American Motorcycles Gallery
The machine now known as the Armstrong motorcycle was originally developed by SWM of Italy who won several trials championships, including two world championships, before going into liquidation in 1984. Armstrong of Bolton, England, acquired the rights to the SWM XN Tornado, a Rotax engined enduro machine of 350cc or 506cc, and developed it into the Armstrong MT500 accepted for use by the British Army who used it in the Falklands. Limited numbers were supplied to Jordanian and Canadian forces. Total production did not exceed 3000, of which fewer than 100 are believed to have had electric start.
For Sale May 2001

Here is a unique opportunity for Harley, military and dirt bike and multi-purpose bike collectors alike. The very first Harley-Armstrong all purpose cross country machine made for the Canadian Military. In case you did not know Harley bought the Armstrong company in 1986 in order to have access to these fabulous machines which acquitted themselves with honours with the British army in the Falklands campaign and were subsequently used in the Gulf war and Kosovo. 

American Motorcycles Gallery

You can still purchase a brand new model of this ilk at your Harley dealer although they are made in only very limited numbers for public consumption. 

This particular bike was purchased by me in 1995 as a group of several which were auctioned off by the Canadian government. I chose to hold on to this one because of the 0001 serial number as in all my years of collecting I had never owned a prototype much less seen such a number. Mind you the Canadian Army only had 84 or so of these. 

Most of these machines were not cosmetically pristine in spite of their low mileage although 0001 is above average in that respect. The engine # is approximately 300 digits above the frame # tag and I am not sure if that is an anomaly or not. All of the old TRW Triumph side valve military motorcycles that the Canadian Government auctioned off years ago came with a spare engine. The fact that only the Canadian bikes had electric start in 1986 and that only 84 were made would seem to substantiate this. Therefore, I would presume it was the same case with the Harleys. 

As you can well imagine, the military are notoriously hard on their machinery. Only the Canadian bikes were equipped with electric start , their English brethren relegated to being ankle twisters. I have ridden this machine only sporadically and the odometer indicates a mere 3200 miles which reminds me of the fact that all of the other Canadian units were equipped with speedos calibrated in Kilometres, something else unique for 0001 and a blessing for potential American owners. The bike runs very well although there is a trace of blue smoke, nothing excessive but I suspect it could use rings as it sat in storage for 9 years at Canadian Defence. Another of these that I sold locally was seized from sitting and the gentleman that purchased it found that the rings were the culprit, something easily rectified as Rotax engines are used in many other machines as well (e.g. BMW). The big bonus to the successful bidder is the multitude of spares that go with the bike including a near complete rolling chassis! Many of these machines were purchased solely for their robust Rotax OHC 4 valve engines which Harley and privateers alike favour for their flat track racers. As a matter of fact, rumour has it that that was one of Harley's main motivations for buying the company -- instant access to an unburstable design, which they are now wringing a reputed 85 horses out of in racing trim. 

In fact the whole design of the motorcycle is somewhat illustrious as it was world champion SWM Company's chassis that Armstrong uses. Getting back to the spares, I would estimate many many thousands of dollars worth of new old stock and excellent used. There is a brand new flywheel magneto/alternator (the bike is designed to be rideable with no battery) brand new seat, new brake shoes, cables, one shock, 1 fork slider, carb bodies, cables, electrical components, kick and shift levers, hand levers, lights, engine covers etc. etc. (I have only seen one of these Rotax engines apart and believe me they are a work of art, lots of precision cast magnesium, 4 valve overhead cam etc.) I don't have a detailed inventory but everything goes with the bike for the one final price. Also included is a copy of the original workshop manual and parts catalogue, a rider's handbook, and photos of possibly this machine taken at a Canadian Forces base, a copy of the original invoice from the Canadian Government and the current Ontario ownership papers with which a US Title should be easy to obtain.

Contact Barry William Brown oldmillxxx@rideau.net for more information. (remove the x's)

 Armstrong MT 500 Specifications


  • Acceleration : 0-100k.m.p.h (60 m.p.h.)
  • Max speed : 150 k.p.h. (93 m.p.h. )
  • Braking distance : 50-0k m.p.h. to rest 13.1m 
  • Turning circle : 4.25m  (14ft) 
  • Minimum constant speed : 3/5 m.p.h. (5/8 k.p.h.) 
  • Water crossing : 0.5m (20 inches)
  • Fuel consumption : 53m.p.g. 
  • Range : 150miles approx
  • Dry unladen weight : = 161 kg (354lbs)  42%front, 52%rear 
  • Kerbside Weight unladen Fully Fueled: 170kg (375lbs) 
  • Max. width : Across handlebar : 835mm 
  • Max. length : 2140mm
  • Wheel base : 1445mm
  • Ground clearance : 220mm (8.6 in)
  • Fuel : Low octane (2 star) petrol 
  • Fuel Capacity :  13 liters  ( 2.85Gal) 
  • Oil Capacity :  3.2ltrs  (0.7Gal)
  • Type : Air-cooled single cylinder four stroke single overhead Cam 
  • Displacement : 481.3cc
  • Bore & Stroke:  89mm x 77.4mm   (Rotax normal stroke is 79.4mm) 
  • Power : 32 B.h.p @ 6200 RPM
  • Torque : 38 Nm @ 5500 RPM 
  • Ignition : Solid state, auto advance, independent of alternator/battery system 
  • Lubrication : Pressure feed to engine and g/box. Dry sump with integral filter 
  • Carburettor:  30mm Amal
  • Air Filtration : Large paper element
  • Gearbox : Five speed integral with engine operating through multiplate wet clutch
  • Transmission :  "O" ring chain running on hardened steel sprockets 5/8" x 1/4", 17/47


  • Battery : 12 volt 5 Amp/Hr       14A/hr battery 
  • Alternator : 190 Watt 3 pole 
  • Headlight : Main beam/Dip 45/40 Watt. Park light 5W
  • Rearlight : Tail light 4W  5W. Stop light 10W (operated by front or rear brake) 
  • Direction Indicators : Front and rear 21W
  • Frame : Welded steel box section, oil carrying with sealed taper roller steering bearings 
  • Sub frame : Welded steel tubular section bolted to main frame 
  • Swing Arm : Welded steel box section with sealed needle roller pivot bearings and cam type chain adjustment
  • Sump Protection : Pressed steel 
  • Seat : Single seat (emergency pillion rider capacity)
  • Forks : Marzocchi conventional
  • Dampers : Ohlins
  • Wheels :  Front 21" (90-90 41.54S) Rear 18" (400x18-64R) - Akront spoked rims.
  • Brakes : 140mm front & rear drums
  • M. & C. Motorcycles of 110 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2 are parts suppliers for Armstrong and Can-Am Bombardier ex-military motorcycles.

    Some of the information on this page is from http://www.euro-auto.freeserve.co.uk/index.html

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