From Prototype to Portal Dominance - How SuperATV Built a Better Portal

The History of SuperATV's Portal Gear Lifts

Gen 2 Portals–our most significant portal release so far–were assembled and ready to roll. With a few more clicks, all the emails and social media posts we'd spent weeks building would let the world know all about our brand-new Gen 2 portals.

Engineering had been working toward the release of Gen 2 portals for years at this point. Every data point and test that could be collected or tested had been. They were tried and true, both in the lab and in real world conditions. Production made sure the shelves were stocked and shipping was prepared to make the switch. Marketing made videos and webpages to make sure all of you understood what was new. The sales team received training and materials explaining every aspect of Gen 2 portals. Every single person at SuperATV had a hand in getting them ready–now it was time to release them to the public.

But the portal story didn't start in the leadup to the launch of Gen 2, or even weeks before the launch of our original 4" portal in 2015. It started years before that, when Harold Hunt, the president and CEO of SuperATV first started exploring portals.

"I didn't know how popular they would be," Harold said during a recent conversation. Making the first UTV Portal Lift Kit was uncharted territory. The conversations in the ride parks and trails were about larger tires and bracket lift kits–nobody was talking about portals. It wasn't just new for SuperATV, portals were new for the industry.

Designing a Prototype

SuperATV's first prototype left a lot to be desired. It was one large single unit. The A arms and tie rods connected directly to the hub meaning it was bulky. Every bit of it was made from steel–thick steel. The welded on "backing plate" was an inch thick, the housing walls were only about a quarter inch thinner. In fact, a single steel 4" hub weighed close to eighty pounds. That's way too much weight to add to each corner–installing larger tires would only make that problem worse. Also, the gear reduction was chain driven – AKA loud, hot, and fragile. It wasn't going to work. We were breaking new ground, but this first attempt wasn't up to SuperATV standards. We had to make it smaller, lighter, and better.

The First Portal Gear Lift Prototype
SuperATV's First Portal Gear Lift Prototype.

GDP Comes to Life

We hit the mark almost perfectly on our second attempt. Gone were the thick steel plates. That big honkin' chain? Gone. Steel? Only where the hub faced the most stress in operation.

We used a third gear instead of the chain to transfer power through the box and give us the gear reduction we wanted. We made the housing itself out of naturally lighter aluminum and used less material to reduce the weight further. Those, along with countless other improvements, made it something worthy of SuperATV's name behind it–and a new brand under SuperATV: Gear Driven Performance.

GDP Comes to Life
Assembling a SuperATV GPD Portal Gear Lift.

Quality Through Design

When we finally released our first 4" portal gear lifts, they were an instant hit. Like Harold said, we didn't know that they were going to do so well, but they were higher quality than any other portal lift on the market and affordable enough for customers unfamiliar with the concept or burned by lower quality portals to give GDP a shot.

6 inch portal gear lift
SuperATV's portal gear lifts are designed to handle the toughest riding conditions.

That combination of affordability and quality was no accident. I've heard Harold say it countless times, "We want the best products at the best prices."

If you spend just a few minutes listening to him talk about products that are in design, you'll know that this drives the core of our business. If it's not the best A arm or axle or lift kit on the market, it's either not done or not worth doing. GDP Portal Gear Lifts were no exception.

SuperATV's portal gear lifts launched with a slew of features that made them stand head and shoulders above other portals already on the market. Improvements to design like precision ground gears and a thrust bearing that could handle all sorts of abuse made all the difference.

People believed in the promise of portal gear lifts–with GDP, there was finally a kit that delivered on that promise.

6" Portals

We were ready for the next big thing before we launched our 4" portals. When we saw how many people were going big with 10" bracket lifts on top of their 4" portal lifts, we knew without a doubt that 6" portals were going to be huge.

4 and 6 inch portal gear lifts
SuperATV's 4" and 6" Portal Gear Lifts.

Development of 6" portals was just a few months behind that of 4" portals so it didn't take long for them to hit the market. And customers loved them. They were the first of their kind on the market and opened up a whole new world in terms of clearance.

People had long been testing out their machine's clearance after installing a new lift by putting a 5-gallon bucket under it. If they got enough clearance to squeeze a beer can on top of the bucket, they thought they were doing a pretty good job. 6" portals raised the bar.

Forget the bucket test. With 6" portals, it was all about the barrel test. Guys were taking their 6" portals and installing 10" lifts and 40" tires too. The extra 20-something inches of clearance gave them enough room to clear a 50-gallon barrel.

The same high-quality materials and construction that made 4" portals great made 6" portals possible. If we had cut any corners with a portal box that size, they would have imploded as soon as you rolled off the trailer. We made sure they ran just as well as they looked.

"Good Enough" is Never Good Enough

We were still thinking ahead, studying and learning. The time was almost right for Gen 2.

The thing about evolving, improving, and learning every day is that when you look back on what you've already done, it's easy to see how it could be done better. Hindsight is 20-20 as they say, and looking back at all the portals released so far and all the portals in the field, we could see precisely what tweaks we could make to create a whole new better portal gear lift. It took a lot of time, effort, and investment–striving to make a superior product doesn't come free after all–but at last Gen 2 was ready.

Making Gen 2

The tweaking and changing we did proved to us that we could build a better portal gear lift. We were receiving heaps of praise for our portals, but we are always our own worst critics. We learned from every bump and surprise along the way and never quit improving. We wanted to raise the bar again.

6 inch portal gear lift
SuperATV's Gen 2 Portals are our most significant release to date.

That's where the idea for Gen 2 GDP Portal Gear Lifts came from. It took a lot of time, effort, and investment–striving to make a superior product doesn't come free, after all–but at last Gen 2 was ready.

We launched portals first thing in the morning on October 13, 2017. Years of hard engineering work, countless tests in our R&D lab, and paying close attention to every bit of feedback from every customer were about to pay off big time.

Gen 2 took the best, strongest, and most field proven portal on the market and rebuilt it from the ground up. We increased the output shaft diameter by 5mm at its widest point and by 10mm at its narrowest point. We changed the caliper mounting plates from aluminum to steel. We changed the design of the housing to make them stronger, and we thickened up the hub plate while also making it join to the output shaft better.

It was a whole new portal, that's why it had to be called Gen 2 – stronger and better in every way.

Continued Evolution

Two years elapsed between the first production GDP portal coming off the line to the introduction of Gen 2. We started with a high-quality and widely lauded product and only made it better in the two years following.

We haven't stopped evolving portals, and now we're nearly a year out from the launch of Gen 2. What innovation will we bring next? What's the next big thing in portals?

We have no misconceptions about how much people love portal gear lifts now. That's why we have the next big thing, and it's going to blow you away…