Buy a kit, build a Dream: Meyers Manx

The right vehicle for the summer, which hopefully is coming soon? Is a very famous dune buggy - the original by Bruce Meyers, known as Meyers Manx. And for those who not only want to hit the road like the »King of Cool« Steve McQueen, but also want to build the buggy themselves, it should be noted: the set is still for sale today.
Text Michael Petersen
Photo Getty Images

We’re telling this story by starting at the end. Last November, Bruce Meyers and his wife, Winnie, sold their company, Meyers Manx, to an investment firm by the name of Trousdale Ventures. The new owners have promised to create another generation of buggies that are as much fun to drive as the original has been for five decades without stop.

But let’s go back to the beginning after all. Bruce Meyers, drawing on his experience in sailboat construction, crafted the original dune buggy in his home garage in 1963 using a shortened VW Beetle chassis to build on. Because the first limited-run production swallowed up too much time and money, he created a do-it-yourself kit. For $535, Meyers would send you a lightweight fiberglass bodyshell complete with hood, dashboard, headlights, lots of small parts and just seven pages of instructions. He also specifically warned against trying it with a VW bus, Squareback, Karmann Ghia or Porsche. Otherwise, individual deviations from the instructions were not only tolerated but explicitly desired.

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The Beetle was the ideal choice for the kit because the body is not difficult to remove from the chassis and it is easily disposed of. The kit fit a Beetle floorpan shortened by 14¼" (365 mm) in its center. Chassis, engine, transmission, seats, pedals, brakes, fuel tank, speedometer, steering, wiring – everything could be reused. Except maybe the wheels. These were better replaced by wide tires on fancy rims. The exhaust had to go too, but the supplier parts helped create a proper flat-engine sound. Anyone with an average amount of mechanical skill could do the job in a few weekends, B. F. Meyers & Co. promised.

“He didn't invent the dune buggy,” comedian and car collector Jay Leno explained on an episode of his show, Jay Leno’s Garage, “but he made it what it is today.” Bruce Meyers appears in person on the show and we learn that he was a surfer and World War II veteran whose work with fiberglass surfboards and sailboats led to the quality of his buggies: “I’m a quality guy,” Meyers says, without a hint of arrogance.

Meyers hadn’t initially thought that his buggies would be such a big hit. It wasn’t until he was stopped at a red light and everyone was staring at his little car that he realized what he had created. Approximately 7,000 of the original Meyers Manx dune buggies were produced, plus an estimated 350,000 replicas, before the original company ceased operations in 1971. In 2000 Bruce Meyers began offering Meyers Manx buggy kits again. The motto of his new company: Meyers Manx – More Smiles Per Mile. And that’s just as true for the new buggies as for the classics.

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