By John Gunnell
Lately we’ve have heard several car show promoters mentioning that they thought a 1970s theme would be good for their upcoming 2016 events. That made us think about one of the iconic symbols of the ‘70s—the dune buggy.
The classic dune buggy is a “frog-like” fiberglass body on a hopped-up Volkswagen Beetle platform. Earlier this year, we attended Mid America Motorwork’s Volkswagen Funfest where the celebrity guest was Bruce Meyers.
Bruce designed what became the first mass-produced dune buggy—the Meyers Manx. He explained that he thought he had patented the concept, but other companies took the same idea and made similar vehicles. This cost Meyers a lot of money and he was bitter about it for years.
Then, when people started collecting dune buggies, Meyers was invited to a show at LeMans that featured hundreds of them. While he was there, a French magazine editor told him to look around at all the smiles on the faces of the dune buggy fans. He told Meyers to lighten up and enjoy all the fun he had created.
According to Bruce, that advice changed his attitude about life. He got involved with the Meyer’s Manx Club and started meeting dune buggy collectors and making appearances at their shows. He said that he is now in his 80s, but feels like a kid again.
After returning from the Volkswagen Funfest, we started noticing all of the dune buggies that were coming out of the woodwork. In the small town of Manawa, where our shop is located, there are at least three dune buggies and one young gal was buzzing around in a hot-sounding buggy all summer. Another one belongs to the owner of a local driving school and there was one being worked on in the back room of the Bumper-to-Bumper store. Apparently, no one threw these things away when the fad went out.
Last weekend we attended the fall motorcycle rally in Tomahawk, Wis. It’s the “Sturgis” of the Badger State. While cruising to Main Street we passed a house with a dune buggy body for sale on the front lawn. How tempting. If we had brought the truck along, instead of the bike, we might be starting another project. Our guess is that building a dune buggy would be a lot easier—and cheaper—than restoring another car.