Howard and James Gerber visiting Mudd-Ox in 2017. An absolute honor.
Attex was one of the largest producers of amphibious ATV’s from the golden era. Their history is rich with innovation, national racing championships, and a wide range of production models in a short timeline. Attex was designed by David McCahill, who’s mother was the heir to the Maytag fortune, and friend Roger Flannery. McCahill could not get enough Amphicats to sell and decided to build his own ATV. The first generation Attex body closely resembles the Amphicat, which is no surprise as he had a massive blueprint drawing of the now competitor’s vehicle.
As early Attex history has been spread from word of mouth, exact dates and information is vague. When McCahill was in Ft. Lauderdale, Flordia, he met Martin Baker. Baker helped design the skid-steer transmission alongside another individual with the last name Hill, and thus it would be named the Baker-Hill transmission.
According to an Attex brochure, the company was formed in 1967. The first production model was simply called “297”. In 1969, Attex sent three factory racers to the NORRA Baja 500. #195 with David Hauser, #196 with Tom Shiflet and #197 with Russell Huffmyer. Shiflet and Huffmyer did not finish due to mechanical issues while Hauser drove the furthest, only dropping out due to exhaustion after being lost in the mountains.
McCahill continued to use the Maytag fortune to expand in the Coleman camper and minibike lineup by simply rebranding the products as Attex. The company could not survive by spending McCahill’s mother’s fortune alone, and was put on the chopping block at a sheriff’s auction.
During this time, Howard Gerber was an employee of Recreatives, which produced the Max. Gerber understood the 6×6 market, had plenty of experience in amphibious vehicles, and an engineering mindset. With help of the McKay family, they together purchased Attex from the auction with hopes of mass production around 1972. Just as fast as the company initially collapsed, Attex exploded into the market with a strong advertising strategy. They were on the cover of NATVA magazine, the local newspaper, Popular Science, and commercials to name a new.
Attex was dominant in the NATVA racing series with a factory team including both children and adults from the McKay and Gerber family. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday was the name of the game. Attex’s innovation continued on the track by creating one of the first “springers” with full suspension known as “The Streak” named after the Ray Stevens song. They were continuously battling for 1st place against the Scrambler race team.
Off the track, Attex was always building new models. Customers could purchase sporty 2-stroke models, or more trail friendly 4-strokes. New products were always in the works such as the Electra, a custom order electric ATV, or even the Spirit, a prototype wide body with dual wheels. Around 1972-1973 Attex produced an 8×8 “tank trainer” which was sold to the US government. These would serve as vehicles for tank drivers to practice maneuvers at Ft. Knox.
Although Attex was thriving, Gerber was always working on a new project. He understood the need for larger seating capacity for hauling the family or even a crew. In his home garage, Gerber designed the RIM (Recreational Industrial Military). It utilized a similar drivetrain to the Attex, but was reorganized for maximum seating capacity with the engine mounted over the transmission. Everything from the frame to molds were created by hand in the garage. Attex was busy building their current models, so they went into contract with Gerber’s previous employer Sid Wallach at Recreatives. While Gerber was under the impression Recreatives was simply building his vehicle and mailing the royalty check, they were actually doing much more. Recreatives copied the entire design while making minor changes. Once the contract was over, Recreatives introduced the Max IV and effectively ended the partnership on a bitter note.
Parade and award ceremony for Howard Gerber on the 50th anniversary of ATV racing, June 2019.
Gerber also designed “The Bigfoot” which was envisioned as a commercial swamp buggy. It had 16 wheels, 4 tracks, 2 engines, 2 transmissions, and seating for plenty. Only a handful were ever produced in various configurations, and just one survives in our collection today. The Bigfoot is only seen in one trifold brochure behind the RIM.
In December of 1975, the 6×6 ATV business essentially disappeared overnight. Recreatives alongside Hustler Corporation agreed to purchase the rights to the BorgWarner T-20 transmission. The very same transmission that later generation Attex and countless other companies used in their production models. To provide adequate time for model changes, the purchase agreement stated that RI and Hustler were to provide transmissions to other manufacturers for one year. However, it didn’t state the lead time. RI and Hustler made it one year and one day.
By now the 6×6 ATV market was already slowing down due to the oil crisis and introduction of the Honda ATC90. Attex scrambled to build units with a different transmission, but it was ultimately a failure. Gerber and Mckays decided to sell the company and continue with other business ventures. In the following years, Attex traded hands many times while only producing a handful of vehicles. It’s believed some were sold until the early 90’s but is unconfirmed.
Attex to the ATV industry is comparable to The Beatles of the music industry. They produced, innovated and changed the world in a very short time frame. There are countless surviving Attex vehicles today, continuing to fill the starting line at vintage ATV races. We’re honored to have purchased The Bigfoot from the last Attex owners, and acquired The Streak from Don Kinyon. Kinyon rediscovered the “McKay” D-stock racer in a pile of parts, revived and races it. The Gerber family still owns several vehicles which are raced by James Gerber. The factory Attex vehicles are almost always first across the finish line. You can still find Howard Gerber and family at the races, and we continue to learn stories from them each year.
Notice how the Electra is simply an image taken from the Attex brochure featuring the 297, but has the word Electra covering the true model number.
This particular brochure focuses on company history, production methods and product development. It’s perhaps the only document of its kind.