In late 1976, Can-Am released an updated model to their successful MX and TnT which attempted to capitalise on their competition success. This second series MX bike – the MX-3 included key developments in suspension, with Can-Am following the trend with laid down shocks and greater fork travel. Marzocchi forks replaced the Betor at the front, with an extended swing arm at the rear, improved overall suspension travel.
The 250 model of the MX-3 was known as the Black Widow. The bike produced over 35bhp, with the small tubular frame and swing arm struggling to handle the power. Produced for a single year, it remains one the most sought after collector models.
Models generally progressed with the MX 4 and MX 5, with the latter becoming the third series of dirt bikes.
In 1980 Cycle World magazine chose the MX6 as their 250 bike of the year, stating: “With the 250 MX-6, Can-Am has done more than hold their own against the market leaders. Yellow, red and green machines may dominate motocross start lines across the country–and maybe even finish lines–but not because they hold a performance advantage on the Can-Am. The MX-6 has the best engine in it’s class; It handles as well as any of the competitors and better than most. It’s blemishes are few, the most serious being its tender clutch. If you decide to go with the orange machine, it will be an act of defiance, but it will be calculated act with a predictable result: Winning”
The one thing that Can-Am’s are characterised for are their power coupled with vague controls. This was summarised by Popular Cycling when reviewing the MX-2 giving the bike 10/10 for power, powerband and acceleration, and a further 10/10 for general handling, but limited the scores to 4/10 for suspension, braking and rider comfort.
The last MX model was the MX-7. Largely an update of the MX-6, this model was developed in late 1982 just as Can-AM was coming to an end in Quebec and transferring to England under Armstrong/CCM. It was never put into production and very few examples of the bike are known to exist.
The Legend of the Black Widow
The MX-3 250 is known as the Black Widow, but you won’t find that name on any sales brochures. The reason why goes something like this:
The MX-3 was produced at a time when the thought of making bikes was already starting to wane at Bombardier. The bike was built on limited budget, as Bombardier had refused to invest the money in a new chassis. Laying the shocks down has already been tried by other makes and in a desperate try to keep up with the ‘70’s suspension chassis race, Can-Am followed suit.
In the early test stages Jeff Smith reportedly looped the bike and refused to ride it. Jimmy Ellis tried and after a hair raising practice session in which a spectator was serious hurt, declared the bike “a black widow” – meaning it was lethal. Unfortunately the French Canadians took the declaration as a seal of approval (assuming Jimmy meant the word as an antonym) and commissioned special decals for the rear fender. But the American dealers took exception to them and stripped off the decals, with Bombardier being forced to issue a recall notice to remove them.
But by then, the name had stuck. The Black Widow is now the most desirable of any collection. And yes it’s still as lethal to ride!
Original Sales Brochures and Spec Sheets:
One of the most legendary MX bikes is the GP 250, a factory replica of the Can-Am MX works bike. The truth about these bikes is a lot simplier than the myths. They were basically a standard MX 250, but with a number of components lightened – such as drilled clutch basket and with a six plate clutch. However most other aspects of the bike are the same as the standard MX 250.
A copy of the Cycle magazine article on the GP 250:
Neil from Calgary Alberta got to be one of the luckiest Can-Am fans. He recently unearthed an original GP 250, with matching engine and with all its correct features. Neil went out expecting to buy a TnT, and believed that’s what he had. It’s only when he got back home and checked the serial numbers did he realise what he bought. The bike was located in the middle of British Columbia and bears the production number 42.