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By: Jason Giacchino

May 2010 - Off The Pegs

Is it Time for a Husaberg ATV?

Dear ATV Source:

Now that KTM makes ATVs (and good ones at that), what are they odds that Husaberg will follow suit with a quad version of that new crazy engine of theirs?

Husaberg Engine
Husaberg Engine

Indeed considering the fact that KTM actually owns the Swedish off-road performance company Husaberg (and has since 1995), there would most certainly be a market here in the States for an ATV making use of that fuel injected 450cc engine that’s been dazzling the media since its introduction last year.

So what makes that engine so you unique in the first place you wonder?  The answer is that it technically sits upside down in the frame.  Well, not exactly upside down but rather with its cylinder lying down at a 70-degree angle, the gearbox underneath the cylinder (rather than behind it), and the crankshaft up 100mm and back some 160mm.  The name of the game for this radical departure from the configuration we typically associate with a single-cylinder layout is “centralization of mass”; a catch phrase that has been floating around the industry for several years now.

Not surprisingly, Husaberg’s Jens Elmwall designed single cam, 4-valve engine can be at least partially credited with inspiring Yamaha’s own new backward-facing cylindered power plant found in the 2010 YZF450.  The end results are similar even if how the manufacturers accomplish the goals quite differently.  Yamaha went about moving the most reciprocating mass of the engine’s moving parts toward the lower middle of the machine’s center of gravity (where it would have the least affect on handling) by flipping the cylinder around then actually tilting it backward even further.  Husaberg actually goes as far as to flip the engine upward (onto its side).  In either case, the goal is to place as much of the engine’s rotating mass, which works against a machine’s natural balance, as close as possible to the frame’s center of gravity.

In simple English, when compared to a traditional laid-out engine design of the exact same specs, the machine more effectively centralizing its mass should feel much lighter and handle more naturally.

So why then, if this logic is sound, don’t we have these designs on all of our ATVs?  The answer is that while the theories have been around for some time, we’re only just now witnessing them being put into practice.  Like all things, there is a good deal of technological crossover that takes place between any manufacturer’s product line.  In other words, if the design proves truly beneficial in the Husaberg bikes, odds are good that it will begin to appear on KTM’s bikes shortly thereafter then perhaps in KTM’s ATVs after that.  A similar process might well take place with future Yamaha YFZ quads depending on how the yet-unproven bike variation shakes out.

Husaberg Enforcer
Husaberg Enforcer

Additionally, quads will likely receive these types of innovations a little later than their two-wheeled counterparts simply on account of the fact that bikes are more sensitive to slight handling disruptions.  Make no mistake- ATVs would benefit from centralization of mass practices as well, but they aren’t quite as crucial in terms of railing a corner or staying level over a triple.

Finally, and this will likely come as a surprise to many diehard ATV enthusiasts, should Husaberg decide to enter the ATV industry with a performance quad all their own, it wouldn’t be for the first time!  Considered by many to be the rarest production quad ever built, Husaberg designed and marketed a competition-ready ATV called The Enforcer from 2000 to 2003.

With styling slightly reminiscent of a Yamaha Banshee, the Enforcer, like all Husabergs, sported high-tech liquid cooled four-stroke engines long before they became all the rage.

Information on the Enforcers is virtually nonexistent these days although Husaberg confirms that they sold only about 40 units worldwide in that three-year production span. That’s only an average of 13.3 ATVs per year!

Though harder to confirm, it is rumored that much of fabrication/ manufacture of the machines was performed by a Laurent Ferrari in France (with Husaberg providing the engines and hardware). It is estimated that of the 40 units produced, roughly 20 of them made it to the United States.

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