the crazy 'Quadzilla' Suzuki LT500R

1980s
the fourth dimension

In the spirit of giving credit where credit's due, we're happy to admit we didn't build the first all-terrain vehicle (ATV). We were, however, the first people to realise that four wheels were better than three. Thanks to Suzuki, the quad-bike was born, and racers and utility riders the world over have been thanking us ever since.

LEADERS IN THE FIELD

Having 'invented' the four-wheel ATV in the early 1980s, Suzuki quickly rose to dominate the emerging racing scene. After more than 20 years, two of our pioneering riders are still involved in the ATV world at the highest level.

When Suzuki introduced the first production four-wheel ATV, the now-legendary LT-125, in 1982, it was essentially a utility machine. The instinct to compete, however, is a basic part of human nature - and at the very heart of our company culture. So two years later, we launched our first racing model, the LT250 QuadRacer.

The QuadRacer was truly revolutionary. Not only was it the first four-wheel ATV with a two-stroke engine, it was light, had long-travel suspension, hydraulic disc brakes and alloy wheels, and offered the instant power and precise steering of our RM250 motocross bike, on which it was largely based.

The LT250 helped to define what a racing quad should be. But it was its successor that really wrote the rulebook for the 1980s - and, some would say, the decades that followed, too. The LT500 QuadRacer - affectionately known as the Quadzilla - was the most powerful ATV you could buy at that time, and also one of the fastest: in a magazine test in 1998, a stock LT500 was clocked at 79mph. Many riders still rate it among the best race-rigs ever made.

Among those pioneering racers were Andy Heitman and Paul Anderson. Both rode for Suzuki-backed teams in the 1980s, when the sport was in its infancy and riders were still discovering techniques and tactics that are standard practice today.

Back in 1984, Andy, a keen motocross rider, set up a company specialising in cylinder boring, crank rebuilds and suspension tuning. One of his early projects was an LT500, on which he still competes at national level. But it wasn't just racing that occupied Andy's mind in those early years: he was also passionate about ATV safety.

Together with other leading manufacturers, Suzuki is one of the major sponsors of the European All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute (EASI), which Andy set up 20 years ago as a not-for-profit organisation providing safety training courses for ATV riders. If you buy an ATV from an authorised UK Suzuki dealer, you'll be eligible for free or highly subsidised EASI rider training.

Another 80s star who's still heavily involved in the ATV world is Paul Anderson. A former British Quad Champion, Paul now runs a Suzuki ATV dealership and manages his own Anderson ATV racing team, which competes in the ACU British MMX Championship. The team rides the Suzuki LT-R450, a direct descendent of the quads Paul raced on 20 years ago. Just as then, though, our racing ATVs benefit from our motocross technology; in this case, fuel-injection, which we were the first to fit to a production 'crosser.

For riders like Andy and Paul, the 1980s were all about pushing the limits and having a good time doing it. And in those crucial respects, things haven't changed at all for them - or us.