Duncan Racing builds another beauty By the staff of Dirt Wheels Photos by Pat Carrigan
Gambling is all about knowing the odds. If you understand odds, there are bets so safe, they hardly meet the definition of the word “gambling.” Dirt Wheels can’t possibly know anything specific about your significant other, but we can safely wager they have never gotten you a gift like this sublime 1985 Honda ATC 250R. Sure, maybe some of you have, but knowing the odds, we feel pretty safe with this blanket statement. After all, this is no ordinary barn-find ATC. It isn’t even a 100-point original restoration.
It is what hot rodders call a “resto-mod.” Duncan calls it “a restoration keeping with an original theme.” A machine that has an original look and style, but where the performance is boosted and any weaknesses in the original design have been rectified. This was a ground-up build that required 200 hours of work by the talented team at Duncan Racing International. The end result is superb, and while it looks very stock, it isn’t nearly as original as it looks.
The project began when Kevin and Tara purchased a 1985 Honda ATC 250R and had it shipped to Duncan Racing. They asked DR to do what they could to restore the trike to original and install the Paul Turner Racing National engine kit. Duncan Racing sent regular updates and pictures on the progress. The completed machine arrived in Pennsylvania in January 2021.
WHAT IT TAKES
When the vintage ATC arrived at Duncan Racing, it was pulled completely apart with no nut or bolt left fastened. This machine was apparently in good condition. The frame required no real rebuilding, welding or gusseting. It did need to be stripped, sand-blasted and inspected for cracks. Only then was it powder-coated Bengal Red. Slowly and carefully the ATC was rebuilt starting with the refurbished frame. A stock ATC 250R fork was rebuilt and mounted to the frame. All of the hardware is re-plated, powder-coated or replaced. The front hub was also rebuilt and powder-coated.
The stock ’85 swingarm was in decent condition, but Duncan chose to upgrade the swingarm, rear bearing carrier, axle and rear brake caliper to 1986 ATC parts or specifications. Duncan believes the ’86 parts are “superior in function to the ’85 model.” A stock 1986 swingarm was rebuilt and refinished. Instead of other stock parts, the swingarm was finished up with an RPM 49-inch Dominator axle, bearing carrier and anti-fade nut. A stock rear shock was fully rebuilt and refinished before the parts were added.
Again, powder-coated, rebuilt standard hubs are used in the rear. The brakes are stock as well, but they use EBC pads and Duncan Racing Crown Series brake lines. The rear also needed a Sunstar sprocket and an RK 520 O-Ring chain. Stock rims were powder-coated to look like the stock anodized aluminum rims. Stock tires were not in the plan. A Carlisle 23-inch front and 20-inch Tech4 rear tires were mounted up.
We tested the fully rebuilt ATC at Dumont Dunes, so the fabulous stock wheels were replaced with DWT wheels and Skat Trak dune tires for more fun in the sand.
While they were fitting up the back of the bike, a stock airbox was mounted up, but it was filled with a K&N filter element with an Outerwear cover.
FINISHING UP THE CHASSIS
At the front of the machine, Duncan remounted the stock radiator. A Renthal ATC-bend handlebar was fitted with ODI grips, a refurbished stock thumb throttle and a Works Connection clutch perch. All of the stock skid plates were refreshed and mounted. The ATC is so bright and smooth that you would think it was fully refinished.
Part of that immaculate appearance is thanks to an OEM-replica sticker kit, but mostly because all of the body parts were replaced.
That process started with a stock capacity, stock color Clarke Manufacturing plastic tank. Maier OEM replacement tank scoops were added to the tank. The front and rear fenders are also Maier OEM-style plastic, and so is the front headlight cover over the original headlight. The seat has an OEM original cover. The stock shifter, kickstarter, footpegs and rear brake pedal were all powder-coated before being remounted on the chassis or engine. All of the powder coating was handled by Powder 1 in El Cajon, California.
BUILDING THE MOTOR
While the chassis was on its journey, the ATC’s liquid-cooled two-stroke engine was on its own mission. It was blown completely apart for a complete rebuild that included a new piston, rod, bearings, seals and more. Before the building started, the cases and cylinder were stripped, sand-blasted and powder-coated. All of the stock hardware was freshly cadmium-plated.
It may sound odd for Duncan Racing to perform a Paul Turner Racing engine upgrade. Paul Turner was an accomplished two-stroke tuner and engine builder in the ‘80s. During part of that time he was part of Team Honda, and the build on this ATC 250R is very similar to the kits used by Team Honda ATV racers in the ’80s. After spending many years as a tuner and pipe builder, Turner sold his business to Duncan Racing International.
The Paul Turner National Kit includes a chromed Paul Turner ATC High Rev pipe and a Fat Boy 2 silencer. The pipe and silencer joint was ably sealed with a Duncan billet pipe clamp. It fully seals the joint so it doesn’t leak exhaust or drool yucky black stuff on this immaculate machine.
The kit also has National porting, a Duncan-modified Keihin carburetor and a Pyramid reed valve. Duncan rebuilt the stock crankshaft with a Pro-X rod kit, and mounted a Pro-X piston on the connecting rod. Every bearing, seal and wear part was replaced.
Another sign that the original bike Duncan started with was in good shape; the transmission was rebuilt and not replaced. An ignition upgrade boosted the electric output to 200 watts. Little of the stock clutch was employed. Hinson made the billet, hard-anodized clutch basket with new cushions. The plates inside are a Duncan clutch kit.
This is literally an engine that would have won national races in the 1980s, so it must drink VP C12 race fuel mixed with Maxima K2 at 32:1. All of the other fluids were sourced from Maxima as well.
WHAT IT’S LIKE
A new machine can easily handle a short ride in dunes without losing the immaculate finish, so we had a small window to shoot action photos. ATV pro Josh Row did the riding for photos, and we spent a little time on the machine as well. For our outing, there hadn’t been much wind, so the dunes were UTV-chopped to serious roughness—far from the best conditions for a three-wheeler. Still, the ride was fun, the engine was blisteringly fast, and we remembered the glory years of three-wheelers. What really matters isn’t what we thought of it; it matters what Kevin and Tara think: “We were expecting something amazing, but when the trike came out of the delivery truck, we were completely blown away. It was a perfect showroom restoration. They exceeded all of our expectations. There was not one detail missed. It runs fantastic. It has better-than-original power that is always there when we need it.
“If you want something done right and high grade, then Duncan Racing is where you need to go. They make the process so easy. Nothing is rushed, and they listen to every request.”
WE STAND AMAZED
We see very few builds of this quality, and when we do, most are headed for display in a climate-controlled room. They are not ridden, but like some of the other extreme builds we have seen recently—and many are Duncan customers—this ATC is headed for eastern woods trails. Trails that have rocks and mud! We are grateful for those who keep ATV’s living history alive in perfection in glass cases and carpeted rooms. But, we must applaud people like Kevin for hitting trails on a flawless and expensive build like this one. We have even more respect for his wife Tara who knows the time, the cost and the rarity of the machine, and still lets it be ridden!
PARTS AND SUPPLIERS
CLARK MANUFACTURING: www.clarkemfg.com
Stock capacity tank: $240
DUNCAN RACING INTERNATIONAL: (619) 258-6306, www.duncanracing.com
Paul Turner Racing National midrange kit: $1599
Pyramid reed valve: $199
Keihin PJ 34mm: $225
Turner ATC high rev chrome pipe & Fat Boy silencer: $799
Pipe clamp: $49.95
Complete engine rebuild: $595
Crankshaft rebuild w/ProX rod assembly: $295
Complete engine powder coat: $595
CAD plate all hardware: $125
DR C12 clutch kit: $199
Crown series steel braided brake line:
Front $49.95/Rear $39.95
OEM decal kit $99.95
DR dual O-ring steel exhaust flange: $99.95
DR billet chain guard: $39.95
DOUGLAS WHEEL & TIRE: (800) 722-3746, www.dwtracing.com
Red Label front: $125
Shamrock w/bead locks: $550
HINSON RACING: (909) 946-2942, www.hinsonracing.com
Billet clutch basket: $250
K&N FILTERS: (800) 858-3333, www.knfilters.com
MAIER MFG.: (800) 33-MAIER, www.maier-mfg.com
Headlight shell: $86
OEM replacement tank scoops: $99
OEM-style plastic: $425
MAXIMA RACING OILS: (800) 345-8761, www.maximausa.com
927 Premix oil: $19.95 per Liter
MTL Endurance transmission fluid: $9.95 per liter
Chain wax: $11.50 per can
550 brake fluid: $6.95 per bottle
PACIFIC PLATING: (619) 295-0496, www.pacificplatingsd.com
Plating of: shifter, motor mounts, kick starter, rear brake pedal: Price varies
POWDER 1: (619) 588-9200, www.powder1.com
Powder coating: Price varies
ATC bend: $129
RK EXCEL: (760) 732-3161, www.rkexcelamerica.com
O-ring chain: $99
RPM: (928) 771-9363, www.team-rpm.com
Dominator axle: $459
Anti-fade nut: $230
SKAT-TRAK USA: (909) 795-2505, www.skat-trak.com
Rear 8-paddle Haulers and 21-inch front: $690
SUNSTAR SPROCKETS: (937) 704-1462, www.sunstar-braking.com
Powerdrive countershaft sprocket: $26.95
Rear steel sprocket: $45
VP RACING FUEL: www.vpracingfuels.com
C 12 fuel: Price varies
WORKS CONNECTION: www.worksconnection.com, (530) 642-9488
Clutch perch: $150 ο