The 1986 Pulse Litestar Autocycle, Michigan’s Finest


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]

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