On the Wings of Greatness: The Rise and Fall of the Owosso Pulse

By Will Burgess

If you’re familiar with the legacy of Jim Beade, you might recognize this as an Owosso Pulse, an “autocycle” built on one of a handful of sport motorcycle engines, typically Yamaha, Honda, or whatever was lying around at Beade’s Owosso, Mich Motorcar Company when production was underway.

Now considered a cult automotive icon, much like the 1948 Tucker Sedan, or even the Honda Motocompo, few of these vehicles were ever produced, approximating 350 in all.

Originally dubbed the “Litestar”, these kit vehicles resembling airplanes captured the hearts of many after appearing in popular media ranging from appearances in films like Back to the Future II.

Blink and you’ll miss it! That’s a Pulse zipping by the square in BTTF II | Back to the Future, 1989, Universal Studios

The vehicles themselves were typically powered by 1100cc engines which could produce well over 100 mph top speeds. Drivers (or pilots?) sat in a cockpit that was fully enclosed by an overhead latching glass “canopy” that slid into locking position.

The Pulse went on to inspire some other motorcycle kit autocycles like the Hudson Stinger, a “reverse trike” with a similar aerodynamic design and driven by Suzuki sportbike engines.

A Hudson Stinger owned by an enthusiast collector | credit: Will Burgess

The Owosso Motorcar Company folded in 1990, but it’s fun to imagine a future that might have been. Like Marty McFly stepping out of the DeLorean in 2015 to be greeted by one of these rocket ships cruising the streets, it calls upon a quote from a certain Doctor Emmet Brown: β€œThe way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

Cover: A 1985 Owosso Pulse looking cherry in this red paint scheme.

Will Burgess is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag

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