The ATV gets about 37 miles per gallon on the street. Its Missouri Department of Transportation-sanctioned tires offer less resistance than off-road knobbies, and with a friend on the back, Malicoat has pushed it to 78 miles an hour on U.S. Highway 71.
"It's quite the mover," Malicoat says. "You can get up and boogie on this thing."
The 660R Raptor is a shredder's dream. It has an electric starter; a five-speed transmission with a new "reverse" option; a four-stroke, 660-cc engine that runs on regular gas rather than the usual toolshed mix of gas and oil. At 6 feet long and 398 pounds, two guys can hoist her onto the bed of a pickup.
But Malicoat never intended to use his ATV off-road. He wanted it to go urban.
Growing up in the budding subdivision of Pleasant Hill, he had started riding all-terrain clunkers at age 10, staying on top of them as the vehicles evolved from forest-crawling minitanks to high-speed, agile puddle jumpers. Malicoat graduated from Central Missouri State University in May 2002, earning a bachelor's degree in broadcasting with a minor in business. He returned to Kansas City to work part time as a remote engineer for Entercom and as chief engineer at KKFI 90.1 (on which he has a hip-hop show Sunday nights). He also started his own production company, Global Digital Imaging, making entertainment DVDs for weddings and marching bands and informational CDs for auto-insurance salesmen.
Malicoat wanted to combine his technical expertise with his love of mechanics and his nonconformist ideals. So he trolled the Internet for sites offering do-it-yourself street-tricking tips and started customizing his machine. He also read up on law-enforcement reactions to urban ATV usage. Several states considered ATVs street-friendly. But in Missouri, state statutes prohibited four-wheelers on roads, except for governmental, agricultural or handicap-accessibility purposes. Further, the Missouri Highway Patrol mandated that all ATVs have 7-foot bicycle flags and slow-moving-vehicle placards.
Malicoat landed a full-time gig at Minsky's Pizza in April 2003. A month later, on May 14, he shelled out $6,500 at Reno's Yamaha Aprilia in Martin City for the Raptor.
"Supposedly you can do it, and supposedly it's legal," Reno's president, Steve Okenfuss, says of Malicoat's project. "Brian's probably the only one that I've met that's tried to do it."
Malicoat spent another grand buying minivan tires, a set of bottleneck trailer lights, a horn and a speedometer. Ignoring car-inspection safety standards, he installed the equipment using motorcycle guidelines, which allowed him to use hand signals instead of turn signals and meant that he didn't need mounted mirrors. In June 2003, the Raptor passed a motorcycle safety inspection at Reno's. Malicoat took out full-coverage auto insurance. Then, on July 11, 2003, he registered his baby at the Missouri Department of Motor Vehicles. Make: Yamaha 2003. Kind of car: Passenger. Model: four-wheeler.
Malicoat says he's been pulled over 12 times in the past year. Each time, he showed officers his registration and a copy of his insurance card. He convinced one officer that he didn't need to wear a helmet because his cruiser had car plates. When a bike cop yelled at him but didn't pull him over, Malicoat simply drove around him. Pulled over at the QuikTrip at 43rd Street and Main, he passed an officer his paperwork and went inside to buy a pack of cigarettes.
"Four-single, four-cylinder, five-valve overhead cam," he says. "When you start rattling off stuff like that, cops get pissed."
When Malicoat moved from Westport to a downtown loft last July, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department was still pulling him over, but less frequently. "Downtown I always wore a helmet," he says. "Lots of times, I'd get pulled over and everybody was like, 'Wow, that's cool.' Except when I go north of the river."
On April 7 of this year, he was stopped by a squadron of Oakview cops -- two patrol cars and a motorcyclist. One officer in the entourage radioed a state trooper, who said an on-road ATV was bogus. Someone else called a local DMV employee, who arrived on the scene to confirm it. But after more than an hour, the officers issued Malicoat only a fix-it ticket for a driving restriction. (Because of his poor eyesight, Malicoat needed a left-hand mirror.)
On May 12, he was headed up north again to fill a shift at the Minsky's in Gladstone. He was doing about 35 miles an hour near the intersection of North Broadway and Englewood Road in Gladstone when an Oakview motorcycle policeman spotted him and flashed his lights. Malicoat recognized the cop. It was the same officer who'd pulled him over a month before.
But though he was out of his jurisdiction, Sgt. Mike Fryer pulled Malicoat over and then radioed for the Missouri Highway Patrol.
"He likes getting stopped by the police and showing them it's a game to him. Well, it's not a game to me," Fryer tells the Pitch.
State Trooper Rick Fletcher arrived on the scene. A 15-year veteran, he'd heard of "street legal" posses in northwestern Missouri but had never encountered such a rider. "He [Malicoat] got it inspected improperly as a motorcycle, not an ATV, so all the [Missouri] Department of Revenue had to go on was that it was a motorcycle, not an ATV," Fletcher says. "The plates were issued to him by mistake. He was issued a letter from the Department of Revenue prior to my stopping him, advising him to send the plates in to the Department of Revenue, which he failed to do, and the plates were suspended."
"They did not give me any paperwork," Malicoat counters. "They just took my plates and said, 'We're going to hold on to them.'"
Malicoat says he never received notice from the DMV about a registration problem. And Nicki Hollis, an administrative analyst with the Driver and Vehicle Services Bureau for the Department of Revenue, backs up this claim. If a license plate is suspended, she says, the DMV will flag that driver's general registration file. No such bulletin appears on Malicoat's record.
"I don't know why the highway patrol is taking plates for that, because it is a motor vehicle," Hollis says. "You can have an ATV that is modified as long as it complies with motor-vehicle title and registration laws."
Connie Falter, a manager at the Department of Revenue, says all confiscated plates must be shipped to the DMV to be catalogued, but so far she's received neither Malicoat's plates nor any notice that his plates were taken. "Usually we get something from law enforcement that shows what a person was stopped for," she says.
In April, in response to highway patrol requests, the Department of Revenue changed its ATV inspection regulations in an attempt to curb fast-and-loose classifications of ATVs as motorcycles. Four-wheelers must now pass a separate highway-patrol inspection. To be classified as safe cars, they might now need roll cages and seatbelts (dune buggies, anyone?). But Falter says the change in policy should not affect riders such as Malicoat, who would be grandfathered legal. About a month ago, though, a state trooper visited Okenfuss at Reno's and demanded to look at Malicoat's sales and inspection reports.
Malicoat has called highway-patrol offices and the Department of Revenue but hasn't received an answer about where his plates are or if he'll get them back. No longer employed at Minksy's, he's given up his midweek commutes. Although he's still making payments for it, the trail stomper is garaged at his parents' home in Pleasant Hill. To get around town now, he walks, skateboards or rides the bus.