Automotive

Bizarre self-balancing 1967 Gyro-X car to be restored

Bizarre self-balancing 1967 Gy...
The 1967 gyroscopically-stabilized Gyro-X car is being restored by an auto museum
The 1967 gyroscopically-stabilized Gyro-X car is being restored by an auto museum
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A look under the Gyro-X's "hood"
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A look under the Gyro-X's "hood"
The 1967 gyroscopically-stabilized Gyro-X car is being restored by an auto museum
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The 1967 gyroscopically-stabilized Gyro-X car is being restored by an auto museum
Designer Alex Tremulis with the Gyro-X
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Designer Alex Tremulis with the Gyro-X
A design sketch of the Gyro-X
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A design sketch of the Gyro-X
The Gyro-X in the workshop
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The Gyro-X in the workshop
The Gyro-X under construction
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The Gyro-X under construction
One of the Gyro-X's outriggers
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One of the Gyro-X's outriggers
The Gyro-X beside a slightly less "unusual" car
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The Gyro-X beside a slightly less "unusual" car
A design sketch of a two-seater Gyro-X
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A design sketch of a two-seater Gyro-X
A design sketch of the Gyro-X
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A design sketch of the Gyro-X
Designer Alex Tremulis working on a clay model of the Gyro-X
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Designer Alex Tremulis working on a clay model of the Gyro-X

Back in 1967, California-based Gyro Transport Systems built a prototype vehicle known as the Gyro-X. The automobile had just two wheels, one in front and one in the back and, as the car’s name implies, it utilized a built-in gyroscope to remain upright when not moving. Although its developers hoped to take the Gyro-X into production, the company went bankrupt, and the one-and-only specimen of the car became an orphan. For much of the past 40-plus years, that car has passed from owner to owner, its condition deteriorating along the way. Now, it’s about to be restored to its former (weird) glory.

The single-seat Gyro-X was created by renowned industrial designer Alex Tremulis, who was contracted by Gyro Transport Systems. He had previously designed vehicles (the four-wheeled variety) for the likes of Cord Automobile, Duesenberg, General Motors, Tucker Car Corporation and Ford – where he worked as Chief of Advanced Styling.

According to an article in the September 1967 issue of Science & Mechanics, the finished car could reach a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), and could swoop through 40-degree banked turns without tipping. It weighed in at 1,850 pounds (839 kg), measured 47 inches (119 cm) in height, just 42 inches (107 cm) in width, and 15 feet, 5 inches (4.7 meters) in length. It rolled on two 15-inch wheels, and was powered by a small 80-horsepower engine.

Its single 20-inch hydraulically-driven gyroscope – developed by noted “gyrodynamist” Thomas O. Summers Jr. – spun at up to 6,000 rpm, creating 1,300 foot pounds (1,763 Nm) of torque. It did take approximately three minutes to build up to that speed, however, meaning that drivers couldn’t just get in and go. A set of training wheel-like retractable outriggers held the car up in the meantime.

The Gyro-X in the workshop
The Gyro-X in the workshop

While it isn’t known exactly what became of the Gyro-X immediately after Gyro Transport Systems closed its doors, the car was recently acquired by the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville ... and it’s seen better days. As can be seen in a YouTube video posted by Nevada-based past owner John Windsor, its gyro is long-since gone, and the car is now held up by added-on dual rear wheels. Windsor acquired the car in 2008, sold it to Texas-based auto collector Mark Brinker, who in turn sold it to the museum.

Tremulis would be turning 100 next January 23rd. In honor of his centenary, the museum has begun restoring the Gyro-X to like-new condition, in hopes of taking it to auto shows next year.

Part of the project will involve rebuilding its rear end, replacing the two back wheels with one, as per its original configuration. The missing gyroscope also has to be rebuilt from scratch. To handle that end of things, the museum has enlisted the services of Thrustcycle Enterprises – a company that is currently developing its own modern gyroscopically-stabilized two-wheeled vehicle, known as the SRT. Thrustcycle will also be tasked with rebuilding the controls and outriggers.

Designer Alex Tremulis with the Gyro-X
Designer Alex Tremulis with the Gyro-X

Experimental gyro cars have been around since at least 1914, and thanks to modern technology, we may yet see one reach production – along with the SRT, the Lit Motors C-1 is also currently in development. Still, given how long people have been dabbling with them, the question of why haven’t they ever caught on needs to be asked.

“The gyro people, their thing was that the cars were going to be narrower, they were going to take up half as much room – they’d be more fuel-efficient, they’d be safer because it would be very difficult to flip them over,” explained Jeff Lane, director of the Lane Motor Museum. “The ideas were good, but I think in reality the gyroscopic part of it was very complicated and fairly expensive ... it always works out on paper, but it doesn’t always work out in the workshop. It’s a very obscure, weird part of history, but it’s also a very interesting part of history.”

Some rare footage of the Gyro-X being driven can be seen in the video below.

All photos courtesy Steve Tremulis

Source: Thrustcycle Enterprises

Gyro-X

12 comments
Slowburn
I like gyro stabilized 2 wheelers but the designers need to understand that most people like to have there sweetie ride next to them and I have never met a wife that likes riding in the back seat.
jerryd
I don't like Gyro's because they are a too complicated fix for something that has far better solutions to. A 2wh vehicle nice feature is on curves you are not forced sideways and assuming a gyro can be made to really work, won't have this. Just either use one's feet or foot/other powered outrigger wheels solves the staying upright at stop problem. Adding gyro's to that gyro's need anyway just adds complication, weight, cost. Love the looks though a bit long for city use. I/m building a much shorter version Streamliner EV without gyro's which is a much better idea in every way. And I want my sweetie hugging my back feels much better than sitting beside you, No?
John Hagen-Brenner
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles has a 1913 Bi-Autogo made by Scripps-Booth... An outrageous steam punk two wheeler gyro stabilized monster.
Andrej Radoš
Peraves ecomobile and monotracer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA1YhFeWxR8
Scott in California
The reason the car failed to go into production was because Thomas O. Summers, Jr., used the same gyroscope technology that he invented for air-to-air missiles for the US military. The designs were considered "secret". The production of the gyro systems on a mass scale would allow the Commies (i.e. the USSR and Red China) to "catch up" and copy the secret gyroscope designs used by the US military. Alex Tremulis was directly stopped from producing the car by the US military!! I remember buying the magazine that featured a test drive narrative. It was a great read.
michael_dowling
Hi Scott in California: Yes,I fondly remember that article,and still have the magazine around somewhere.I was going to chime in with the secret status of the gyro system,but you beat me to the punch. For jerryd: The gyro runs whenever the car is on,including at stop lights.
Leonard Foster Jr
Awesome !!!!
Slowburn
re; jerryd There is a difference between motorcycle and cars. Gyroscopes are simply heavy wheels spinning fast there is nothing particularly complicated about them except the physics of why gyroscopic progression happens. If you are using an electric drive system the gyroscopes can also be used as an energy storage system.
Myrtonos
Since it dates from the pre-digital era, it's basically medium tech in comparison to most vehicles and appliances mentioned on this site, I gather it does not, for example contain a single microprocessor.
Vicki Garrison
Hi everyone- I'm with Lane Motor Museum and we thank you for your interest in this project! We haven't really published much on it yet but will put more updates on our website as we're closer to completion. One note to "Scott in California"- the museum director Jeff Lane is interested in speaking with you to learn more about what you know. Could you contact me at marketing@lanemotormuseum.org so I can put you in touch with him? Thank you!