Vintage Can-Am Motorcycles

Vintage Can-Am MotorcyclesCan-Am is a Canadian motorcycle brand from the 1970s and 1980s. While Bombardier began and ended producing machines for the dreary Canadian winters, they made quite a name for themselves in the motocross and enduro world, as well. Bombardier began producing Can-Am bikes in the 1970s, using Rotax engines, which was another division of Bombardier.

The first Can-Am motorcycles were 175cc and 250cc models. They had single-cylinder, disc-valve, two-stroke engines with a five-speed gearbox. In order to make the bikes more off-road-friendly, Can-Am mounted the carbureator on a passage behind the cylinder, feeding the mixture to the disc-valve, and keeping the engine more narrow. Long-travel suspension was another feature of the bikes, using telescopic front forks and twin rear shocks, drum brakes, wire wheels, and off-road tires. Not only were these bikes made for racing, but they were street legal, as well. They had a spark arrestor on the exhaust system, a speedometer, lights, mirror, and turn signals.

Word got out pretty quickly about these new Can-Am bikes, especially after Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the International Six Days Trial were won on Can-Am’s in 1973, and Gary Jones won the 250cc class of the 1974 AMA National Motocross Championship on one, too.

1978 brought about a larger five-speed 366cc model with a reed-valve engine with petrol lubrication, and all three of the models now had new rear shocks, Marzocchi front forks, and increased wheel movement. A six-speed gearbox was now standard for the 175cc and 250cc models. These changes essentially made them purely for enduro racing, and they were named the Qualifier.
Now that there was an enduro line of bikes, Can-Am needed a motocross line. They released the 250 MX-5 and the 370 MX-5. Their engines were the sizes given by their names, and they had more power than the previous Can-Am’s, and more wheel travel. In 1980, Can-Am added a 125 MX-5 to the motocross mix, and a 400cc to the Qualifier line. With the increase in emission regulations in the United States in the 1980s, Can-Am also began using four-stroke, single-cylinder Rotax engines with four-valves and an overhead camshaft.

Bombardier, feeling overwhelmed with all of their snowmobile orders, decided to outsource development and manufacturing of Can-Am’s to England’s Armstrong/CCM. They however did not keep up with it, and 1987 was the last year that Can-Am produced off road bikes.

Vintage Can-Am Motorcycles & Parts

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  • Ricky Hofer says:

    All I can remember, is that the 250 had a pretty strong engine.

  • Scott T. says:

    @B.P 6: Are you still in the market for a Can-Am 500MX?

  • B.P 6 says:

    Does anyone know where I could find a repair manual for a 1984 Can-am MX 500 online?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Dan M – 38mm Mikuni 400cc Can-Am

  • Dan M says:

    Just bought a 1984 Can-Am 500 in New Hampshire with a 1986 500 ASE rolling frame with a 400cc motor in it. Can’t wait for spring! Anyone know what size carb the 400cc motor takes?

  • Kevin says:

    I have a 1980 Cam Am 250 MX6 and oil leaks out of the shifter shaft, can someone advise?

  • Mike F says:

    Had a 1980 MX 400 just like the first photo. I could keep up with my buddy who had a newer Suzuki 500 cc. It was a great Cal. desert bike and hill climber for its time. I read it had 42 horsepower in the owners info book.

  • dan carney says:

    Had a 1985 250 ase/lc. Seems to be a rare beast. Any comments? I’m 55 and would ride it daily if only I could!

  • KJ says:

    Looking for a 84 Can-am 500 MX or ASE.

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