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Canadian Motorcycles

                                  Pre- Production 250 cc Can-Am at the races circa 1972/ photo found on facebook.

    Mention, in a mixed group of people, Canadian made motorcycles and you will get one of two responses. The first is more a look of confusion, while the second will be something like, " white tanked CAN-AM' older brother had one of them and nothing could touch it man!!!!  
    After many years of developement, Bombardier Limited, or Valcourt, Quebec, released their new line of motorcycles, better known as Can-Am. 1973 was the introductory year and it didn't take long for the "new kid on the block" to gather a strong following. For the time, the bikes were miles ahead of most other manufacturers in innovation and technology. There were two lines of bikes, the "MX" and "T'NT", both of which shared a lot of parts, but were meant for two different markets. 
    The MX was for closed course competition in motocross and in the early years, Can-Am's won their share of trophies and championships. The factory MX team was made up of Gary Jones, Marty Tripes, Jimmy Ellis, Buck Murphy, and the bikes had been developed by former mx champion Jeff Smith. The "T'NT" series stood for "Track'n'Trail", which was marketed as a do it all motorcycle. It looked like a street legal copy of the MX-1 slightly detuned, with trials tires, chrome plated steel wheels, and a much larger "street legal" exhaust pipe. This being said, one could have easily dumped the street legal hardware and swapped the trials tires for knobbies, and went racing on saturday. Because the bike had an adjustable steering stem, one could rake the forks in to 27 degrees, swapped the sprockets, and competed in observed trials, or rake them out to 31 degrees for desert racing. The bikes sported fenders and a fuel tank made of polyethylene. Both triple clamps, the chain guard, and number plates, were aluminum. Magura controls were used throughout, along with snail cam chain adjusters and Bosch or Typanuim cdi ignition system. air intake was through the rear fender, under the seat. Forks were by Betor and the carburetor was a bing. Basically, Bombardier sourced the best components available and mixed them with their in house produced parts, which included the chassis, swing arm, air box, seat, number plates, fenders, and fuel tank.
     The engine was designed and produced by Rotax of Austria, a Bombardier owned company, and was a  work of art in my opinion. Rotary disk valve two strokes fell out of favour in the late sixties, with the exception of Kawasaki. Rotax created a newly designed engine of this type, which met, and in many cases exceeded offerings of others, in terms of power and tourque. This engine lived on into the 1990's with ATK motorcycles. 
    Can-am models included: MX-1, MX-2, MX-3, MX-4, MX-5, MX-6, AND MX-6B, which ranged from 125cc to 400cc. T'NT 125, 175, AND 250. Qualifier 1, 2, 3, 4, 175, 250, 370, and 400cc. Fun machine in 125cc, ASE, and Sonic models, as well as trials models, and a street bike prototype which was never put into production. 
    While Can-Am began strong, with a good bike, motocross and enduro race teams, they failed to make the yearly changes to keep up with the competition. This was at a time when long travel suspension, followed by some form of single shock suspension, disk brakes, liquid cooled engines and power valves were becoming the norm. What they ended up with was an uncompetitive, antiquated motorcycle. They proceeded to pull out of racing and eventually Stopped producing motorcycles in Valcourt in the early 80's. Due to contractual obligations, they had Armstrong of England produce the ASE series and imported them. 1987 was the last year for the Can-Am marque. 
    Two decades later, Bombardier began producing a three wheeled motorcycle for road use, which was aimed at an age group who are old enough to remember the Can-Am name for what it was....performance, and so the name was revived, and is also used for their line of atv's. Below are pictures of some of the original Can-Am motorcycles from the 1970's and early 80's. For more in depth reading on Can-Am motorcycles you could check out the classic can-am website, or the canned ham website, both of which are excellent resources. 
 Can-Am MX-1


    Alouette was a Canadian manufacturer of snowmobiles from the 1960's through the 1970's. As with others in the snowmobile industry, Alouette needed another product for their dealers to sell and service during the summer months. Motorcycles, and especially dirt oriented motorcycles were all the rage at that time, so it seemed only natural to persue this market. 
    Introduced in 1973, the Alouette model AX-125 enduro hit the market, but failed to sell, and for several reasons. Limited production numbering 700 units were all that was built, all 125cc. Their dealer network was sparse compared to other brands. At the time, Can-Am was the hottest bike around, and was tearing up the tracks of North America. In addition to power and performance, just about any bike was styled better than the AX-125, whose looks were plain ugly. Alouette was purchased by Coleco in 1971, who in turn, discontinued Alouette in 1975. 
    The bikes were powered by the Sachs 125cc six speed "b" engine, which was nothing to brag about...just ask John Penton. The body work was of fiber glass, which was pretty much antiquated by this time. Motoplat ignitions, steel wheels, and questionable suspension components all made for an awkward looking package. Today they are a collectors item, and indeed, there are those who are dedicated to their preservation, which I think is great. Below are a few pics of the AX-125. 

Moto-Ski Moto-Skeeter

    Like Alouette, Moto-Ski was a Canadian snowmobile manufacturer. They were a division of Bouchard Industries, and were located at La Pocatiere, Quebec. They manufactured snowmobiles from 1964, to 1975. Bombardier purchased Moto-Ski in 1971, and moved production to their facilities in Valcourt, beginning in 1976. From 1976 until 1983, Moto-Ski were little more than rebadged Ski-Doo models. 
    Sometime before Bombardier moved production to Valcourt, Moto-ski marketed a mini bike through their dealers, called the Moto- Skeeter, likely to bolster sales and service of their dealers, during the off season. Not much is known of the bikes, and other than the few pictures posted below, I haven't been sucessful in unearthing any more information on them. My thoughts of why they chose a mini bike is that from the mid 1960, through the mid 1970's, mini bikes were a hot commodity, with literally hundreds of different manufacturers.