Artistic License

Dune buggy builder was also an automotive artist
Author:
Updated:
Original:

 A younger Bruce in an early Manx. (Photo courtesy Meyers Manx)

A younger Bruce in an early Manx. (Photo courtesy Meyers Manx)

Fame is a funny thing. When Bruce Meyers says that he spent many years at art schools learning how to draw, he notes that figure drawings and portraits were his favorite art form. However, it wasn’t a charcoal sketch or a drawing that made him famous — it was the Meyers Manx dune buggy, an open fiberglass body tub designed to fit a Volkswagen Beetle platform.

Meyers — now in his mid 90s — grew up in Southern California during the early days of surfing, drag racing and hanging out at the beach. It was at Pismo Beach that he first became acquainted with “dune buggies.” The “water pumpers” were crude and heavy, so Meyers took it upon himself to design a lightweight version that would be fun on the beach or in the wilderness of Baja.

 David Maharich of New Berlin, Wis., owns this 1968 Meyers Manx.

David Maharich of New Berlin, Wis., owns this 1968 Meyers Manx.

After modifying a VW Kombi bus that he called “Little Red Riding Bus” with wide wheel rims, Meyers used his expertise in boat building to design and build the first fiberglass-bodied dune buggy. He called it the “Meyers Manx” after a cat. Like the tailless Manx cat, Meyer’s dune buggy was shorter than others when it hit the scene in 1964.

Meyers had his moment of fame when the dune buggy craze began and he thought he had patent protection on that type of car. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Imitators came on the scene and stole a big part of the market. Bruce’s patent didn’t hold up in court and he became a bitter fellow for a while.

 Bruce Meyers (dark shirt)—seen here with Mike Yager--is 93 years old.

Bruce Meyers (dark shirt)—seen here with Mike Yager--is 93 years old.

That was the case until he attended a show honoring the dune buggy at the Le Mans race course in France. Hundreds of dune buggies showed up for that event, and so did the editor of a Volkswagen magazine. The Frenchman told Meyers that he had to develop a more positive outlook. The editor told him, “Look at all those smiling faces enjoying a vehicle you created; they love the car, they love you and that should be your measure of success.”

When we met Bruce Meyers at the Air-Cooled Volkswagen Funfest in Effingham, Ill., he said that piece of advice had changed his life. He started to get involved with dune buggy clubs and attend their events throughout the world. Today, he looks and acts younger than his age and is having the time of his life.

 Dennis Pallen of New Berlin, Wis., owns the yellow Meyers Manx.

Dennis Pallen of New Berlin, Wis., owns the yellow Meyers Manx.

Meyers Manx (meyersmanx.com) is also alive and well in Valley Center, Calif., selling current buggy kits under the names New Classic Manx, Kick-Out Traditional, Kick-Out SS, Manxster 2+2 and DualSport.

 The Milwaukee World of Wheels is a good place to see dune buggies.

The Milwaukee World of Wheels is a good place to see dune buggies.

Where to Bid