Garelli Mini Bike
Before Can-Am, Bombardier touched its toe into the bike market by rebadging European manufacturers as Bombardier products. Whilst there is very little published information about the early days of Can-Am , the history of how Bombardier developed a mini-bike is well recorded due to some rather ugly legal proceedings.
According the published legal notes surrounding the court cases, the story goes something like this:
Bombardier was interested in developing a summertime product which its extensive distributor and dealer network could market during the off seasons. Starting in 1969, it began to explore the possibility of entering the minicycle market and developed a minibike called the “Fun-Doo.” However, since Bombardier was not entirely satisfied that the Fun-Doo would do well in the marketplace because of the type of transmission it had, Bombardier in 1970 corresponded with Czech, Taiwanese and Japanese manufacturers with the aim of arranging the foreign manufacture of minicycles for Bombardier. In August, 1970, Agrati met with Bombardier in Canada and discussed various proposals for the distribution and/or manufacture of minicycles. During this meeting, Bombardier informed Agrati that a decision would have to be reached quickly otherwise, Bombardier would consider manufacturing a product of its own.
On September 13, 1970, Bombardier and Agrati (who owned the Garelli brand) entered into an agreement. In return for Bombardier’s abandoning the manufacturing and selling of its own ‘Fun-Doo’ minicycle, Agrati agreed not to manufacture or sell a new 50-100 cc motorcycles. This meant that Agrati would have to terminate its exclusive distribution agreement with Engine Specialties and to grant Bombardier exclusive distribution rights for Agrati’s ‘Broncco’ minicycle in North America.
Engine Specialties were the then current North American distributor for Agarti and who had contracted with Agrati for them to manufacture and sell mini-cycles to ESI for distribution under ESI’s trade name “Bronco.” Under the new agreement Engine Specialties effectively had its business wiped out in a single stroke. Not willing to accept this, Engine Specialties headed to the courts for resolution. Although mini-bike seems like small business, the court records show that Engine Specialties had sold more that $130,000 worth of bike in Massachusetts alone in 1970. At $350 average cost for a bikes that’s 370 bikes! Incidentally Bombardier sold $5.2m of Ski-Doo’s in the same state and time period
The case was heard by the courts on 03 November 1971 and Engine Specialties gain a court injunction again Bombardier and Agrati causing the distribution and selling of the mini-bikes to cease. So in less than 9 months Bombardier’s first foray into bikes ended up in a rather messy legal case that would take nearly 10 years to sort. The injunction may also explain why the mini-bikes appear in abundance in Australia. With a ban in North America, did Agrati dump the stock in Australia?
Jeff Smith had told me previously that in November ’71 he got a call from Bombardier wanting him to join a team to develop a new MX bike at a record pace. Can-Am was born
And if anyone know what a Fun-Doo looks like I would love to see a photo. And if you have an actual Fun Doo, the cheque book is waiting………………….
Gary Scott, one of the original Can-Am development engineers, recently told me that a considerable number were originally sold in Hawaii as tourist rentals!
Garelli Junior Cross article – possibly the first press regarding Bombardier entering the motorcycle business
Puch Mopeds were also imported and rebranded.
Existing now only in small numbers, the only place I’ve ever seen them surface is in Australia. And no I don’t know why!