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.
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: