The Pulse Autocycle (earlier called Litestar) was the brainchild of Jim Bede, an American aircraft designer who specialised in kit planes. His aim had been to provide a small, easy to build aircraft for the general aviation market, which at the time (1960s) was priced out of the range of the average buyer. He wanted to provide a far cheaper alternative to something like a Cessna by eliminating labour costs. An ingenious proposition that was constantly hampered by his string of false starts and failed ventures. He eventually saw some success with the BD 4 in 1968 but soon found himself in financial trouble again.
It was in one such dry spell that Bede came up with the idea for the Pulse Autocycle. The contraption featured a heavily aircraft influenced design and given that it straddled the line between an automobile and a motorcycle, was aptly termed an ‘autocycle’.
Bede had sold his design to the Owosso Motor Car Company who manufactured the Pulse Autocycle between 1984 and 1990. A total of 347 units were built with the first 21 being sold under the Litestar name. The body resembled the fuselage of a jet aircraft with the two passengers sitting in tandem under a canopy. It was a two wheeler but also came with two outriggers, one on each side. These outriggers provided balance at rest or while turning, but were usually off the ground at all other times.
The vehicle had a welded steel tubing chassis sitting on air shock absorbers at the rear and specially designed spring-over front shocks. Power came from a variety of engines over the course of the production run: the early Litestars were fitted with a 450cc Honda unit with the later ones shifting to a 400cc Yamaha motor. Some versions were equipped with a potent 1200cc Honda Goldwing engine good for roughly 85 hp. This motor in combination with the Pulse’s highly aerodynamic shape and light weight meant that a 0 to 62mph (100kmph) time of 6.7s and 130mph (210kmph) were easily achievable. While not exactly a slouch in performance, many owners took it upon themselves to upgrade the driveline to install a variety of engines, like this one here that is fitted with an 1,100cc BMW liquid-cooled engine going on sale at Mecum’s Kissimmee as part of the Ray Hott collection.
All engines were mated to a 5 speed manual and disc brakes were standard on both wheels.
The car had a conventional car like 3 pedal/steering wheel layout with plush (for its time) interiors. It was also reasonably well equipped with custom upholstery, an AM/FM/cassette player and optional air conditioning. A choice of interior and trim detailing options were also available.
The Pulse’s long wheelbase, light weight and relative stability made it reasonable good to drive. This however was not enough to compensate for the odd ball styling and the Owosso Motor Car Company folded after production stopped in 1990.
An interesting fact about the Pulse Autocycle is that it is often seen in the backdrop of Marty McFly’s time travelling exploits in the second of the Back To The Future films. Nevertheless, this autocycle was a classic example of the wave of quasi – futuristic styling that took grip of the car industry in this period. But while seemingly being not a very serious option for anyone looking for a car, it also provided solutions to a lot of problems that were beginning to be associated with cars then and which are now being combated by both car firms and authorities on a large scale: namely congestion and efficiency. Photos: Mecum Auctions
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