For enduro fans of a certain age in the UK the name Pete Plummer needs no introduction. As one of the founders of Trials and Motocross News in 1977, writing “Checkpoint- Pete Plummer’s Enduro Column”, while writing ‘On the trail with Pete Plummer’ for Motor Cycle News, Pete was also instrumental in bringing Can-Am to the UK.In Pete’s own words, the story Can-Ams coming to the UK goes something like this:.
Despite working for Andover Norton I personally raised the money to bring the bikes into the UK by pre selling the bikes to my bike dealer mates as Dennis Poore would not make the money available. He did however come to Thruxton to see my first UK test day but he didn’t get out of his car ! I personally registered Can-Am UK Ltd but eventually gave it to Alan Clews (of CCM/Armstrong).
The Can-Am job was my baby. I used to collect them from the docks, take them out of the crates on the dockside (‘cause they wouldn’t go in the van crated up) and bring them home. I would assemble them in the street outside my house and park them in the garden. Wendy, my late wife, was always saying “I’m sick of this, all the neighbours have flowers in their garden and I’ve got bloody orange motorbikes”.
I had the 175 Q2 and a 370 Q2 as demonstrators. I rode the 370 and I carried the 175 round in my Transit van as a taster for pre selling the Q3s I was bringing in. I sold the 175 off the stand at the Dirt Bike Show to my best mate Dave Jackson. Some years later he wanted a little road bike with proper lights so I swapped a KE175 for the Can Am for my son Dave who was 17. At 17 here you could only ride a 125 so I sent the log book off and reregistered it as a 125 although of course it’s still 175cc. I live near Milton Keynes and Dave Jackson who lives in Yorkshire 130 miles away came to stay last weekend. See – despite selling him the Can-Am were still mates 33 years later!
I think we only brought in 2 MX6s a 125 and a 250. I converted the 125MX6 into a pukka enduro bike for my office girl who wanted to actually ride a Can-Am off-road rather than just be a blonde dolly bird chatting up the blokes at the shows. We also brought in some big plastic tanks which fitted round the fork legs which looked great.
I prepared my 370 for Jeff Smith to ride at a twin-shock scramble when he came over. That was the week he did the deal with Alan Clews for Armstrong to take over production. Although a director of Andover Norton I was kept in the dark until I was called in and was told ” thanks ever so much Plum, you’ve done a fantastic job and we couldn’t have done it without you. Unfortunately we will have to make you redundant and as a director you are not entitled to redundancy money.’ I did however walk away with my car as a gift and a brand new office typewriter I swiped off a desk (my word it was heavy).
I can’t remember how many we imported but in 81/ 82 the best selling enduro bikes were Yamaha IT, Suzuki PE, Can-Am Q3, Kawasaki KDX.
At that time we also had SWM, Moto Gori, Moto Aspes etc here. There was just one Gilera and that was ridden by Peter Duke, Geoff’s son.
You will be amused to learn that when I started the British Enduro Championships I included a 350 class just so I could enter (and win the class) with the five speed 280 with numerous good clubman riders aboard. That’s gamesmanship surely! .
And yes Peter still owned the 1979 175Q2………………..well he did until early 2014 when I bought the bike. As a 5oth birthday present to myself I asked Ady Kent to build me the ultimate Vinduro bike (well one that I was capable of riding!).
The midlife crisis demanded something different, so the custom seat, black wheels, MX plastics on a Qualifier, SWM headlight and the other modifications gave me a unique bike. Soon to be seen being thrown down the track at the next vintage enduro event!
Can-Am’s Under Armstrong
A little more insight about the manufacturing of Can-Am’ under Armstrong (’83-’87) can be found in this 1986 article from Classic Mechanics magazine. In less than 12 months after this article was published, Armstrong and the original Can-Am bikes became history.