What is a Litestar or a Pulse?
Lets get the name settled first. There were about 366 of these things made between 1982 and 1990 in Scranton, Iowa and in Owosso Michigan. The original design was by Jim Bede who also designed the Bede line of airplanes. The first 40 were called Litestars. For business reasons, the name of this vehicle was then changed from Litestar to Pulse. About 325 vehicles were manufactured under the Pulse name. The Litestar/Pulse Registry has located about 100 of them by 2005. Where are the rest of them? Who knows?
A Pulse is a motorcycle. It rides on 2 main automotive type wheels and tires. It has a small 8-inch outrigger wheel on each side, so it actually has 4 wheels. Because it only has one of these outriggers in contact with the road at any time, it is classified in most states as a 3-wheel motorcycle. Its a fairly large vehicle with a 120-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 192 inches and weighs about 1,000 lbs. It seats 2 people, one in front of the other and has a small package shelf behind the passenger seat.
It has a either a ‘butterfly’ type steering wheel or a round steering wheel like a car, with clutch, brakes and gas pedals on the floor just like a car. It has windshield wipers, signal lights, and almost everything found on a normal car. The gear shift is located on the right armrest and shifts sequentially just like a motorcycle. First gear is straight back once and the other gears are found by pushing forward for each shift, just like a motorcycle. The brakes and master cylinder are automotive type. The fuel tank is in the rear and holds about 3 gallons.
It has a 6 inch dia. Steel tube as the main frame with a motorcycle engine and transmission in the rear. The front fork is a leading link design somewhat like an old BMW motorcycle. The body is fiberglass with a steel roll bar and plastic canopy. Most windshields are safety glass. A few early Litestars had plastic windshields.
The speedometer and tachometer are from the donor motorcycle. A gas gauge and voltmeter have been added.
Most Pulses came with a 400cc air-cooled Yamaha engine with 6 speeds and chain drive. Some came with a water-cooled Honda Goldwing engine with shaft drive. A few early Litestars had a Honda 450cc motorcycle engine. Some owners have removed the original motors and installed other more powerful engines from Suzuki, BMW, Kawasaki or Honda. One owner has installed an electric motor.
Whats it like to drive a Pulse?
The first thing you will notice is the steering. A Pulse has a very quick steering ratio. Mine is less than one turn, lock to lock. It feels like a fast go-cart. Dont mess with the radio and expect to keep going straight. It steers quick! The brakes are excellent. Nothing unusual about the clutch or gas pedal.
The fun starts when you make that first turn. A Pulse leans to the outside of a turn unlike a motorcycle. It feels a little strange at first but its not unpleasant or scary. A Pulse does not ride down the road on 2 wheels. It rides on the 2 main wheels and one outrigger wheel. When you change direction it will sort of flop over from one outrigger to the other in a gentle manner depending on how high the outriggers are set and how hard you move the steering wheel and how fast you are going. If the outrigger wheels are set about one inch off the ground at rest, this transition from one outrigger to the other is hardly noticeable. You cannot drive a Pulse without at least one outrigger in contact with the road.
Yamaha 400cc Engine.
This is the most common engine found in a Pulse. It has about 35hp and will reach about 100mph and get about 45mpg. It has a chain drive. It accelerates well and will keep up with most traffic. It is not overly powerful but if you keep the revs up it will move right along. The 400cc Pulse is somewhat prone to overheating in hot weather. Its air-cooled and the motor is enclosed in fiberglass instead of out in the open air as in the original motorcycle. Some owners have added fans or oil coolers to help to relieve this problem. In cool weather a 400cc Pulse will be fine but be aware of temperatures in the mid to high 90s.
The Yamaha 400cc engine is designed for a 300 lb motorcycle, not the 1000 lb + 2 passenger Pulse. Moving off from a start requires higher revs and a sensitive clutch foot, especially going uphill from a red light stop. Once you are rolling down the road its fine. Just keep the revs up in the horsepower band. Kind of like driving an older Porsche.
The 400cc Pulse is fine for everyday use such as back and forth to work short trips. Heavy stop and go traffic for more than 30 minutes may be difficult because of overheating. I drove mine 10 miles to work with no problems. Highway driving at high speeds is not a problem because of the increased air moving through the engine compartment for cooling, but be aware that at 70 mph the engine will be at 7000 rpm which is 70% of redline.
Some 400cc Pulses have reverse and some do not. The reverse gear is an electric device that engages the rear wheel directly with an electric motor.
Honda Goldwing Engine.
The Pulses with the Honda Goldwing engine are somewhat less common. The Goldwing engines range from 900ccs to around 1300ccs depending on the year and have between 85 and 120 hp. They are water-cooled 4 cylinder motors and get about 45 mpg. They are shaft drive instead of chain drive and quite smooth. The water-cooling takes care of the overheating problem found in the 400cc Pulse. They use the original Honda motorcycle rear wheel instead of the automotive type wheel and tire found on the 400cc Pulse
The Goldwing Pulses are much faster and do very well on long trips on the highway. The original Honda motorcycle weighs nearly as much as a Pulse so the clutch and gear ratios can handle the 1000 lb Pulse easily. Traffic is not a problem.
Some Goldwing Pulses have a reverse gear and some do not. Newer Honda Goldwings came with reverse so it depends on the year.
Several other engines have been installed in Pulses by their owners. The engine compartment area of a Pulse is made of welded 2 inch square tubing. Some installations use this tubing to mount the new engine and some do not. Some owners have essentially cut off the frame of the Pulse behind the rear seat. Then a donor motorcycle with the original rear wheel and exhaust is just welded or bolted to the rear of the Pulse and is covered by the fiberglass bodywork.
This is the usual method of mounting a Goldwing engine in a Pulse. There is one Litestar that has a BMW engine mounted this way. Almost any motorcycle can be used to power a Pulse in this manner. If this method is selected then its best to use a large, preferably water cooled motorcycle. This method also allows the use of a shaft drive motorcycle. An air-cooled motorcycle can be used but it will need extra care to provide adequate air flow for cooling.
Certain other motorcycle engines can be mounted without cutting the frame of the Pulse. I know of a Suzuki and 2 different Kawasaki engines that have been successfully used. These motors are installed using modified motor mounts. Accurate measurements of physical size and sprocket location are important when selecting any substitute motors. This method works best with a chain drive motorcycle.
There were about 347 of these made between 1985 and 1990 in Owosso Michigan by the Owosso Motor Car Company. The first 21 were called Litestars and then the name changed to Pulse. A Pulse is a motorcycle. It rides on 2 main wheels and has 2 outrigger wheels (one on each side). It is classified in most states as a 3 wheel motorcycle. It has a 123″ wheelbase and an overall length of 192″ X 76″ width X 54″ height and weighs about 1000 lbs.
The factory closed in 1990 and no parts are available from OMCC.
The PULSE is a “GCRV”, or Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle. This new term appropriately describes the PULSE because the vehicle has the performance and acceleration of a motorcycle engineered into a comfortable weatherproof vehicle with many of the attributes of an automobile. An alternate term for the PULSE is an “autocycle”.
Its body resembles a high performance jet aircraft, yet drives like a sports car. The exceptionally long wheel base provides unmatched stability and driving comfort for a vehicle of its weight, class and fuel economy. It seats two (tandem) and has almost six (6) cubic feet of storage space.
The PULSE has been designed to provide dependable, safe & economical transportation in a brand new form of fun machine. The 1989 model is powered by a water-cooled 1100cc motorcycle engine. The Pulse has driving controls like those in an automobile with a manual transmission.
Slide back the canopy and settle into the comfortable cockpit of the PULSE. The full instrumentation is neatly arranged, oil light and temperature gauges & tachometer. Punch the accelerator, you’re ready for take off working your way through the 5 gears as you slide effortlessly through the traffic or on an open freeway. The PULSE provides a driving experience unequalled in any other type of vehicle.
The PULSE is a two wheeled vehicle equipped with an additional two (2) wheels, located as outriggers, one on each side. The outrigger wheels provide balance for the vehicle when it is at rest or in a turn.
As the gyroscopic action of the main wheels increase the outriggers no longer bear weight. It is impossible to tell which outrigger is touching the ground until a turn is made if the air shocks are at the right pressure.
With no more than three (3) wheels in contact with the ground at any one time, the PULSE is considered a three (3) wheeled vehicle & is licensed as a motorcycle. In certain states a special category of license has been created, such as in Michigan, appropriate for the PULSE, an “autocycle.
The frame of the vehicle is constructed of welded steel tubing, which in turn is fitted into the fuselage “shell.” Steering is accomplished with a standard size wheel with a red PULSE logo in the center.
OMCC used to offer a 1100/1200cc four cylinder horizontally opposed water cooled motorcycle engine that featured a five (5) speed manual transmission coupled with shaft drive, using lead free gasoline. The 5 speed transmission and reverse gear allows the pilot of the vehicle to be in full control, using a ratchet type gear shift lever located in the right side panel.
The suspension is basically comprised of air shock absorbers mounted on rear and specially designed spring-over front shocks. The front tire is a 13″ automotive tire. The outrigger tires are smaller 8″ trailer tires. Brakes are located on the main wheels and are hydraulic disc giving the PULSE exceptionally short braking distances.
The body styling of the PULSE gives it a fantastic futuristic look, at the same time following form with function. The aerodynamic shape allows the vehicle to cut through the wind and results in unusually high fuel mileage and performance. The PULSE has ten (10) times less drag than a motorcycle and its rider. The body is also designed in such a way as to increase stability and directional control as speed increases. The drag coefficient is .193
All you need to know is how to drive a regular automobile with a manual transmission. Controls are quite conventional. The shift lever is mounted by your right hand. Floor pedals are for the clutch, brake and accelerator. The only driving aspect that differs from a car is that you drive with your body in the middle of the lane of traffic instead of to one side.
The driver of the PULSE does not lean into a turn as with a motorcycle or aircraft, but instead to the outside of the turn as you would expect in an automobile. This is most easily demonstrated in a low speed turn. At high speeds, such as when changing lanes, the PULSE seems simply to move sideways with almost no tilt at all.
The most outstanding performance characteristic is high fuel mileage. Owners report figures of 50-55 mpg when driving normal highway speeds. One customer claims 70 mpg using an oil additive to the gasoline. Test vehicles have achieved as high as 80 mpg under controlled conditions.
How safe is the PULSE? One clear answer is that the PULSE with two (2) roll-bars, front & rear, seatbelts & a steel inner frame construction over a much greater length than can be clearly shown in photographs, plus the outrigger wheels to prevent turnover of the vehicle at normal highway speeds, the PULSE is for certain the safest motorcycle on the road today. Crash-worthiness is probably comparable to that of a small car. On the plus side is the fact that the fibreglass body of the PULSE can absorb and dissipate energy. The roll bar can handle six (6) times the weight of the entire vehicle. With a carpeted (option) roll bar, you sit within the cockpit and pierce the landscape ahead. The size of the PULSE is difficult to imagine without seeing one. It is much larger than it appears in photographs.
You are required to have a motorcycle endorsement, a written test, on your regular automotive license. Requirements can vary from state to state. The PULSE is licensed in 27 states, all major market areas. Helmets are not required due to the roll-bar, canopy (equal to the strength of a helmet), and seat belts. The PULSE was designed to comply with USA Federal Regulations Title 49, Part 571.3 as a motorcycle. The license plate area is designed for a motorcycle plate and is placed directly under the rear taillight.
It is insured as a motorcycle. Rates vary from area to area.
In case of body damage, the parts were readily available through OMCC and/or a technician familiar with fibreglass repair procedures. All the parts are automotive and/or motorcycle, easily accessible through automotive part outlets.
Low pacer lets both side wheels touch down making a rougher ride and a tendency to slightly skid the side wheels on cornering.
To get to the battery, the rear part of the body and the gas tank have to be removed. Screws on canopy slides and body need to be checked occasionally for tightness.
The 1100/1200cc engine with 85 plus horsepower adds to the quick acceleration and passing speeds. Without definite test data at this time, you could be assured of speeds in excess of 130 mph.
Acceleration is brisk. 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.
Includes AM-FM radio/cassette, lighting, radar, custom upholstery, air conditioning, a windshield wiper and the PULSE provides a heater/defroster with fresh air vents and pop-up head light with dimmer.