- The Gyro-X is a two-wheeled prototype car from 1967.
- The vehicle uses a gyroscope under its hood to balance on two wheels.
- At the time, it was believed by its developers to be the future of transportation.
This is the Lane Motor Museum, home of the one and only Gyro-X. The Gyro-X is a two-wheeled prototype vehicle. Developed in the 1960s, it was proposed as a solution for the future of transportation. The car balances on two wheels through the use of a gyroscope under its hood. A gyroscope is a device consisting of a rapidly spinning wheel or disk mounted so that its axis can turn freely in all directions. As the axis turns the wheel remains stationary. Gyroscopes can be used for measuring and maintaining orientation.
Jeff Lane: So the car was developed in 1966 and 1967 by two very famous people, Tom Summers and Alex Tremulis.
Alex Tremulis was a car designer well known for his work as Ford’s styling director. Thomas Summers was a gyroscope expert who had integrated the technology into missile navigation systems during World War II.
Jeff Lane: They both lived in the LA area and they became kind of friends. And they were always interested in developing a gyroscopically balanced car. So in ’66 and ’67 they got about three quarters of a million dollars together from investors to develop this car.
The duo believed the Gyro-X could solve many of the issues presented by cars at the time.
JeffLane: The car would be safer because it would be more stable. It wouldn’t skid. It wouldn’t slide. The car would also be more aerodynamic than a typical car of that era. Also it would be half the width of a normal car at that time and so you could put twice as many cars on existing roads.
Unfortunately, the Gyro-X was deemed unstable, a result of its complex engineering that was still years away from being perfected. Tremulis and Summers’ company Gyro Transport Systems would go bankrupt around 1970 before the vehicle ever reached production.
Jeff Lane: So the way the gyro works is it’s hydraulically driven off of the motor. So the motor sits right behind the front seat traversely. It’s a mini-motor. There’s a hydraulic pump that’s on the engine. Then there is a hydraulic pump inside the sphere of the gyro. So when the motor runs it produces hydraulic pressure that spins the gyro up. It’s a 17-inch flywheel. It weighs about 230 pounds. It spins inside of this sphere.
When Jeff acquired the car, it was a shell of its former self. It was even missing its gyroscope, so a third wheel had been added to balance it out.
Jeff Lane: We bought the car in 2011. A lot of the car was changed or just literally gone. So the car really needed a lot of work to be restored to what it was in 1967. It took six years. We knew from the beginning the most challenging part of doing the restoration would be building a gyro. We finally found a company from Italy that builds gyroscopes to stabilise large yachts from rocking when they’re on the ocean. I would say we’ve gotten it to work as well as it ever did. So we’ve decided we’re not going to drive it on public roads and we’re not going to drive it over 30 mph because we’ve figured out that to make the car go highway speeds you have to redesign the whole car. And because this is such a historic car we don’t want to destroy it and make it a car that it’s not. We’re trying to keep it close to what it was originally in 1967.