Rare Rides: The 1986 Pulse Litestar Autocycle, Michigan's Finest

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride is technically our first ever motorcycle, even though it has four wheels. Called the Pulse, it kind of looks like someone cut the wings off a small plane.

Designed in Michigan and with a fiberglass body built in Iowa, the Litestar (later Pulse) was the sole product of the Owosso Motor Car Company. Owosso was founded by David Vaughn late in 1984 and was named after the city in which it was headquartered.

The complete name of Owosso’s car was Litestar GCRV, or Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle. Technically a two-wheeled motorcycle, the Litestar featured two additional outrigger wheels, one at either side, that acted to provide balance when standing still or in a turn. Litestar’s overall length was 192 inches, with a width of 76 inches and an overall height of 54 inches. Two passengers sat in tandem inside the sliding plastic canopy of the Litestar, protected from the elements but probably quite hot on summer days. Given its lightweight fiberglass construction, the whole vehicle weighed just 1,000 pounds.

Though compliant with US federal regulations as a motorcycle, various states took issue with the Litestar. It was a motorcycle with a covered headlamp and (initially) no reverse gear, two big problems in New Jersey. There were also some apparent quality problems. 27 states in total have been willing to license a Litestar or Pulse.

Two different motorcycle engines were used in the Litestar, of 1,100 or 1,200 ccs in displacement and around 85 horsepower. All transmissions were five-speed and manual. The motorcycle mill meant a top speed of 130 miles per hour and 0 to 60 time of about 6.7 seconds.

Shortly after the Litestar entered production in 1985, Owosso founder David Vaughn found himself in several disagreements with the supplier of its bodies, Tomorrow Corp. Vaughn and Tomorrow had worked together for some time on a (similar looking) super-efficient autocycle concept called the BD 200 that never got off the ground. The two companies severed ties and Vaughn renamed the Litestar to Pulse in July 1985 – just 21 completed vehicles ever wore Litestar branding. Despite the almost immediate renaming, the autocycle became commonly known as the Pulse Litestar. The Pulse continued in production all the way through 1990, with a total run of roughly 347 examples.

Today’s tidy red Rare Ride was sold at Mecum in 2018 and featured a 1,100-cc BMW engine with a four-speed manual swap, and disc brakes. It was estimated to fetch between $25,000 and $35,000.

[Images: Owosso Motors, YouTube]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Plaincraig Plaincraig on Oct 06, 2021

    My Dad had one in white. Goldwing water cooled engine 5 speed I think and AC. It had a reverse electric motor that would chew up the back tire if it was wet. You would pull a lever and a gear would drop on the rear tire and try to turn it. We did 120 in it and had no problems with the ride. Would get followed around a lot by people and cops. One of the local channels even did an interview with my Dad about it. Would meet lots of girls when my Dad let me take it out,lots more then when I drove the 76 LTD

  • Imagefont Imagefont on Oct 07, 2021

    I saw one of these about ten years ago in traffic in Dallas. It was painted red, white and blue and looked like a fighter jet. It had little mock air to air missiles added to the “wings”. My reaction was “what in the tar-nation is that?” I remember that it seemed very, very long and must have been a joy to park. Not to mention the derision and ridicule and loss of social stature!

  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)
  • 1995 SC I'm likely in the minority, but I really liked the last Eldorado best. That and the STS.