In recent years the level of competition in ATV racing has increased at an astounding rate. Changes in ATVA regulations such as the mandatory use of stock frames and engine cases paved the way for major manufacturers to get involved and produce highly competitive machines. There's no manufacturer that wouldn't like to be on top, and it's this battle for the number one plate that brought new career opportunities to the top racers. Corporate paychecks now allow competitors to spend their days training and practicing, unlike their predecessors who had to work a nine-to-five to make ends meet then prep mind, body and machine on what time they could squeeze out.
The ATV consumer has benefited most since this fight for the top is creating better products. This holds true in every style of machine from UTVs to 450cc race quads. Every year these machines become more technologically advanced and to the advantage of the enthusiast our industry is flourishing. I must mention that there has been one exception to this stock chassis ruling until the upcoming 2009 season, and that is in the utility unlimited class. It has remained unchanged, and to my knowledge there have never been any aftermarket chassis available for these ATVs. Nonetheless, this class has evolved into one that demands respect. These quads are very fast, and with a good pilot they can eat a sport machine for lunch.
Powerful machines like Can-Am's Outlander 800 have risen to the top of the utility class, and now all that separate the competition are a vast array of aftermarket components. This was until Shad Martin of Cartersville, Georgia, decided to go against the grain and build a one-of-a-kind Outlander that could leave the competition in the Stone Age. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Martin is a big guy who prefers a large utility to a smaller sport machine. With his large build Martin has no problem throwing a 600-pound ute around, but his aggressive riding style has cost him numerous frames during past seasons. While wrenching on his Outlander for an upcoming event Martin took note of several changes that he would like to make to the chassis of his beast. One idea of change led to another, and before he knew what he was getting himself into, Martin had his mind set on fabricating an entirely new chassis for the Outlander. Current regulations allowed chassis modifications to utility machines, so Martin figured if he could shave a few pounds and further increase the Outlander's performance, it would certainly be worth the effort. Martin knew this would be a major undertaking, so he enlisted some help and set out to create the best 4x4 imaginable.
Having a friend who builds NASCAR chassis and has a passion for anything that can turn a fast lap is ideal in a situation like this. Fortunately for Martin, he has this very relationship with Terry Bopp of Bopp Race Components. Bopp's family has been cutting, grinding and welding since cars have been going fast and turning left. Bopp was up for the challenge and had confidence that his creation would exceed Martin's every expectation.
After much collaboration the two came up with a plan. For increased strength and longevity, the frame would be constructed of chrome-moly and any unnecessary hardware would be eliminated. Chrome-moly is heavier than the mild steel of which factory frames are constructed, but by simplifying the design and decreasing the total mass, they intended to shed a few unwanted pounds nevertheless. Martin is content with the geometry of the factory frame and chose to leave key components such as shock and A-arm mounts as engineered by Can-Am. They would also be building their own fully adjustable A-arms to match the quality of the custom frame. This would allow any necessary adjustments to the finished product easily achievable. After getting their plan on paper they left it to brew in Bopp's creative mind for a while before attacking the project at full force.