50 years later, Bruce Meyers recounts inaugural Baja 1000 victory

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Volkswagen will celebrate not only its inaugural victory, but 50 years of participation in the Baja 1000 desert off-road race, which runs again November 14-18.

“The first race, known then as the Mexican 1000, was held on October 31, 1967, running between Tijuana and La Paz,” Volkswagen of America said in a news release. “Of the 68 vehicles that started the first race, only 31 completed the 950-mile trek, with the winning drivers finishing in 27 hours and 38 minutes.

“There was no certified course — just five checkpoints that teams had to stop at; how they navigated between checkpoints on the dirt roads and trails was up to them. While motorcycles led much of the race, the victory went to Vic Wilson and Ted Mangels, driving a Meyers Manx dune buggy built by Bruce Meyers off a Volkswagen Beetle chassis.”

Bruce Meyers pioneered VW’s participation in Baja off-road racing

In the video above, Bruce Meyers talks about the effort, including the fact that he was talked into making the attempt on a Monday, made alterations to his famed “Old Red” buggy on Tuesday and started the race on Thursday of the same week.

Meyers had built his “Old Red” buggy in 1964. In 2014, it was among the first vehicles included in the Historic Vehicle Association’s National Register of Historic Vehicles.

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VW also noted that the Beetle and vehicles based on its chassis and engine had scored more victories in what now is known as the BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 than any other vehicle.

VW-based vehicles are known among off-road racers as “Baja Bugs.”

Beetles can become “Baja Bugs’

“Born from the dune buggy and off-roading culture of southern California in the ‘60s, the SCORE Baja 1000 has become renowned in motorsports for the scope of the challenge, both in terms of distance and terrain,” the VW news release noted.

“Throughout, drivers and navigators encounter rocks, steep gullies, washboard roads, blinding dust and sand pits,” VW added, “all of which only becomes more dangerous when racing at night.”

The 2017 race will be the 43rd Baja to start at Ensenada and the 21st to finish in La Paz on a course running some 1,200 miles.

Racing back in the days when photographers used black-and-white film
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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