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By Robert Janis

High Lifter Helps Riders Get Down and Dirty

Jesse Johnson (r) and Randy Miller (l) built the beast! It’s not finished…but it’s well on it’s way.
Jesse Johnson (r) and Randy Miller (l) built the beast! It’s not finished…but it’s well on it’s way.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of Scott Smith and his company High Lifter Products of Shreveport, Louisiana, it led to a hobby becoming a major business.

It all started in 1996. Scott Smith was an ardent ATV mud rider. He was content to leave that as a hobby while he jointly owned a construction business with a partner.

Then, almost out of the blue, a major tire company involved in the ATV trade came out with a larger tire. The tire proved to be difficult to put on Scott’s Honda 400 Foreman. So after learning there were no ATV lift kits available, Scott designed and constructed a 2-inch lift kit for his Honda. The kit provided enough fender clearance for him to put the larger tires on to his ATV, and it also offered a little bit more ground clearance so that his bike could run over larger obstacles.

He went to a mud riding event with his newly enhanced Honda and found that he could get through more deep mud than his riding buddies. “After the ride, everyone wondered what he had done to be able to make it through the deep mud,” explained Jason Coffel, marketing director of High Lifter Products. “When Scott showed them the lift kit, everyone asked him to make one for them.” Being a good guy who didn’t want to disappoint his buddies, he went on and constructed lift kits for his buddies in a shop in the backyard of his home. Soon friends of his friends were requesting the kits and constructing them became more of a chore. So Scott asked to be paid a modest sum for the kits to cover his time, expenses, purchasing of parts, and the manufacturing process. Mud riders just kept on coming to get more kits.

So Scott decided to run a small ad in the local newspaper. People called and ordered the kits. Then he put an ad in the Thrifty Nickel newspaper in another part of Louisiana and more and more people called and ordered the kits. The calls reached such a volume Scott had to hire someone to take the calls and orders. The order taker became the first official employee of the company that would become High Lifter Products.

High Lifter's Complex
High Lifter's Complex

After a year, things got too big for the little shop in the backyard of the house. Scott needed office and warehouse space for his business. It so happened that about that time the office adjacent to the construction business became vacant. Scott took the space over, and it became the warehouse for the hard building materials Scott used to construct the lift kit and High Lifter Products moved.

Both companies grew during the next few years, and in 2001 a building was constructed for each business across the street from each other in another part of Shreveport.

According to Coffel, the High Lifter facility is 21,000 square feet and includes a research and development department as well as a showroom, administrative offices, two warehouses, and production or product assembly capability.

Today High Lifter manufactures and or markets, suspensions lift kits, shocks, exhaust systems, carburetor kits, motor modifications, pistons and cams, mud riding ATV locker kits, tires and wheels, tire sealant, lights, floorboards, skid plates, winches, and accessories. The grounds on which the facility sits also includes a mud pit for testing equipment.

The heart of the business is the research and development department. Charles Singleton is director of the department. Two employees who work in the shop doing customer installations also do work in the research and development department and also do some fabrication. Scott and Mike and several others in the company also participate in R&D and product design as well as some fabrication. “Scott, Mike, Charles, and the two guys who also work the shop are the heart and soul of R&D,” said Coffel.

Polaris Ranger RZR…we call it Spiderman.
Polaris Ranger RZR…we call it Spiderman.

According to Coffel, everything that High Lifter Products has ever manufactured is based on customer need. “The lift kit was created to allow for larger tires and to go through deeper mud and larger obstacles,” said Coffel. “After the lift kit was created, even larger tires were made. High Lifter designed and contracted for manufacture the High Lifter Outlaw, the most aggressive mud tire in the market. The larger the tire, the more power the ATV has to generate to turn the tires because the original stock engine loses power. So you need to replenish the power of the ATV, and you do that by enhancing the engine performance. The evolution of the company is kind of like the house that Jack built. Everything goes back to the lift kit and the larger tire.”

In order to do its business, High Lifter has an ATV dynamometer. “We have the only ATV dynamometer in this part of the country,” said Coffel. “People drive from all parts of the country to have a dyno run on their ATV to see what can be done to enhance what they have.”

Coffel explained that the company selects an ATV model, determines what it needs to perform better, and then develops a product that satisfies the need. “For example, we discovered that at slow speed in deep mud, the Yamaha 660 Grizzly had an overheating issue,” said Coffel. “So we designed and constructed a new radiator for it called the Triple Flow Radiator. We offer luxury-type products, but most of what we offer are solution-type products.”

Coffel noted that some times manufacturers of ATVs cooperate with High Lifter in the development of products. “We have very close relationships with some manufacturers, but not with others,” said Coffel. “However, we have a great network of customers and Team High Lifter prostaff members who allow us to use their ATVs to do R&D on. In exchange, they get the first one off type product that they can go out and field test.”

SuperTrapp Mud Bog
SuperTrapp Mud Bog

The High Lifter customers and Team High Lifter prostaff members who test product come back to the company with a full report on how the prototype worked.

In addition, the track on the premises of High Lifter Products is used to test products. Coffel noted that when the company developed a disc brake system for Honda ATVs a few years ago, a company employee used the track to put over a thousand miles of stop-and-go riding on a bike that had the disc brake system prototype. “He ran on that Honda Foreman eight hours a day just stopping and going and pressing those brakes. That serves as an example as to how thoroughly the company tests critical products before they are released into the market.

Many products from High Lifter may take as much as a year in R&D before they are released to the public. “We want to make certain that the products we sell are right and will hold up,” commented Coffel.

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