The Meyers Manx: A Reluctant Photo Thread

The Meyers Manx: A Reluctant Photo Thread

God damnit. I hate myself for doing this… And don’t you dare see this act as an invitation to start pushing a bunch of VW crap on the HAMB. In fact, this feature is merely my attempt to get this damned dune buggy out of my brain and on down the road to some place else. I’ve been obsessing over the Meyers Manx for a couple of years now and the last thing I need is more ammunition on that front. Maybe a simple discussion on the matter will shut it down. Worth a shot anyhow…

Bruce Meyers was a boatwright that focused mostly on those motivated by wind. Sometime in the early 1960’s, he got bored of taking reefs and decided to build a beach focused hot rod. He’d have been a cocky bastard had he guessed that one day that very dune buggy would end up with a historical record at the Library of Congress. But it did… And rather than bore you with my own words, I’ll throw in that very entry:

Old Red is the first fiberglass dune buggy ever constructed and the prototype for the production Meyers Manx dune buggies. It is a simple, hand formed, fiberglass, off-road vehicle built from 1963 to 1964 by native Californian, Bruce F. Meyers. Old Red is part of a significant time in both automotive and American history. The dune buggy defined a major automotive trend, set an important automotive racing record, prompted an off-road racing phenomenon, and is the automotive representation of an era in American culture that both embraced and battled, ever-popular, free-spirit, California beach culture ethos.

Bruce F. Meyers, born March 12, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, drew on many influences and past experiences to develop Old Red. Before becoming a pioneer in dune buggies and off-road racing, Meyers: served in the Navy during WWII on an aircraft carrier that was struck by a kamikaze attack that killed 389 men; crewed merchant ships; ran a trading post in Tahiti; attended art school; shaped surfboards; built fiberglass boats; and ran a 1932 Ford for top speed runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

In the early 1960s, Newport, California-based Meyers had customized a Volkswagen Microbus with wide tires for driving on Southern California beaches and was familiar with vehicles modified for use in the sand and the various automotive trends of the era. Spending time at beaches on the West Coast during this period was the center of Meyers’ life. In 1963, after visiting the beach in Pismo, California on a trip to sand sail, Meyers witnessed a number of early dune buggies, essentially production cars stripped of their bodies and crudely modified for driving on the dunes. In particular, Meyers was inspired by a body-less Volkswagen Beetle that appeared to drive across the dunes with greater ease than its front-engined counter parts. This inspired Meyers to build his own dune buggy that would be based on the rear-engined Volkswagen Beetle layout but with a special fiberglass hull that incorporated unique and attractive design elements.

Beginning with crude sketches and a clay model inspired by newspaper cartoon cars, Meyers started construction of his personal dune buggy at his home in Newport Beach California in August 1963. He crafted a plug, a mold, and eventually the fiberglass hull, hood and front fenders that formed the basic design of Old Red by November 1964.13 Meyers constructed the dune buggy around Volkswagen running gear and parts sourced from a wrecked 1963 Beetle.14 Rather than use the Volkswagen chassis, Meyers created the overall body as a monocoque design, made entirely of fiberglass and strong enough to not require an underlying steel frame. This allowed the overall wheelbase to be 16 1/2” shorter than a stock Volkswagen Beetle in order to optimize the vehicle’s design for off-road use.

Meyer’s extensive experience in fiberglass boat and surfboard construction enabled him to build a very strong hull and produce a mold that would allow for the production of additional bodies. His natural ability and formal training as an artist helped contribute to the unique and effective design that has been celebrated since its inception.16 Old Red became the first fiberglass dune buggy built and eventually marketed as a commercial product.

Although Meyers created Old Red with no commercial intention, it inspired orders for customer cars immediately. Connected directly to the vibrant Southern California car scene and automotive media through his then-wife Shirley who worked in the advertising department of Road & Track magazine, many early orders went to friends and those capable of spreading the word. The second car built went to Dean Batchelor, editor of Road & Track, while number three went to Roger Smith, later to become the largest Manx dealer. Meyers and Shirley saw the sales potential for the dune buggy and formed B.F. Meyers & Company in 1964. With the help of staff at Road & Track, they named the fiberglass buggy the “Meyers Manx,” an allusion to its snubbed tail in the air, aggressive stance and a nod to its creator.17 Based off of Old Red, B.F. Meyers & Company would go on to produce and sell the Manx, primarily as a “kit-car.” The Meyers Manx kit was sold with everything needed to build a dune buggy, except for the major mechanical components and running gear.

To fulfill early customer demand, Meyers went on to build nine more Manx dune buggy kits with the monocoque layout. The twelve early buggies were not profitable, however and their complicated build slowed production down considerably. The original buggies sold for $985 each and Meyers lost money on each car. Demand far outstripped supply but raising the price was not a viable option as the kit was already considered pricey. In order to increase production output, lower the price and increase profits, Meyers redesigned the Manx body and kit to be assembled on a shortened Volkswagen Beetle “floorpan.” This change did away with the monocoque design and utilized more structural elements of a “donor” Beetle, limiting redundancy in the kit. Meyers drastically reduced production time with very little aesthetic changes, subsequently releasing the volume production version of the Meyers Manx dune buggy.

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And that’s just the origin story… The Library of Congress entry goes on for ten more pages in that tiny ass type they are known for. It’s a dizzying legacy on paper left by a man that really had no interest in starting a dune buggy business – much less a culture movement. All he really want to do was haul ass on sand for cheap.

Regardless, I figure I owe y’all some imagery of Old Red, no? Eat it up ya jackal:

But hell… If we are gonna do this, we might as well do it right – no? Do as I say, not as I preach. Post your early (and early only) photos of the Manx here. We need a full library to flush this sin from our systems. I’ll start with the low hanging fruit:

 

 

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