**Editors Note-A nostalgic look back at a Honda FourTrax 4×4 Project 4×4 Quad we built.
Those of you familiar with Dirt Wheels know that we like to do hop-up projects on quads. We usually are not satisfied with the power and performance of production machines. No matter how good a stock quad is, we like to experiment to see if we can make it better. More power, better suspension and improved handling is pretty much all that we ask for.
In the past, we have focused most of this attention on machines like Banshees, Warriors, Honda 250Rs, and 300 EXs.
While it’s fun to make performance quads even livelier, the less sporty machines can stand some improvements as well. Riders who own utility ATVs may not be interested in pulling the holeshot or clearing a set of triples at a Grand National motocross event, but they still want their machines to perform with a little extra spirit.
PROJECT 300 4X4
This is basically the goal of our project Honda 300 4×4. We do not want to change it into a racer. We are not going to spend $1500 to turn it into a short-fused time bomb. Like all smart ATV owners, we are looking for the biggest gains for the least amount of money spent. We felt that Honda’s 300 4×4 would be an excellent guinea pig for a project.
First of all, there are literally thousands of these machines roaming the backwoods of America. It’s a reliable mount that represents what a basic utility quad is supposed to be. The fact that it has changed very little in the past ten years also means that it is a good candidate for upgrading.
To begin this project we took a look at one of the biggest differences between a high-performance and utility quad.
The suspension is what usually determines how quickly a quad can accelerate down a rough trail. If your machine is bouncing all over the place, it does not matter how much horsepower you have! A fast quad at half throttle is no better than a slow quad at full throttle.
In looking at a typical ’88 through ’96 Honda 300 4×4, we felt that the suspension was one area that could stand improvement. Riders who have owned these machines for several years have probably pushed the original shocks and springs past their limits. We hoped to increase the suspension travel and ground clearance on these machines, along with getting a firmer, yet cushy, ride.
Project Honda 300 4×4
To do this economically meant only two approaches. After some investigation, we learned that Works Performance was the only accessory suspension company that offered low-cost shock replacements for utility quads. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be more aftermarket shocks available for utility quads. The other thing we discovered was that Honda offers a very reasonably priced, and well-performing, stock replacement shock for the 300 4×4.
PRICE & VALUE
In ’98 Honda upgraded the 300’s stock suspension by switching to Arvin shocks. These units offered a significant improvement over all previous models. A new rear shock with spring for the 300 4WD sells for right around $60–$70 depending on the dealer’s mark-up. That is a bargain price for this high-quality shock and a hard replacement part to compete with.
We also found that the stock replacement Honda shocks for the front end of the 4×4 300 are a bit steeper priced, selling for between $180–$260, depending on the individual dealer mark-up. Both sets of replacement Honda shocks have something to offer the rider. It is hard to fault the stockers, except for the fact that they are not rebuildable or adjustable.
The Works Performance shocks for the Honda 300 4×4 have an off-the-shelf advantage over the stockers. They can be easily rebuilt with a kit that Works sells, or Works will rebuild them for you for $45 per pair or $30 for a single shock. Another selling point of the Works shocks is the fact that the rider can adjust the spring preload to compensate for rider weight or riding conditions.
PUTTING THEM TO THE TEST
Installation of the Works Performance shocks was fairly straightforward, although we did have to remove the front rack to get the stock front shocks off. You will want to make sure you install the Works shocks with the air valve up and pointed out, as it allows the shock to function correctly with the gas bladders fitted inside them.
Project Honda 300 4×4
After bolting on the shocks, we took out our test unit for some serious play riding and testing. Once we put some time on them, they broke in and the stroke loosened up. We soon found ourselves seeking out the gnarliest obstacles and jumps we could find. The Works Performance shocks easily soaked everything we threw at them. The rebound was quicker than the slower-returning Arvin shocks.
The overall ride in slow-speed stutter and braking bumps with the Works Performance shocks was not as supple as the Arvin stock shocks. The stiff springs and slow damping on the stockers work to keep the 4×4’s shocks working at slow to medium speeds. As the speed goes up, though, the slower damping allows the shock to kick up more.
The Works Performance shocks are a half-inch longer than the stock units. This translates into one inch more suspension travel and one inch more ground clearance as well. For riding in mud and ruts, this would be an advantage.
Project Honda 300 4×4
Overall, we would say that a rider interested in sportier play riding would prefer the Works Performance shocks on his 300 4×4. If all you use your quad for is to get hay out to the horses and check the fence line, you may be perfectly happy with the bargain-priced stock Honda replacement shocks, which we feel are an exceptional value.
Riders with older 300 4x4s might well want to check out the new stock replacement shocks, as they are far superior to what came on their machines originally. Either way, you are bound to have a suspension system that is far better than it was in the first place.
For more information contact Works Performance, 21045 Osborne St., Canoga Park, CA 91304; (818) 701-1010.
Project Honda 300 4×4:
Works Performance front shocks: $239 set.
Works Performance rear shock: $199.
Honda stock replacement Arvin front shocks: $60–$70 set.
Honda stock replacement Arvin rear shock: $180–$260.
*For a comparison of Honda’s 300EX to Yamaha’s Warrior click the link below:
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