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Home Car Culture Bruce Meyers, dune buggy creator, finally sells Meyers Manx business

Bruce Meyers, dune buggy creator, finally sells Meyers Manx business

A modern generation of the originals will roll out under the guidance of designer Freeman Thomas

Fifty-six years after rolling out his first hand-built Meyers Manx – the original dune buggy – Bruce Meyers is parting ways with the company he created. 

The 94-year-old Meyers and his wife, Winnie, have sold the Meyers Manx business to an investment firm named Trousdale Ventures whose chairman, Phillip Sarofim, vows to create a new generation of dune buggies with the same spirit of fun and adventure as the originals. 

Sarofim, a venture capitalist who is well-known as a car guy and motorsports participant, has assembled a team of designers and car builders led by veteran auto designer Freeman Thomas as chief executive and chief creative officer.

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The Manx became emblematic of California beach culture

Thomas has spent more than four decades in the auto industry, most notably with VW, Porsche and Audi, and is credited with the concept designs for the New Beetle and the Audi TT sports car. He also headed Chrysler’s West Coast studio that was responsible for a series of stunning concept cars.

“We are putting together an international dream team of passionate and creative souls to carry on the Meyers Manx legacy of fun, freedom and expression that Bruce and Winnie created,” Sarofim said in the company announcement of the Meyers Manx acquisition.

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High-performance versions of VW’s flat-4 engine are common modifications | Sotheby’s

The new company, part of Trousdale’s consortium of brands ranging from coffee to motorcycles, will be named Meyers Manx LLC.

“It is with great pleasure and happiness that Winnie and I would like to introduce you to the new future of Meyers Manx,” the couple said in the Trousdale announcement. “Maintaining the old and introducing the new is what lies ahead. We feel that Meyers Manx LLC can and will do just that! With faith in their desire to continue our legacy, the future will be brighter, happier, sunnier than ever, a wonderful rebirth for what we have created.”

Meyers helps Volkswagen launch its electric dune buggy concept | Volkswagen

Bruce Meyers, who went from Southern California surfer and abalone diver to successful artist and designer, was back in the news last year when he attended the May 2019 launch of Volkswagen’s electric-powered dune-buggy concept styled after the Meyers Manx.

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Meyers and his Manx hit a major chord in the 1960s, starting up a dune buggy craze that put him in the business of making and selling them. Meyers hand-laid the fiberglass body for his first buggy, named Big Red, and soon was taking orders for duplicates and eventually producing them by the hundreds.  

Bruce Meyers hand-building the first Manx, Old Red, at his Newport Beach shop in 1964

The buggies were strikingly stylish, their simple, one-piece fiberglass bodies fastened to shortened Volkswagen Beetle chassis and air-cooled 4-cylinder engines, and fitted with large wheels and flat, upright windshields. Their extreme light weight made them quick and maneuverable, and they were street legal so they could be driven anywhere, from the highway right onto the beach and forest trails. 

The brand was given a boost when Steve McQueen was shown driving a Meyers Manx with gusto on a beach in the popular 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair.  The next year, a cover story in Car and Driver magazine stirred up the enthusiasts.

But success had its downside, with Meyers soon facing a tidal wave of competition from copycat dune buggy manufacturers.  Legal challenges failed, and by 1971, his company was essentially out of business.

The new Meyers Manx company has several products envisioned, some electric powered, and built like the originals on rear-engine VW chassis, the company says, making them relatively inexpensive, as well as able to bypass federal safety regulations for new vehicles.  The company vows, however, to make the new buggies as safe as possible.

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The Manx interiors were simple and unadorned | Sotheby’s

Although their dune buggy company will be under new ownership, Bruce and Winnie Meyers say they will remain involved in promoting the brand and manage the Meyers Manx Registry.

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

7 COMMENTS

  1. A good friend of mine had a Meyers Manx back in our high school days., about 1967. It had a turbocharged Corvair engine in it. Needless to say it was a ROCKET!
    WE would race many of the high performance cars of the day and blow them away to about 90mph

  2. I had one with a Porsche 356B S90 engine with a VW Bus Transaxle. It would stay with any of the Muscle cars of the day and out run most of them…up tp 90 MPH.

  3. I have an Irwin Manx copy .
    I always talked about Bruce and the real Manx .
    Giving credit where it was due .
    Being on the East coast far from Manx country, I bought the Irwin buggy I had ridden in as a 7 year old.
    Hopefully it will get restored one day . I’ll get a few more miles of fun .
    Always watched for a Manx to show up in my area.
    Thanks Bruce and Whinnie for all the Wild dreams .

  4. “The company says, making them relatively inexpensive” Yeah, sure. A corporate multimillionaires idea of “inexpensive”. I wish, I truly wish they would stay relatively the same (and inexpensive!) but, i doubt they will be anything near the same except they may, kinda, sorta, if you look at them just right, look a little like the original. And just like all the Side by Sides that started out “relatively” inexpensive ?, Yeah, their ALL $20,000 – $30,000+ now .Bummer. I honestly can’t wait to see em, but, I’m not keeping my fingers crossed. I’m prepared for a letdown.

  5. I have owned a corvair powered Manx for at least 35 years. when i wanted to upgrade it, i ran into a wall dealing with Whinnie. As much as i am grateful for their initial start up of this dune buggy, the mantle must be handed over. Maybe now we will get cooperation in providing parts for purchase.

  6. I remember at a Bug In Bruce Meyers stopped at my swap space in his Manx to look at some wheels I had for sale. I asked Bruce how do tell the difference between a Manx and other dune buggies? He told me all 4 fenders are flat so you can rest your beer on it while working on your Manx. So today I tell that story to all buggy owners I meet. Have a happy retirement Bruce

  7. My neighbor’s bought a dune buggy and I was on board for one of their first drives. Their Mom was behind the wheel and we all stuffed in when we were pulled over by the Police.
    The cop walks up and said- “I thought you were a bunch of crazy kids” and let her keep driving, no ticket.
    Years later I bought a Manx like buggy with no engine and unfortunately never got around to building it. I sold it to a friend who never built it either… well my kids are grown up now and I know exactly where my old dune buggy I bought in 1979 sits today!
    If I could only find a 356 Super 90 motor…..

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