The prototype for the Meyers Manx dune buggy began as a hand-crafted project in a garage in Newport Beach, California, in 1963 and 1964.
It was the invention of engineer, artist, surfer, drag racer, and boat builder Bruce F. Meyers. After a stint in the Merchant Marines and Navy that took him to the Cook Islands and Tahiti during World War II, he returned to the U.S. with a love of the sea and built a 42-foot Catamaran.
He went on to build the first fiberglass sailboats for Jensen Marine.
While traveling up the California coast he spent time in Pismo Beach and saw – for the first time – vehicles called “dune buggies”. They were recreational vehicles with large wheels and wide tires, meant to race on the beach or dry land. He was excited by the concept. But the construction? Not so much. They were heavy and crude and not at all attractive.
The boat builder had a brainstorm. Could the lightweight fiberglass that worked so well in the boats he built be used to improve these buggies? The prototype, which he called “Old Red” because of its paint job, was born. It was all fiberglass with a dashboard made of plastic. He would use a steel frame attached to…what? He wondered.
Then he had it! Meyers wanted to give the buggy as much power as possible by making it lightweight, yet wanted a sturdy body. He decided upon a Volkswagen Beetle because it had a rear-mounted engine. When he removed a lot of the bodywork it transferred most of the weight to the rear drive wheels for extra traction.
The engine would be air cooled, because to add a radiator would be just one more part to potentially have a problem. Meyers made 12 prototypes, all improvements over one another, but they were expensive. He started with fresh VW Beetles but used so little of the actual car. Toward the end of the development state, he re-designed the buggy to fit a shortened VW chassis. Doing this could reduce the price.
The buggy was now not only smaller, it was so lightweight that supposedly a person of average strength could lift the front end of it by themselves.
The original design had a small “bump” on its nose with a silver and black sticker nearby. It was later replaced by a larger silver and black emblem that covered the bump.
Meyers looked at the finished product and decided it reminded him of the Manx cat breed, whichV400 Hey WooFDriver, Can We Have The Keys? was short and stubby and had a stubby tail. The Manx cat has the unusual ability to turn while chasing something, an image he liked for his buggy. It sounded clever – Meyers Manx. The buggy’s logo was a Manx cat that actually looked more like a lion, holding a sword to indicate its power.
Racing and beach enthusiasts seemed interested. In 1964, a company was formed – B.F. Meyers & Co. One hundred-fifty kits were produced and sold fairly quickly. Part of the appeal was that, because it was a kit, the owners could actually paint or trim their finished product themselves.
Car & Driver and Hot Rod Magazine featured the Meyers Manx – the first known street-legal fiberglass dune buggy – on their covers and soon the number of kits sold rose to 300.
It’s not definite how many of the Meyers Manx original kits were ultimately produced but estimates place it between 6000-7000.
Buggy owners took their Meyers Manx’s power seriously and they dominated dune racing, breaking all records.
Meyers’ own prototype, his “Old Red”, beat all others to win the 1st Baja Off-Road Race. The Meyers Manx would win 39 of 41 slalom races and won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, beating out Cobras and Corvettes.
But all good things seem to end. By 1970, cross-country shipping charges for the kits were prohibitive. There were conflicts within the company and Meyers himself had unspecified tax issues. Perhaps most importantly, the buggy was so popular that companies were springing up to make poor imitations. Meyers filed a patent infringement case but lost. Finally, stress got to him and the doors to B.F. Meyers & Co. closed in 1971.
Before this happened, the Manx was used in Elvis Presley films, in the 1968 version of “The Thomas Crown Affair”, and it was re-named as a character called the “Wonderbug” on the popular children’s show “The Kroft Supershow” on ABC-TV.
Matchbox produced several Manx-inspired models. There was even a Meyers Manx Barbie with her own pink and white buggy.
Today, a genuine Manx is hard to come by, but lucky owners of the originals keep in touch with a Manx Club.
And most surprisingly, more than 35 years after going out of business, B.F. Meyers emerged once again, with a new and improved street legal fiberglass buggy, named the Manxter. Whether it will be as much of a hit remains to be seen, but it will never replace the original, first-of-its-kind Meyers Manx.
This 1966 Meyers Manx that we took these photos with has a 1500 cc flat 4 engine & 4 speed manual transmission. It has period slotted mag wheels. and vintage VW aftermarket speed parts, Empi, chromed engine, trumpet exhaust pipes, blue neon tag light and not installed underbody neon kit.