Bruce Meyers Sells His Namesake Dune Buggy-Building Company
Could the Meyers Max welcome an electric powertrain in the future?
The Meyers Manx is far from dead, and in fact, a new chapter in the life of the iconic off-road dune buggy kit car is beginning. Bruce Meyers, the designer of the Meyers Manx, has sold his company, Meyers Manx, Inc., to Trousdale Ventures; the production will be based out of Oceanside, California. Established in 1999 and located in Valley Center, California, Meyers Manx Inc. is actually a revival of Meyers' original company, B.F. Meyers & Co., which produced about 6,000 to 7,000 original Meyers Manx buggies in Fountain Valley, California from 1965 to 1971. The original company closed in 1971.
The original Meyers Manx, basically the granddaddy of the modern dune buggy and the quintessential machine of the 1960s, came about during that golden era when now-legendary off-roaders were pioneering the off-road racing sport by exploring the Baja peninsula. Apparently, as Bruce Meyers and his buddies plowed through the dunes and cruised the beaches of Pismo Beach, California in 1963 in a V-8-powered Plymouth sedan, Meyers spotted a Volkswagen Beetle (that had been whittled down to an engine, seat, and rollbar) gliding through the same dunes. Meyers busted out his sketch pad and created a lightweight fiberglass body to add a touch of comfort to what was otherwise a pretty bare-bone machine. And thus the Meyers Manx was born.
Bruce Meyers made about a dozen early prototypes out of his garage in Newport Beach, California between 1963 and 1964. These prototypes were shortened Volkswagen Beetles with monocoque, fiberglass unibody shells that hid the Bug's underpinnings. Unfortunately, these early monocoque prototypes proved too expensive for mass production.
Following the prototypes, B.F. Meyers & Co. commercially produced the Beetle-based Meyers Manx, which featured a shortened (by 14.3 inches) Beetle frame and a fiberglass body shell. Engine options included 1.2-liter, 1.5-liter, and 1.6-liter flat-fours. The original Meyers Manx and its variants—such as the Mk II, Manx SR, Tow'd, Tow'dster, and Turista among others—inspired countless copycats, which basically won in court in their quests to clone the Meyers Manx.
Fast forward to the new millennium, and the revived Meyers Manx, Inc. offered 100 Classic Manx buggies. After that, the company introduced the modernized, larger Manxter 2+2 and Manxter DualSport built upon the full-length Beetle floor pan in 2002. It then re-introduced a shortened-wheelbase variant named the Kick-Out Manx in 2009. There are about five kits available for purchase, and they range from about $2,400 to $8,700—and yes, you can still order them in a variety of metal flake options.
The Meyers Manx has a rich off-road racing history. In April 1967, Meyers and Ted Mangels traversed from La Paz to Tijuana in record-breaking time in "Old Red," the first Meyers Manx prototype that made a whopping 50 hp. In November of that same year, Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels won the inaugural Mexican 1000 (the predecessor of the Baja 1000) in a commercially-produced Meyers Manx, one of five that Meyers entered into the race. "Old Red" was eventually restored by Drino Miller and Sanford Havens for festivities (not to race) at the 2017 Baja 1000, which was the 50th anniversary of the event.
The Manx buggies were essentially VW-based sandrails that were basically vehicular representations of the carefree, freedom-seeking 60s. Although modern side-by-sides have dominated the market, the Meyers Manx still draws a cult-like following. The love is spurred on by rare Manx finds at auctions, including the Meyers Manx dune buggy driven by actor Steve McQueen in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair.
What's in store for the future of the Meyers Manx? Could it breed an all-electric variant like the Volkswagen ID Buggy concept that was shown off at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show? It's hard to say, but the idea of a battery-electric Manx isn't out of the question. Since Freeman Thomas—former designer for VW, Audi, and Porsche—has been named the chief executive officer and chief creative officer by Trousdale Ventures' chairman Phillip Sarofim, we're hopeful the next iteration of the Meyers Manx will retain its original DNA and carry on the OG dune buggy's legacy.