It's a plane! It's a bike! It's...only 400cc?
With a little imagination, you can do an awful lot of things with a motorcycle engine. Just ask all the people who’ve stuffed Hayabusa lumps into unsuspecting classic Minis. One moment, they were presumably just your average classic automotive symbol of all things British. The next, they've become these insanely hopped-up roller skates that will race you on a quarter mile for a Cadbury Flake and a pint.
I’m not here to talk to you about a bonkers Hayabusa-engined four-wheeler today, though. Do you have a moment to talk about the Pulse Autocycle? Good, I’m glad, because this thing might be even more bonkers, if that’s even possible.
Gallery: 1987 Pulse Autocycle
It started—as so many interesting things do—in the mind of an aircraft designer. Jim Bede might be best known to non-aircraft fanatics for creating the BD-5, which showed up in the James Bond film Octopussy. BD-5 and BD-4 aircraft kits were Bede’s dream of making affordable DIY kits that people could assemble at home. Unfortunately, that particular dream ended when his company went bankrupt in 1975.
Bede wasn’t out of ideas, though. Only a short time later, he created the Litestar Autocycle, of which only around 40 were ever made. That initial version started production in 1980. However, an additional 325 Autocycles were made under the Pulse name, after Bede sold the design to Ed Butcher and his Owosso Motor Car Company. If you read up on this quirky chapter of motoring history, you’ll find both these names inextricably linked with the Autocycle, as a result.
As for the actual vehicles: They look like bizarre, tiny aircraft—but they roll on the ground. Also, every single one of them is powered by a motorcycle engine. The most common one used was, in fact, an air-cooled 400cc Yamaha DOHC mill. Some others were powered by 450cc Honda engines, and additional ones were powered by various-displacement Gold Wing engines, in their post-Yamaha run.
For the most part, Autocycles are enclosed motorcycles—the winglets act as outriggers to help you turn. As a result, two wheels are on the ground at all times, and a third touches down briefly whenever you make a turn. You use a wheel to steer, like a car—and it can seat two, with the passenger sitting behind the driver in the cockpit.
According to Bike-urious, all the ones that Owosso built had five-speed gearboxes that also had a reverse gear. You’d probably need it, considering that an Autocycle also weighs around 1,000 pounds. Production ceased when Owosso went out of business in 1990, but these bizarre creations occasionally pop up for sale every once in awhile. A 1986 one in beautiful shape went for over $40K at Mecum in 2014, but prices vary widely based on condition.
The 1987 400cc Yamaha-engined example you see in the photos above is available on eBay right now, with a buy-it-now price of $44,900. It’s in pretty good shape, only has 37,112 miles on the clock, and runs smoothly—as you can see in the video.
According to the listing, this seller is accepting offers, and the current listing ends on September 28, 2019. It’s located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the seller is happy to ship it if you need this oddity in your garage.