Growing up in sunny California, Bruce Meyers grew up surrounded by the beach and exciting hobbies like surfing and drag racing. During WWII he served in the military until an aircraft carrier was shot out beneath him. After the war Bruce sailed to the South Seas and built a trading post in the Cook Islands. Over the years he constructed numerous small catamarans, before moving on to tooling for fiberglass sailboats.
At Pismo Beach Meyers got his first glimpse of a V8 powered 'water pumper' 'Dune Buggies'. Seeing room for improvement Bruce decided to design a lightweight version that could be not only fun on the beach, but also on land. His first prototype involved modifying a Kombi bus with wide rims that he dubbed 'Little Red Riding Bus' or 'Old Red'. Using his love of sailing and boat building expertise, he designed the first fiberglass-bodied dune buggy with a Chevrolet pickup truck suspension in his garage in Newport Beach, California.
Meyers produced the first twelve cars with monocoque bodies and their own integral frame with a Volkswagen engine and transmission. Meyers modified the bodies to fit on a Volkswagen shortened floorpan. This modification would result in the Meyers Manx, an off-road revolution. Featuring a unibody shell with no top and no hood, the fused body, genders and frame, retained just the engine and transmission, along with other mechanicals of the Volkswagen. Impressive rigidity was maintained thanks to the use of compound curves. Knobby dirt-racing wheels were nestled in high arched genders.
A small recreational type automobile, the Meyers Manx dune buggy was designed with desert racing in mind. The Manx was introduced in 1964 and into 1965 at Meyers Fountain Valley, California Company, B.F. Meyers & Co. in the form of car kits that were applied to shortened chassis of VW Beetles. The Manx had an extremely quick acceleration and good off-road performance, even though it wasn't four-wheel drive.
The Manx name and cat logo came from the stubby Manx cat because of its shortened vehicle length and lack of a 'tail'. Colloquially called 'stubbins', the Manx cats are known for their long-legged ability to turn while chasing. The logo featured the tailless cat and the hood ornament is stylized after a passant heraldic lion with its right forepaw brandishing a sword. A total of 5,280 Manx kits were built along with several hundred Manx II models.
The Meyers Manx was radically advertised in the 1966 Hot Rod magazine issue soaring gracefully through the air. Instantaneously popular, Meyer's Manx received over 300 orders. Unable to immediately keep up, the Manx was quickly imitated by other manufacturers that produced nearly 250,00 looks-a-like models. Meyers attempted to halt the copycats with patent infringement laws but unfortunately failed to convince the courts that he had produced anything worth a patent. This court ruling opened the floodgates to the industry that Meyers had created. Unfortunately the vehicle proved too expensive to be very profitable, and only 12 kits of the monocoque Manx were ever produced.
The Manx performed exceedingly well and won many slalom evens and even beat out Corvettes and Cobras at the Pike's Peak Hill Climb. Driven by Ted and Bruce Mangels the Manx set the record for traveling the length of Baja at 34 hours and 45 minutes, beating the motorcycle record by more than five hours. Dominating dune racing in its time, the Manx broke numerous records and was eventually released in street-oriented models. According to compiler of the Dune Buggy Handbook, James Hale, the La Paz record ushered in an era of off-road racing as the NORRA (National Off-Road Racing Association) was formed.
Since 2000 Meyer's re-founded operation, Meyers Manx, Inc., inspired new vehicles by the original Manx buggy. Many varieties of the Manx have been imitated over the years. The Imp by EMPI introduced in 1968 through 1970 stylistically borrowed from the Manx, along with the cues taken from the Chevrolet Corvette. The Dune Runner from Dune Buggy Enterprises in Westminster, California was a 1970's Manx clone.
The Meyers Company introduced the more distinctive Meyers Manx Mk II design, which was a bit harder to replicate in an attempt to stay ahead of the competition. Other Beetle-based vehicles were introduced by the B.F. Meyers & Co., along with the 1970 sporty Manx SR (Street Roadster) and its Manx SR2 variant. The sleek aerodynamic SR was intended for street use only. Built to fit on the same shortened VW floorpan, the SR was similar to the original Manx and carried its great handling characteristics. With thirteen fiberglass and numerous other metal pieces, the SR model was much more of a challenge for the garage-type mechanic to assemble. Around 200 or so were sold by B.F. Meyers & Co. and possible many more by other successive companies.
Another variant was the Meyers Tow'd, a minimal off-road non-street-legal racing vehicle that was specifically designed to be towed to the beach or desert. Without a hood or a fender, the original Tow'd was considered 'cute' by fans that demanded that it become street-legal. Unfortunately the Tow'd had production issues and never reached the commercial success like the Manx. Smaller and more lightweight than the Manx, the Tow'd was built on a custom tube frame. Bruce Meyer raced a Tow'd in the second Baja 1,000 and crashed, which broke both of his legs and left him with a permanent limp thanks to a stainless steel ankle.
The Meyers Tow'dster was a street-legal hybrid of the two vehicles, a compromise between a dune-capable vehicle and a more practical street rod. The Tow'dster led the way for the rail-type buggy, which would soon take over the buggy scene after the demise of the traditional Manx-type buggy. The Tow'dster had a hood, fenders and engine cover and even a soft-top for weather protection.
The Meyers Resorter or (Meyers Turista) was a small 'resort' recreational vehicle that took its inspiration from touring motorcycles. The Resorter featured lower sides for easier entrance and exit and was originally produced and sold to hotel chains in exotic locales like Acapulco, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Around 75 Resorter/Turista's were produced, several hundred Manx SR's and about 1,000 Meyers Tow'ds.
Three Utility vehicles were created, two of these sold as Lifeguard buggies for the L.A. County and one buggy for the California Forestry Service. These vehicles use the VW 'pancake' engine and were equipped with a covered rear bed for carrying life-saving gear. The Forestry Service vehicle was stolen from the company before it was ever even delivered. Over the recent years it has been rediscovered, though its history is still a mystery.
The Kuebelwagen was the final vehicle in the Manx fleet and of which only one was produced. Manufactured on a full-length floorpan the Kuebelwagen was a replica of the German Desert Staff car of WWII.
Tired of fighting the cheap imitations of the copiers and the loss of the patent infringement case, Bruce left B.F. Meyers & Co. for a much less stressful like. Unfortunately tax problems after Meyer's departure caused the company's early demise in 1971.
More than thirty years later in 2000 Bruce Meyers founded Meyers Manx, Inc., based in Valley Center, California. Meyers released the Classic Manx series, which was a limited edition of 100. The Manxter 2+2 and Manxter DualSport were soon introduced in 2002. These modern models were sized for a full-length Beetle floor pan reminiscent of the original design. Also available were custom versions for higher-power engines and other variations.
The Kick-Out Manx was introduced in the spring of 2009 on the original shortened wheelbase. Available in two models, the Kick-Out Manx was named after the final action that a surfer makes before reaching the shore and is an updated version of the original Manx concept. Featuring wider fenders, the Kick-Out had a front-hinged hood that provided additional storage along with easier access to electrical components. A much more modern and hip version, the Kick-Out featured flared headlights into the hood, sculpted rear deck cover, twin roll hoops and a curved windshield. As of 2012 Meyers Manx kits are based only on particular original Beetle and Super Beetle models instead of the New Beetle or other Volkswagen models.
Over the years the Manx-type vehicle has had cameos in popular movies that included the 1968 The Thomas Crown Affair and several Elvis Presley films. Mattel introduced a collection of pink and white Manx-like dune buggy toys for Barbie. Matchbox toys also introduced several Manx-inspired dune buggy models from 1974 all of the way until 2011. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson