For me, one of the most endearing vehicles in and around the motor industry has always been the beach buggy. It’s a smile on wheels and the iconic little car has featured in numerous TV shows and movies, from evergreen teen series like The Monkees, to the classic 1968 Steve McQueen and Faye Dunnaway movie, The Thomas Crown Affair.
A name that comfortably sits alongside these sixties pop icons and movie legends is Bruce Meyers; the man that is credited with the first genuine dune buggy. Now, after 56 years, Bruce Meyers has decided to sell his precious Meyers Manx business to investment company, Trousdale Ventures. It seems that Bruce – now 96 – has decided to take it easy.
While the words ‘investment company’ will instantly cause alarm to many fans of the Meyers Manx, the company’s Chairman, Phillip Sarofim, has declared that he intends to keep the spirit of sun and fun that Manx has evoked over the past half century and build a new generation of beach buggies for us to smile about and drool over.
Sarofim is known to be a bit of the car enthusiast; not only has he been directly involved in motorsports, but he is also a collector of bespoke sports cars built by RUF Automobiles – it looks like Bruce has chosen his buyer well. Sarofin has certainly got off to a good start, having employed Freeman Thomas as Chief Creative Officer. Freeman was credited with the initial design concept for the New Beetle having worked for VW and Audi as well as Porsche during his 40-plus years in the motor industry.
Announcing the acquisition of Meyers Manx Trousdale Ventures stated that they are compiling a ‘dream team of passionate and creative souls to carry on the Meyers Manx legacy.’ Speaking of the sale and Sarofin’s plans, Bruce Meyers described the future for Manx as ‘brighter, happier, sunnier than ever – a wonderful rebirth for what we have created.’ The new company will be called Meyers Manx LLC.
Meyers Manx began in California in 1964 when artist and boat builder Bruce Meyers happened upon the idea of creating a bespoke fun car for desert racing. The design for Meyers’ homemade prototype was simple: ‘Old Red’ utilised a shortened VW Beetle chassis with a roofless fibreglass body on top and an aircooled flat-4 Beetle engine. A Chevrolet trailing arm pickup system handled suspension.
Despite not being a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, the agile little beach buggy outperformed all expectations and went on to feature as the cover star for Hot Rod magazine in August 1966. With huge sand tyres and quick acceleration, the following year it would go on to defeat all comers in the Mexican 1000, gaining yet more recognition.
Little did Meyers know at the time but the design aesthetic of the beach buggy was timeless. Maybe due to the smooth flowing lines able to be achieved using fibreglass, the Manx beach buggy simply never looks out of place whatever decade it derives from. And while there have been many imitators over time, the Meyers Max is the original in most people’s eyes.
The Meyers Manx success was such that Bruce quickly decided to produce road-going beach buggies, and along with featuring on the cover April 1967’s Car & Driver mag and1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair and the simplicity of its design, imitators effectively put the original Meyers Manx out of business by 1971.
The Meyers Manx Inc rebirth in 2000 caused almost as much of a stir as the original dune buggy had, and a limited run of 100 Classic Manx buggies tested the water.
While wildly impractical for everyday use, I suspect that every one of us at one time or another has wanted to either own to hire a dune buggy on a hot summer’s day by the coast. I remember my first sighting of one in the metal as a child on the south coast of England, idling in traffic wit a heat-haze spiralling off the exposed engine. It’s not completely the end of the road for Bruce and his wife Winnie though, as both will continue to look after the Meyers Manx Registry and assist in promoting the new company. We wish Trousdale Ventures, Phillip Sarofim and the Meyers the best of luck.
Image Credit: thisismoney.co.uk, classiccars.com, roadandtrack.com, drivingline.com
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