The Honda Pilot Proto-UTV Is Having a Moment

Nostalgia and the popularity of UTVs have made values climb.

Back before the Honda Pilot was a slightly disappointing car-based SUV-thing, it was a rad little UTV powered by a 397-cc, two-stroke single.BaT

Before the Honda Odyssey was a minivan, it was a segment-making, single-seater ATV produced from 1976 to 1985. And before the Honda Pilot was a seven-seater crossover, it was the even better version of the Honda Odyssey. Produced in 1988 and 1989, original Pilots still pop up on Bring a Trailer (BaT) occasionally—one went under the hammer last week for $9,100.

Seem like a lot to pay for a 33-year-old UTV powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke engine making double-digit horsepower figures? It’s still less than O.G. Pilots have been going for: In 2020, a 1989 Pilot sold on BaT for $10,600; in 2019, the same model sold on the same site for $17,500.

No pedals, no traditional steering wheel. Instead, the 65 mph Pilot had all its controls on a yoke.BaT

What’s making enthusiasts spend real money on Big Red’s little red machine? Our guess is they either want to remember what dirt-hopping life was like long before the days of the Polaris Ace and RZR RS1, or they want to experience a game-changing UTV as novel as it was fast for its era.

The Pilot has neither steering wheel nor pedals; all the inputs but shifting live on an aircraft-style yoke. That yoke features wrist restraints so the driver’s arms don’t flail during a crash or rollover. The throttle is thumb controlled, and two brake levers are responsible for clamping the disc brakes at each axle. You’d want to keep those brakes within fingertip reach, because the Pilot could hit 60 or 65 mph from the factory. That’s just one of the reasons the Pilot came with a four-point harness standard. Furthermore, amenable to a tune for its lightly stressed 397cc motor, the Pilot could be infernally fast.

So the Pilot is still having its moment in the marketplace. The listing says the seller bought the Pilot in February 2022 in Utah and fixed it up. That owner could have been taking advantage of enthusiast ardor and eager buyers throwing absurd money at everything. Or perhaps four seasons was just enough time to try justifying the combination of modern speed and 1980s safety. And strapping your wrists to a yoke.