Back when I was in my 30s I was big into Can-ams and Maicos even though I was a flat tracker. 45 years later I’m back into Can-am. I even have plans to start vintage MX racing next year at 75--we’ll see. $225 got me back in with a Craigslist ad showing this 1979 Qualifier. It’s in pieces but slowly coming back together. I’m rebuilding it as an 80 MX. Last year I bought a bunch of parts and from from Mark Schrapel in southern Minnesota-Mankato. From his parts I’m going to make a 1977 125MX spider which they never made. The frame and engine turned out to be a 1978 “Fun Bike.” I think it was a way for Bombardier to dump a bunch of pre-1979 parts before the new line came out.
I tell you this because getting parts is a challenge. This section of my site will be to 1) offer parts others don’t have, 2) share information I’ve learned, 3) give you a list of all the suppliers I am aware of and 4) do a photo series of my builds-which may give you ideas.
I have nothing to report because my attention is on building a Sportster into a Hooligan to go racing. AND building a Ski-Doo 600 MXZ for winter. And building a Briggs mini bike for racing too. AND finishing an ice boat. You know how it is don’tcha! I now know how few months of nice weather are left so the Can-ams are going to be winter projects
Can-am builder ideas
Making a pretty Can-am engine
Most of you guys rebuild a can-am to race and don’t give a hoot how the bike looks so long as it howls. The other bunch of you are the beautiful builder types who want a show bike. Then there the fringy minority who want to race with a stunning TNT, Qualifier of MX. I’m on the edge of the fringe with custom show/race builds.
If you get into the weeds enough that you are painting your cases here’s how to reveal the painted Bombardier embossed logos on the case sides.
- Use a cutting/polishing band like this on your grinding wheel. These parts are on the web-I get mine from McMaster-Carr. The idea is to cut through the scratches and leave a smooth top surface to the logo-with a power tool. If you don’t use this step, you’ll grind up an hour minimum, sanding down through paint, primer then into the metal going after the use-scratches. Use the blue fine band.
- Prep the metal for prime and paint. Paint all the case parts because you’ll go fruit loops trying to mask off the raised logo. There some trick new wet media blasting techniques that may reduce the post-blasting clean up to keep the crud from destroying you engine an hour after starting it for the first time.
- Mask around the logos with a couple layers of tape. If you don’t the sanding block will over-shoot and screw up the paint job.
- Wrap a sanding block with 320 wet/dry and water and attack the logos. Sand until they’re clear of paint and primer. If you have nicks and gouges-attack them with a pick. Re-sand with 600 w/d or finer if you are picky.
This case is for a custom 1977 MX/Qualifier hybrid built from a 1978 125 Can-am “Fun Bike” which nobody knows anything about. Bombardier used the “Fun Bike” to dump old parts prior to the new 1979 models.
Bypassing the oil injection system
The only good reason for trashing your oil injection system for pre-mix is you have a rusty-crusty frame oil tank. There is one important proviso however. The stock ignition side main bearing will have to be modified or replaced. The factory main bearing had a seal-like oil sling plate which was oil directing. That seal/bearing can be popped off. Replacement bearings will not come with this plate especially if you buy your bearings from the famous Tony Murphy at 661-944-1624 or email@example.com.
I guess you could leave the oil injection pump in place to act as a plug or remove it but it is easy to make an aluminum cover plate which plugs the drive gear passages. Do a little high temp silicone plug job where oil lines exited the outside cover to block dust/dirt or use a simple tube like above.
Well it looks like I start with the 1979 250 Qualifier which will re-enter life as a 1980 MX. That explains the light orange color. Not hard to do with the commonality of parts. The next mission is to rebuild the stand higher so I’m not bending over so much. When I drop the engine in you will be wowed because it is totally tricked out.
Here's an ad I did years ago when I was Omar's Dirt Track Racing. That 250 Can-am in dirt track trim had black screws and you could lay it over like a Russian speedway it stuck so good. I still sell dedicated ice fenders, but I redesigned them.
On the Question of Steering Angle
Magazine articles of the period reported Can-Am had a steering angle of 30°. Bombardier’s manuals from the time reported a frame head angle of 28° but bikes were sold with fork angles of 30°. This could only mean they were sold with a 2° offset cone kit.
I remember pulling a 1979 bike apart and it had standard non-offset bearing and the magazines said those bike had 30° fork angles. Something is fishy. The options are below. What are your thoughts?
- The frame head angles changed between 1976 and 1979
- The magazine reported 30° incorrectly
- Can-Am’s manuals were wrong
Make a Performance Rotary Valve on the Cheap
Let’s say you have a TNT and 1) want more poop or 2) you have a TNT or Qualifier that you want to get to MX performance. If want to move more fuel/air into you engine do this:
- Go to Canned-ham's technical documents page. You will find this photo of MX, Q and TNT valves.
- Increase the diameter of any valve to 4-7/8”.
- Print out the full-size photo. Trim around the photo and you have a template. You’ll have to cut out enough of the middle to line up the center teeth too.
- When the template lines up with your valve, mark the new cut line. Hint: The right side of all valves is the same so you are only futzing with the left side.
- Carefully cut along the new angle line with a grinder and finish the new edges.
This photo shows a real MX valve on the right. On the left is a TNT valve I changed to Q specs.
Note: This would be particularly helpful for 125 and 175 engines as they are so close and used the same pipes in most models. MX engines had additional changes like compression ratio, porting and pipeage. It ain’t all the valve.
Tuned Pipe Diagram & 175 Road Race Specs
I have other specs for the 125, 175, 200, 250 and I think the 280. I’ll post them bye and bye.
Can-am Friends List
There are so few of us “out there” that I am starting a Can-am friends list. If you stopped on this page I want your contact information so each person on the list has someone new to call for parts and information...or use the list to offer parts and bikes for sale. I am starting the process with this list below starting with dealers. Email your info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PO box 254
Cheyenne, WY 82003
Keith Almond [little bit of everything]
Can-am American Dirt Bike
2693 Cherokee Place
Norco, California 92860
Tony Murphy Rotax Inc. [Rotax distributor - Engine parts]
27701 Largo Vista Rd.
Valyermo, CA 93563
Al Roberts Can-Am
135 El Pinto
Lumberton Texas 77657
15612 Hwy 7, #238
Minnetonka, MN 55345
Cell 952-607- 6063 (12/7)
65 West Springfield Street
Frankfort, Ohio 45628
614 -593- 1954
719 293 1945
Eric has a ton of 74-79 C-A parts to sell. Call him first before going to eBay.