Where Did ATVs Come From? 1970s Rupp Go-Joe is the Grandfather of Modern Quads

1970 rupp go joe atv quad

This is the 1973 Rupp Go-Joe ATV – and it was Groovy!

Before the term “ATV” was used, before “quads” became popular – there were vehicles like the Rupp Go-Joe. Many remember the remarkably dangerous (and cool) Honda ATC-70 among other early off-road utilities, but few remember the Rupp Go-Joe. It was never a huge seller, but it showed the way to future ATVs about a decade before they become popular.

The Go-Joe is not as multi-capable as modern ATVs. It was built for dirt roads and soft sand. My first viewing of one was at Pismo Beach ORV are back in the early 90s. It was old then, but it kicked up sand and kept up with newer machines. It has very little suspension to speak of, but those balloon knobbies helped with the ride a bit.

Rupp Manufacturing (the Rupp Industries name was adopted by 1971) was founded in 1959 in Mansefeld, Ohio. They became experts in snowmobiles, minibikes and karts. Among their prominent products, they built 4-cycle minibikes, dune buggies, karts, ATVs three-wheel trikes among others.

We will feature some of Rupp’s other products in the future.

Their snowmobile expertise would lead them to use the transmission / power-train technology in many of their products, including the Go-Joe.

There were three different Rupp Go-Joes out there.

There was an 8 HP engine Rupp Go-Joe along with a very limited “Mini” Go-Joe which was powered by an 3-1/2 HP engine. These versions are very difficult to find.

The one that appears most popular is the larger 16 horsepower unit that was powered by a 295cc Kohler engine. Top speed was said to be a suicidal 55 mph. A ride like this looks like it would be happier around 35 mph, honestly.

What happened to Rupp Industries?

This comes from OldRupps.com

“In the Spring of 1977, the ownership of Rupp filed for bankruptcy and enlisted help from Arctic Cat. As a result of this partnership with Arctic Cat, snowmobile production was cut in half and down to just three models –

By the Summer of 1977, the writing was on the wall and the 1978 model year would be the last for Rupp.

Rupp Manufacturing, Inc. would go under in 1978, never to resurface again.”


Today, you can still find their products here and there. The Rupp Go-Joe is kind of rare, but I have seen them listed in a few places – which gained my interest. Sure enough, these little quads are still out there, still kicking up sand.

Speaking of old ATVs still kicking up sand…

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.