Most family home videos feature vacations, first days of school, or even kids from the neighborhood. Ours are filled with friends and family blasting around in amphibious ATV’s. This is our story.
1988: The true beginning of Mudd-Ox started in when Matt Oxender was just 14 years old. His neighbor purchased an Amphicat, which was a popular 6×6 manufactured in the late 1960’s to early 70’s. Many individuals will remember it as the “Banana Buggy” from the Banana Splits. Matt was mesmerized with the unusual vehicle, and wanted to know everything about it.
While enthusiastically telling his parents about the Amphicat, they explained his grandfather bought a brand new Attex ST/300 6×6 in 1969. It was driven on the family farm until being sold years later. Of course Matt immediately purchased the Amphicat.
With the help of friends from school Brian, Billy, Jessie and Mike, Matt would repair the Amphicat and ride locally in White Pigeon, Michigan. It lit the fire of obsession. Matt and friends began purchasing amphibious ATV’s everywhere they could find them – from the roadside to newspapers and garage sales. Basket cases suddenly filled their’ parents’ yards, known as “death row”. Every dollar they could earn from part time jobs was spent on the hobby.
Ride, break, repair and ride again. The overwhelming majority of 6×6 ATV’s were plagued with design flaws that required constant repairs. Thin axles, bicycle sized chains, and temperamental 2-stroke engines to name a few. Some models didn’t even have a true frame or reverse gear.
Nonetheless, this motley crew was determined to make the best of it. Their favorite game was to make it through a single mud hole. Yes, just one. In the backyard of one of their parent’s house, there was a mud hole in the middle of a field. If someone could successfully make it through without breaking, it was a spectacular day. They also did donuts in the manicured grass, but we won’t go into that. They’re still in trouble for it.
1998: Once internet became widespread in 1998, the very first thing Matt researched was amphibious ATV’s. He came across Route 6×6, a resource and chat forum dedicated to the hobby. It was amazing to see just how many other enthusiasts were out there.
1999: When Matt was repairing a vintage 6×6, he ordered parts directly from the manufacturer. Inside the box was a letter stating a new dealer was located just the next town over. Matt went over to meet the individual. It turned out the dealership was just a small side venture, and their main business was manufacturing. Matt came for parts, and left with a job. This information is relevant later.
2001: On a website called Route 6×6, a ride was advertised by Midwest ATV’s for local enthusiasts. Matt noticed just a day prior, and worked until the early hours of the morning installing a modern engine into one of his vintage Argo’s to bring on the trip. That first ride was an absolute blast. Great trails, ATV’s, and of course the people. Lifelong friendships were made as they continued to schedule events and ride all over the east coast and Midwest.
Rather than constantly repairing his vintage machines, Matt purchased a brand new 2001 Argo Bigfoot. It was the latest, greatest model Argo had to offer. It became the centerpiece of a unique lifestyle. Every weekend was spent in the driver’s seat of the blue 6×6 – a massive progression from the “Death Row” era.
2003: Argo even became a topic at work. Matt and his boss’ mutual enjoyment for 6×6’s lead to the discussion of building camouflage bodies. Argo made some through an extrusion process, but never lamination. It’s simply because there was no machine big enough to laminate the large sheet of plastic required for a vehicle. Matt was determined, and set off to help build such a unicorn. Once the unit was completed, he helped open and operate the new lamination division. The first laminated Argo camouflage sheet was created on Thanksgiving Day, 2003. Contracts were secured with Argo, Chrysler, and the Chevrolet SSR.
2005: As time continued on, Matt became exhausted of the quirks and maintenance of the Bigfoot. He spent decades working on countless brands of ATV’s and thousands of hours trail riding. Bigfoot was a step ahead of the vintage machines, but Matt knew there had to be a better design, a better product for individuals like himself to enjoy. On November 13th, 2005, Matt decided to build his own 8×8. It would be Mudd for mud, and Ox for Oxender. Mudd-Ox was born.
The overall idea was simple: Hydraulically driven, mid-engine, powerful, and easy to maintain. It would be an amphibious vehicle by the people, for the people. Evenings after work were spent in the pole barn bringing the dream into reality. It started with a basic frame and Kohler 40 hp engine. There would be no body for now, as with prototypes, significant changes would be made along the way.
2006: Shortly into the prototyping process, Matt risked it all in hopes the vehicle would be a success. If he could sell just one vehicle a month, it would cover all living expenses and provide a fun alternative to typical employment. He retired from lamination and began working on Mudd-Ox full-time.
By mid-year, the prototype was ready. Jack stands were removed, and tires touched ground for the first time. Matt sat on the homebuilt chassis, feet between open tires, and tore off into the backyard with a huge smile. It was everything he dreamed of. This creation was climbing over steep grades, racing through the woods and best of all, counter-rotation donuts.
2007: Ever since that first test drive, the prototype spent nearly every weekend at an off-road park. The goal was to spend as much time testing the 8×8 to find all its weak points. Break, rebuild it stronger, and then test again. Nearly every component had been changed along the way.
Once the prototype had evolved into a marketable product, the next step was to build the body molds. Dozens of concept drawings were taken into consideration. The upper body, lower, and engine cover were all built inside a small residential garage. Each component was based around comfort of the operator such as a tall seatback and plenty of legroom.
2008: Mudd-Ox serial #1 was built in the summer. No advertising, no website, and no sales information had been created. This didn’t stop word of mouth that eventually lead Max ATV Australia from hearing about the Mudd-Ox. A large expo was coming up, and the Mudd-Ox needed to be there. Just as soon as #1 was finished, Matt rushed it to Chicago O’Hare airport for immediate shipment to Australia. It was a success, and they continue to be our dealer today.
Canadian heavy equipment rental companies also heard of the Mudd-Ox. It would be a perfect unit for renting to oil fields, as this 8×8 on tracks could drive across fragile land without leaving a deep footprint. Almost immediately after serial #1, the Canadian orders began. The same childhood friends whom collected 6×6’s in their parents backyard began working for Mudd-Ox part time. In the evenings after work, Mike would come help machine parts. Jessie would weld, then Billy and Brian would assemble.
2009: At the height of the economic recession, Fort McMurray oil field demands were quickly overrunning the pole barn. A small lean-to was built to move the machine shop and open up room for assembly. The guys quit their jobs and started at Mudd-Ox full time. Just as fast as they could build them, the 8×8’s were sent across the border.
Expansion continued with Plant 2. The original pole barn was named Plant 1, a fabrication and welding area while Plant 2 was a true assembly line. It made more than enough room for production and housing the vintage 6×6 collection that had been accumulating since 1988.
2010: With almost all units exclusively going into rental programs, the Mudd-Ox was put to tests harder than any off-road park could offer. After all, the fastest vehicle is a rental, right? Designs were continuously updated to provide more strength and durability. This included converting the drivetrain from CVT to directly driving the hydraulic pumps.
2011: A specialty 100 hp unit was offered for rental programs. The upper body was full aluminum and towered over a standard Mudd-Ox. Although it looked different, driving characteristics were the same. Ultimately, the units were discontinued in favor of developing a more condensed platform.
2012: Kohler 38 hp carbureted engines were replaced with the 45 hp Kubota turbo diesel. More power, easier to start in frigid temperatures, and better cooling properties truly expanded the performance of Mudd-Ox.
2013: The biggest year of change to date. Goodyear stopped production of the Rawhide III tires, which pushed the design of Mudd-Ox’s own Vendetta tire. It featured a paddle tread design to propel the machine through water. Various sidewalls were tested to find the strongest design, and most comfortable ride. With a larger tire, a larger body was needed for clearance with tracks. New molds were created to expand the length, width, and height of the Mudd-Ox. GT and XL were introduced.
2014: The original pole barn had been officially swallowed in the now largest expansion. At the front, an office space was built with space for a showroom. In the rear, a warehouse for storing production parts and vintage ATV’s. Historic units were stacked four high all the way around the building.
2015: After all the years of working with rental programs, the Mudd-Ox Fort Mac was introduced. It featured a full hydrostatic drive system without any chains, a true workhorse for the most extreme applications. It’s truly the heaviest duty Mudd-Ox ever produced.
2016: The state of Indiana celebrated its Bicentennial in 2016. Local manufacturers were honored to be part of a parade, with one of the first Mudd-Ox Vengeance’s carrying the torch. This unit was introduced for 2017 model year as a cost effective alternative to the XL, featuring the same body and chassis but driven by a skid-steer T-20 transmission.
2017: Expansion of the dealer network made new relationships in Asian markets. The Vengeance received a diesel engine option, while accessories for all models were developed such as the fuel injected outboard motor that could be controlled from the operator seat.
2018: As the Mudd-Ox chassis had developed into an extremely robust platform, it was suited for military applications. A partnership was formed with HIPPO Multipower to add autonomous capabilities to the 8×8. Prototype units began rolling out for testing across the globe. They were praised for agility, being featured in newspapers and websites for potential mass production. Mudd-Ox could drive itself over rough terrains, serve as a mobile power unit, and even follow soldiers.
2019: Maintaining development on the civilian market, model year 2019 was a big for the XL. The coveted 45 hp Kubota diesel was replaced with the new 57 hp Kubota gasoline to meet EPA regulations. More power and cleaner air. Drive-by-wire steering wheel controls were developed for XL and Fort Mac with automotive driving characteristics. Financing was now available to make purchasing easier than ever before.
2020: Momentum kept going into 2020 for new products. In the accessories department, all models could be equipped with the highly aggressive Beaver Dam tracks. To make chain and bearing maintenance as simple as pushing a button, the automatic greasing system was developed for Vengeance and XL. Summer was spent testing a prototype XL40, which utilized a 40 hp Briggs & Stratton engine to expand the XL platform.
Circling back to our roots in vintage ATV’s, a virtual museum was added to the website. After decades of collecting machines, memorabilia, and documentation, we are utilizing our resources to preserve the history of amphibious ATV’s. Stories written down, documents digitally scanned, and just a click away for all to enjoy.