The jet-fighter car still rides

CNET Car Tech takes a look at the Pulse and Litestar vehicles from the 1980s.

Pulse and Litestar vehicles
This picture shows a collection of Pulse and Litestar vehicles. Litestar & Pulse Registry

While out testing a car for CNET Car Tech Monday, we ran across what looked like a grounded jet, its sleek red fuselage capped by a full canopy. On closer inspection, the wheels holding it off the pavement weren't landing gear, but its means of motivation, the wings being too stubby for actual flight. For this reason, maybe it should have been called the Penguin, but the owner of the vehicle, which we spotted in a parking lot, informed us the grounded flier was called a Pulse, the second generation of a vehicle first put on the road in 1982 as the Litestar.

The Litestar used a two-stroke motorcycle engine and was surrounded by the body of a BD-5, a small aircraft from the early 1970s. It was purported to get 100 mpg, but didn't have enough power to be practical. The Litestar was upgraded to use the 1,200cc engine from a Honda Goldwing motorcycle, and renamed the Pulse. The owner of the one we encountered claimed 60 to 70 mpg. Although it has four wheels, only three are in contact with the ground at any given time, so it qualifies as a motorcycle in many states.

Falling under the general category of autocycle, the Pulse we encountered had its five minutes of fame in the Wim Wenders movie "Until the End of the World," appearing in a scene shot in San Francisco's North Beach.

Here is a video about the BD-5j, a jet version of the original airplane that was famously flown by James Bond in the movie "Octopussy."

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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