As Told by Kathleen Lacoboni

West Coast dune buggy owners tout the necessity of taking their rides off-road. Bruce Meyers has even stated how he specifically designed his Manx for off-road use. Bewildered, he couldn’t understand my vision for a street Manxter — until he saw it once it was built. 

That was right after my husband, Tom, and I had driven across country and my street Manxter was sitting in his driveway.

In March 2016, we took the Manxter to the Manx Club Retro Event in Julian, California. We were excited to go on a mild off-road adventure as part of the group’s street run, traveling to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to see multiple metal sculptures out in the desert. 

We drove on paved roads until we were nearing a sculpture. Then the group traveled onto well-packed dirt or sand to these amazing sculptures. A few times we drove through deeper sand that posed a fun challenge.

The last sculpture we drove to, however, began with packed dirt and suddenly changed to rocks, silty soil and scrub brush. By the time I realized how rough this trail was, we were committed. The 4.5-inch ground clearance and longer wheelbase worked against us. Rocks were slamming into the chassis and the side pods. Good heavens! What was happening to my show car/long distance driver?! 

Unfortunately, I could no longer turn around due to the narrow path. My passengers, Tom and Yan from France, got out of the vehicle to lighten the load and I continued on to the end where I could turn around. By the way, the sculpture was fantastic!

I carefully navigated the 1 mile of rocks and vegetation back to the main road, where the others were waiting for me. Tom and Yan were walking out to reduce any damage to the undercarriage of the Manxter. Despite the sounds of rocks banging into the undercarriage and side pods of the Manxter, there wasn’t any damage that could be readily seen, until we found the very long needle of a cholla teddy bear cactus sticking into one of my rear tire’s sidewall! The needle was broken off and I was informed that I should watch the tire air pressure carefully. (A sidewall puncture can’t be repaired using a plug.)

Mark, the person who led the run, apologized profusely. He had forgotten how rough that trail was, and he knew that I show the car at home. I’ve had the Manxter registered since 2004. I told him that after that many years and almost 40,000 miles, I had to expect there would be damage to the buggy.

The adventure ended well. The chassis fared well, needing only a little paint touch-up, dirt washed off, and the tire is still holding air. In addition, Tom and I had another adventure and great memories with great people!