1987 Honda FourTrax 250 Specs & Review (TRX250X)

Among today’s premium collectible ATVs, the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 (TRX250X) is known for its water-cooled power mill and design enhancements. Agile and oozing with sportiness, this 246-cm3 4×4 gave the Suzuki QuadRacer a run for its money – outperforming the said sport quad both on the road and in sales. But little did this four-wheeler know that it was going to be the foundation of bigger-displacement, iconic quad bikes decades later.

Numerous ATV publications regard the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 as “one of the best sport ATVs of all time.” Also known as the TRX250X, this legendary four-wheeler provided the outline for present-day competition ATVs with its invisible frame, 4-stroke engine, and class-leading suspension geometry.

Alongside introducing engine and design improvements to the lineup, the 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X stayed true to the prestige of the FourTrax trademark. Continue reading this article, and discover how this 1987 model strengthened the Honda FourTrax foothold as one of the best sport ATVs in history.

Red and White 1987 Honda TRX250X ATV

Reign of the Legend

The 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 (or TRX250X) is the 2nd-year installment of the legendary sport quad responsible for spawning present-day high-performance ATVs. Referred to by savvy enthusiasts as a detuned ATC250R, this 250-class machine was best known for its 246-cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine, state-of-the-art features, impressive 71-mph top-end speed, and adjustable suspension. Additionally, it opened a whole new era of all-terrain vehicles by combining the capabilities of a pure-sport racer and a utility machine into one single four-wheeler.

Despite its hybrid nature and a slight deviation from the sport-quad aesthetic, the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 proved to be a formidable competitor to Suzuki’s top gun, the 1985 QuadRacer, and Kawasaki’s Tecate-4, among others. But to say that it succeeded in going up against the QuadRacer – the 4×4 that beat everyone to being history’s 1st four-wheeled sport ATV – is an understatement. From the get-go, the machine was a force to be reckoned with. Even now, off-roaders still regard the 1987 FourTrax as “the greatest among the greats in ATVs.”

Settling the Confusion

Beginners in the racing community seem to be confused with the engine configuration of the different Honda FourTrax 250 models. There is none to blame, really. The first five years of the ‘80s was a hodge-podge of creativity – manufacturers were all busy thinking of ways to make ATVs more capable while reducing the risks associated with the three-wheeled forerunners of the industry. It was all about who had the better power mill, the more efficient cooling system, the stronger frame, and the more compact chassis. The same was true for the FourTrax lineup.

Despite its short-lived production run, there were slight differences between the model years of the vehicle. The 1987 Honda FourTrax 250, in particular, was the first in the series to have a liquid-cooled, 4-stroke engine. But that is not the only enhancement the wheeler received. It was also equipped with hydraulic disc brakes, a shorter aluminum swingarm, a longer connecting rod, and a cylinder with a bridged intake. Contrary to popular belief, however, it did not have front and rear racks – the 1988 Honda FourTrax did.

1987 Honda FourTrax 250 Specs & Features

Engine

Information discrepancies aside, the main differences between the 1985 and 1987 Honda 250 FourTrax models are in the engine type, compression ratio, and cooling system. Some owners include the carb size, too. However, the service manual specifies the 27-mm carb did not change until after 1987 (Wikipedia says otherwise). Therefore, in determining which carb your wheeler has, it is best to weigh your engine. An engine heavier than 46.3 Kg (102 lbs) could indicate a bigger 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 carburetor.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Engine Brand Name Keihin
Engine Type 2-Stroke 4-Stroke OHC
Cylinder Arrangement Single cylinder, inclined 20°
Cylinder Compression 12.5 ± 1.0 kg/cm2 (178 ± 14 psi) 12.5 ± 1.0 kg/cm2 (178 ± 14 psi);
12 ± 13 kg/cm2 (170 ± 185 psi)
Carburetion System 27-mm dual-valve carburetor x 1
Engine Cooling Air cooling Liquid cooling
Engine Fuel Unleaded gasoline of at least PON 86 or RON 91, containing < 5% MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether), < 10% ethanol, or < 5% methanol w/ appropriate cosolvents and corrosion inhibitors
Fuel Capacity 10 L/2.6 US gal (reserve – 2 L/0.5 US gal)
Bore x Stroke Ratio 74 x 57.3 mm (2.9 x 2.3 in)
Compression Ratio 9.0:1
Displacement 246 cm³ / 15 in³
Valve Clearance Cold (Int/Ex) 0.08 mm (0.003 in)
Horsepower 19.3 hp/19.6 PS (14.4 kW @ 7,000 RPM)
Maximum Torque 19.9 Nm (2.03 kgf-m, 14.7 ft-lb @ 6,000 RPM)
Top Speed 71 mph (114.3 km/h)
Starter System Forward kick start mechanism
Lubrication Forced pressure (wet sump)
Engine Oil & Quantity 2.1 L (2.2 US quarts) – at draining; 2.5 L (2.6 US quarts) – disassembly
SAE 10W-40 4-stroke engine oil w/ an API grade of SJ+ meeting JASO T903 MA, MB
Alternatives: SAE 5W, 10W-30, 20W-40, 20W-50 4-stroke engine oil w/out graphite or molybdenum additives

Drivetrain

The 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 laid the foundation for the Honda TRX300’s powertrain, with its 5-speed semi-auto tranny, a maintenance-free shaft drive, a gear-driven counter-balancer, and a ball-and-race-bearing steering system. All these driveline components lend to the 4×4’s predictable handling and seamless power delivery – even in aggressive riding conditions.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Clutch Wet multi-plate, semi-automatic, centrifugal type
Transfer, Transmission Type 5-speed constant mesh w/ reverse
Gearshift Pattern Left-foot-operated return system; Forward: N-S/L-1-2-3-4; Reverse: N-R
Drive System Chain and Sprocket 13:39, 520 O-ring chain
Primary Reduction Ratio 2.407 (65/27)
Final Drive Ratio 5.684
Transfer Gear Ratio S/L – 4.083 (49/12); 1st – 2.389 43/18); 2nd – 1.609 (37/23); 3rd – 1.179 (33/28); 4th – 0.906 (29/32); Reverse – 5.397

Ignition

Among the things that remained unchanged between model years is the vehicle’s charging system, which consisted of a fully transistorized regulator and a 12V 12 Ah YTX12-BS battery. The spark plug, as well as the need for a trickle charger, remained the same, too. Get yourself an Optima 150-40000 Digital 400 12V Performance Maintainer and Battery Charger (view on Amazon) if you do not have one yet – this will help keep your battery in tip-top shape.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Ignition CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition)
Ignition Timing 13° B.T.D.C @ 1,400 RPM ± 100 – idle; 31° B.T.D.C @ 3.500 RPM – full advance
Spark Plug NGK DR8ES-L or NIPPON DENSO X24ESR-U, 0.6 – 0.7 mm (0.024 – 0.028 in) gap Torque specs: 15-20 Nm (1.5-2.0 kgf-m, 11-14 ft-lb)
Generator Transistorized, non-adjustable regulator
Generator Max Output 13 – 15V 200 W @ 5,000 RPM
Fuse 20 Amp (main); 15 Amp (receptacle, sub-fuse)
Battery 12V (12 Ah)/10 Hr, YTX12-BS format
Battery Dimensions (L x W x H) 6.00 x 3.44 x 5.12 in (150 x 87 x 130 mm)

Tires & Brakes

Earlier models of the Honda FourTrax had Ohtsu® tires, including the 1987 versions. Although the stock rubber later got upgraded to Dunlop® radials, it would be a good idea to swap them out for race- or mud-type tires. Of course, your choice of tires will depend entirely on your quad’s intended application. But if you are looking for decent, all-around knobbies, Kenda Dominator K300 ATV Tires (view on Amazon) for the front and GBC Dirt Devil Bias ATV Tires (view on Amazon) for the back are good options.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Front Tire, off-road/road air pressure Ohtsu H-trak R/T 101 or Dunlop KT781A AT21 x 7-10, tubeless
20 kPa (0.20 kgf/cm2, 2.9 – 3 psi)
Rear Tire, off-road/road air pressure Ohtsu H-trak P/V 701Z or Dunlop KT885 AT25 x 12-9, tubeless
15 kPa (0.15 kgf/cm2, 2.2 psi)
Rim Size (F/R) 5.5 x 10 DC / 9.25 x 9 DC
Front Brake Type Hydraulic-operated, leading/trailing shoe
Rear Brake Type Cable-operated, leading/trailing shoe

Suspension

 Key improvements were evident in the 1987 Honda 250 FourTrax suspension system. Among them are 22-inch tires and hydraulic disc brakes on all fours, a shorter aluminum swingarm, and a longer connecting rod. Not only did these changes enhance overall handling and bump absorption, but they also cured the 4×4’s loop-out problem. Paired with generous wheel travel on both front and rear, the FourTrax 250’s high-speed stability and handling were unrivaled in the ‘80s.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Frame Semi-double cradle
Caster, Trail 8°, 42 mm (1.65 in)
Toe-in 0 ± 7.5 mm (0 ± 0.30 in)
Turning Radius 1.5 m (5 ft) – unverified
Ground Clearance 160 mm (6.3 in)
Front Suspension Type, Travel Dual A-Arms w/ 5-way preload-adjustable Showa Shocks, 200 mm (7.9 in)
Rear Suspension Type, Travel Single compression rebound & preload-adjustable Showa shock w/ Pro-Link linkage, 231 mm (9.1 in)

Dimensions & Capacities

Along with other design enhancements, 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 parts such as taller tires and a longer connection rod increased its dry weight by 5 Kg (11 lbs) compared to the initial version. But other than its mass, the ’87 FourTrax shared similar vehicle dimensions and capacities as earlier models. The vehicle did not have front and rear racks until 1988. But for the sake of reference, I have included the rack capacities in the details below.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Dimensions (L x W x H) 1,875 x 1,080 x 1,020 mm (73.8 x 42.5 x 40.2 in)
Seat Height (Unloaded) 765 mm (30.1 in)
Wheelbase 1,235 mm (48.6 in)
Track (F/R) 800 mm (31.5 in)
Dry Weight 212 Kg (467 lbs) 217 Kg (478 lbs)
Rack Capacity (F/R) 30 Kg (66 lbs) / 60 Kg (133 lbs)
Vehicle Load Capacity Limit 180 Kg (400 lbs)
Tongue Weight 14 Kg (30 lbs)
Maximum Trailer Weight 383 Kg (850 lbs)

Exterior & Lighting

The 250-cc machine comes in a steel frame and plastic body panels available in white and red. Serrated footpegs with footwells, a front brush guard, front and rear fenders, and a saddle seat come standard with the unit. Thanks to the vehicle’s enormous aftermarket support, replacing stock fender flares with a Maier 117270 Black OEM-Style Front End Fender (view on Amazon) is as easy as 1-2-3.

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Fuel Gauge Standard
Indicator Lamps
Engine Stop Switch
Ignition Switch / Start Button
Headlight Dimmer Switch

Lighting

1985 Honda FourTrax TRX250 1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X
Headlight Hi-lo beam, 12V 45/45 W x 2
Taillight 12V 3.4 W x 2
Indicator Lights 12V 3 W (reverse, neutral); 12V 3.4 W (engine oil temperature)

Honda FourTrax 250 Price

According to Nada Guides, the list price of the ‘86 Honda FourTrax 250 was $2,498, while its resale value ranges from $265 to $1,645. But in a previous article, my research showed results of an MSRP much higher than this figure. That said, let me repost the table showing the complete rundown of list prices for all FourTrax 250 models:

Year – Trim – Model NumberList PriceRetail/Trade-In Values
1986 Honda FourTrax TRX250$3,697$265 – $1,570
1987 Honda FourTrax TRX250X$4,198$265 – $1,645
1988 Honda FourTrax TRX250X$4,198$265 – $1,705
1989 Honda FourTrax TRX250RK$4,198$335 – $2,015

Because of the vehicle’s prestige and competencies, you will be hard-pressed to find a spotless Honda TRX250X. But if you are patient and good at information mining, you may score some rare finds on auction and trader sites. Anything worth $1,300 and above would typically run like a top but would have mid to severe cosmetic damage and some components needing repair or replacement.

The Owner’s Check List

Owning a 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 is a guaranteed blast, especially if the unit is in mint condition and well-taken care of by its previous owners. However, it can be a pain to work with if the machine is overly abused and with shabby components (we know all too well that negligence is the root of most ATV problems).

Here is a list of things to examine when in the process of purchasing a secondhand quad:

Chassis

Although it was considered industry-leading during the machine’s heyday, many off-roaders agree that the stock framework appears to be better suited for recreational riding than drag races, with its propensity to develop cracks increasing when used for competitions.

Rear axle

Older FourTrax 250s tend to develop wear in the rear-end, and this is quite understandable due to the vehicle’s age. However, note that this is not supposed to be the case. Excessive play in that section will require a rear-end rebuild.

A-arms

Rust formation in this area is sure to adversely affect its suspension geometry and, ultimately, the overall handling of the machine. Worst-case scenario, rust compromises the structural integrity of the suspension system and can endanger rider safety.

Die-cast aluminum clutch basket

This part is known to be particularly frail and dramatically worsens if the wheeler has been used in aggressive riding conditions. A savvy rider would have already changed this to either steel or billet aluminum if the quad was intended for racing. Make sure you probe the history of the vehicle as you inspect this piece.

Rear fenders

While cosmetic damage is expected of old quads like the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250, the most that should be considered tolerable are scuffs and scratches. Plastic burns at the rear end could indicate a problem with the exhaust or a simple misalignment. This issue does not require a troublesome fix, but replacing damaged rear fenders may mean shelling $200 to $300 out of your pocket.

Air filter

The filter and airbox require special attention – you need to determine if they were serviced or neglected. A gummed-up air filter will cause the engine to run rich – and that is not good news for a 34-year-old four-wheeler.

Other things to check are the condition of the brake pads, oil, fasteners, chain, and sprockets. Also, do not forget to include the wheel-and-tire assembly, steering stem bearing, and handlebars. While this list is not exhaustive, your findings following the inspection of these components will help you better weigh the pros and cons of buying a pre-owned FourTrax.

About Honda

Honda Motor Company Ltd. is a globally-renowned leader in automotive, AI, energy solutions and robotics, and is the maker of the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250. Founded in 1946, the Japanese firm traces its roots to building and selling motorized bicycles with surplus engines. Its humble beginnings helped the company transition from mass-producing piston rings to multiple automotive fields and shaped it into becoming one of the forerunners of the ATV industry. Honda showcases its technical expertise by introducing innovations in personal mobility, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and therapeutic machinery.

Conclusion – 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 Review

The 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 is, at the very least, impressive on all fronts. Even today, enthusiasts still cannot get enough of this iconic 4×4 – and for good reason. The 250-machine is undeniably a powerhouse, with its top-notch features and off-roading capabilities waiting to be drawn out. Moreover, it saved the aftermarket industry for two whole decades and remained the blueprint for competition ATVs until the turn of the millennia. All in all, the 1987 Honda FourTrax 250 is one remarkable rec-sport quad that is here to stick around.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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