Owosso Motor Car Company Pulse

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This is an instance where I don't want to kick the hornet's nest.

I'm not worried about saying anything bad about the car, rather, saying something incorrect about it. Why? The owner's club is a little bit fanatic.

I read a few message boards and I'm by no means qualified to speak to the general mood or temperament of the Pulse community, but things do seem a little bit fanatic.

The registry—complete with VINs, owners, dealers bought from, engine number, colours, previous owners—is more extensive than anything I've seen, and this includes Ferrari owner registries! 

From the very first dealer meeting, when it was called the Litestar. via autocycles.org

From the very first dealer meeting, when it was called the Litestar. via autocycles.org

At this point I should say this particular vehicle—updated until production ended in 1990—was known under a few names. Originally designed by aircraft designer James R. "Jim" Bede, about 360 were made in total. Known as the Litestar and the Pulse, by 1985 Owosso Motor Car Company in Owosso, Michigan (about an hour and a half north west of Detroit) took over serial production of the "car."

If I left this to the community, now is the time I tell you that the Pulse is a GCRV—Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle—and that while its body resembles a high performance aircraft, it definitely drives like a sports car.

And you know that'd be complete bullshit.

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Truth is, with engines ranging from 450cc Hondamatic motorcycle engines to 1100cc Honda Goldwing engines (though engines from a number of manufacturers have been fitted), performance ranged from mild to warm. 

The earliest brochures quoted a 0-55 mph acceleration time of 6.7 seconds and "140+ mph" (225 km/h) top speed; with this you'd also get fuel economy in the range of 100+ mpg (less than 2.5 L/100km.)

But you know what? That's actually about the performance you'd get from it…except fuel economy, which is closer to 55 mpg (4.2 L/100km.) 

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Classified as a motorcycle in the U.S., its low weight of around 370 kg (820 lbs) and drag coefficient of 0.193 (nearly identical to the new Volkswagen XL-1) certainly helps the Pulse.

How's it made? Well, the motorcycle engine is slung out back, ahead of the rear wheel. In front of that sat the fuel tank, small passenger seat, driver's seat, and cockpit. (And a five-speed manual transmission, just in case you were wondering!)

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It's a tubular steel frame with fiberglass panels over top; the owner's club says it's "much larger than it appears in photographs," a line most often heard in personals ads and not something generally said about a car!

Did I mention there are outriggers? Those little wing things on the side have small wheels underneath to prevent the Pulse from toppling over at low speeds, and to aid stability at high speeds.

To me, this entire vehicle, club, design, execution should not really exist. It's an aircraft-inspired vehicle that pretty much works as advertised. The club seems quite fanatical, and is certainly the reason surviving examples are around today. They can get replacement canopies, help with engine swaps, upgrade aspects of the vehicle to improve comfort, you name it.

I want one. I feel like I can't fully understand the Pulse unless I drive one, and even then to get the full effect I probably should be baptized into the Ground Cruising Recreational Vehicle family.

Sources / Recommended reading