The Most Fun You Can Have…Dressed!
There’s one a few blocks from where we live in L.A. Yellow, raucous, a cacophony of sound rolling down the road. A happier looking vehicle would be hard to find in the warm climate of Southern California. That look was a part of what I wanted growing up in the 60’s, fascinated by anything far away from a cold Chicago upbringing.
Unheard of in my youth, the man that was a legend long before my surfer girl fixation arrived, Bruce Meyers, inventory of the dune buggy, passed away in 2021 at the age of 94, but not before ramming one hell of a lot of living into those well spent years. I stood quite close to Bruce, during press days at the L.A Auto Show five or six years ago. I knew who he was through the murmurs in the crowd. Surrounded by old friends, well-wishers, and Old Red. Bruce was smiling ear to ear. My guess is, he died that way, too.
Bruce took his exceptional boat building skills to fuse body, frame and fenders into a tiny recreational vehicle, originally built for desert racing, but quickly became a street machine beloved by surfers and sun aficionados up and down the west coast.
The concept was simple; chop off a healthy section of VW bug chassis, mold a tiny fiberglass body over that chassis, and hang a VW engine off the back in a fashion that would normally lead to questionable handling, with Porsches excepted. It turned out to be a winning combination of lightweight body meets marginal horsepower, with literally no need for weather protection other than a pair of sunglasses. Eventually, 6000 Manx’s were produced.
“It was a phenomenal success,” said Meyers. “Suddenly everybody wanted this happy little car. It’s a visualization of friendship and love.”
The original Meyer’s Manx was equipped with 1.2-1.6 liter VW engine but variations were immediate, and as we say, there’s no substitute for cubic inches. Hence what most point to as the ultimate engine when Steve McQueen hung a much massaged Corvair engine on the back of his dune buggy in original The Thomas Crown Affair, pushing out somewhere around 200 HP
In 2020, McQueen’s Manx was sold at auction for $450,000, obviously increased by the owner’s affiliation and that very special engine. You can still find an original Manx for a tenth of that, but the prices are only on the way up. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) also featured the Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder that McQueen later when on to own.
Most know of the Meyers Manx dune buggy, but few know that Meyers was in love with off-road racing. He and a bunch of friends decided that a race prepared VW Bug could beat a motorcycle in a race across the desert, resulting in what later came to be known as the Baja 1000.
The Manx logo features a cat as the shortened framed dune buggy reminded him of the stubby breed of Manx cat. Actually, it reminded his wife of a cat as she came up with the name.
If you took everything that is pure Southern California—surfing, sailing, the beach, some guitar playing, blond hair, the Laguna Beach Arts Festival, even large portions of neighboring Baja, California, Mexico—and poured it all into a huge cultural Cuisinart, out would come Bruce Meyers, driving a Manx. —-Autoweek
At the L.A. Auto Show last year, the newest version of the beloved little machine, the MANX 2.0, was on display, now electrified. with 200 hp, 2 electric motors, 300 mile range. A simple concept became a phenomenon, as recognizable as the original, certainly better for the planet’s health.