Can-Am Sonic / Sabre


Although development of new Can-Ams was severally diminished after 1976, they eventually saw the need to develop the model line. With the increasing popularity of 4 strokes, and stringent environmental legislation, Rotax developed a 4 stroke engine that was designed into a new endure frame. Dubbed the Sonic, it was Can-Am’s first attempt at four stroke bike.

The general design of the Sonic originated with the movement of Can-Am manufacturing to England with Armstrong-CCM.

Armstrong was already manufacturing the MT500 military bike – 500cc four stroke bike that used the Rotax engine. These bikes originated from the Italian SWM Tornado in the early 1980s, in an attempt to make a street-legal model to go with their competition line-up. It was also developed in a military version, but the firm was in financial trouble and, in the collapse, the design went to Armstrong-CCM.

Can-Am_Sonic_2 LR

Sonic Spec Sheet

Sonic brochure LR

Sonic Mag Ad


The Sabre was to be the next version of the Sonic, but can best be described as the bike that never was. Ronnie Mathews rode a prototype of the bike in 1980 ISDT in France, but very few other examples exist.  Ronnies bike still exists and remains in France with a collector.

In a recent email exchange with Steve Brand, he commented ” I recall vividly the bark of the bike echoing through the woods around Brioude, France at the 1980 ISDT, as the tough and scrappy Ronny, and his big, kick-ass proto 500 thumper, approached my check each day. As I recall, the Sonic 500 was to be called the Sabre, until Honda “outbid” us for the name. I recall the swing out head light pod on the enduro protos that revealed a tool kit and storage area – very Quebecois snowmo’esque”

Fabrice Quitard of France was lucky enough to see that Sabre in action at the 1980 ISDT and supplied the photos below:

The jersey worn by Ronnie Mathews is now part of Al Roberts collection in Texas:

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