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						Meyers Manxter Dune Buggy Project 1

Meyers Dune Buggy

As Told By Kathleen & Tom Iacoboni

In 2002 I came across a magazine article of Bruce Meyers unveiling a prototype Manxter. I thought about how fun it would be to own a dune buggy like my husband’s, Tom. I approached him with the article and asked him, “If I come up with the funds, would you help me build a buggy?” His immediate reply: “Yes!”        

I was hoping he would say yes, but at the same time, I was shocked that he didn’t even hesitate, or question anything. He had two requests: that I had to help with the build (which was what I had asked initially) and another request I'll talk about later.

 I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to embark on a odyssey that would change my life.

First, I began the process of ordering the kit from Meyers Manx. There were design decisions, both for the engine and chassis. Tom was my guide through the maze of choices. I began to tap into his vast knowledge of VWs to create a vision of my buggy.

On a trip to to California to assist a family member for a month, I went to a Manx Club breakfast and met Bruce and Winnie Meyers. I returned with them to their home and was able to take pictures and paw over the prototype and look at the way it was built. I had the opportunity to talk with Bruce and Winnie about the prototype, my buggy vision as an East Coast dweller, and to see all the color choices available through Meadowbrook Glitter. That opportunity not only provided me with information about the buggy, I met two amazing, down-to-earth people who quickly became friends.

While waiting for the Manxter components to arrive, Tom and I spent about nine months harvesting a Beetle, ordering parts and building a rolling chassis. I developed a new admiration for him as he guided me through the process. Then, (bugle sounds here) the kit arrived and the real fun began! We spent another nine months working in the garage, building the Manxter.

I have now met others who have done this, but at the time I didn’t know another woman who had done a hands-on build. Everyone I knew had a husband who built or restored a buggy or VW and the wife drove it. Since then, there have been several women deeply involved in their own builds, which I applaud.

During the process of building the buggy, Tom and I each developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other as we worked together to problem solve. Until building this buggy, Tom has always been the chief mechanic and I was the helper he dragged into the garage.        

With this buggy, though, I was no longer an unwilling assistant, I wanted to work on the project. Tom knew the steps for changing this kit into a street-legal vehicle and kept the build on target. I was able to design the look I wanted for the buggy.     

We were both amazed at some of the different skills we brought to the build. If we were stuck on a part of the build, we walk away and both think about it and later return to the garage with our thoughts. I was surprised the first time I came up with a solution and Tom indicated that my solution would work. It spurred me to look at the build as something that I had greater influence over. At this point, Tom would probably tell you he created a monster—in a good way.

I was elated when we fired up the engine for the first time! With the Manxter now up and running, we went to DMV and another hurdle was overcome, as late that same day I had a registered and insured vehicle. The sense of joy from having done this was overwhelming, but it didn't compare with the joy I shared with Tom. His love, knowledge and perseverance brought us to a day that I'll never forget!

Looking back on the project, while planning and building the Manxter, I had the opportunity to visit several businesses and choose what I wanted. I went to PRP and chose my seats and fabric. I was also able to see a seat being constructed. Tom and I also went to Headwinds and chose the style of headlights with the owner’s assistance and were lucky enough to get a tour of the shop where I was able to view the machining process. I was thrilled to see these and have a better understanding of the way these items were created.

During the course of building the Manxter, Tom and I met several people in the dune buggy community through the Internet. Little did we know we would have the opportunity to form wonderful friendships and bonds over the years. We have had many adventures in the Manxter over the years.

Getting back to Tom’s second request mentioned at the outset, in 2005, I fulfilled a promise to go on the Hot Rod Power Tour, and drove from Connecticut to the Chicago area to meet another Manxter owner. The Power Tour began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ended in Kissimmee, Florida. We found out what it was like to drive in thunderstorms and a tropical depression and just how wet everything in the buggy gets! 

That experience prepared us to take another trip the following year to the Manassas Bug Out on Memorial Day weekend, to meet a group of buggy owners and on to the Texas Buggy Blast to meet more buggy owners. It was amazing to meet others and talk with them about their builds and style buggy and share what we had done. In 2007, we drove to Big Bear for the annual Manx Club event. I was astonished to see a huge buggy community when we arrived there. What fun! The variety of people and buggies was mind boggling.

On the way home from this 6000-mile trip, we experienced a catastrophe. The 1915cc VW engine had a valve spring snap into three pieces and put a rapid end to our buggy drive. We rented a U-Haul truck and brought the buggy home in it. 

With a lot of nudging from Tom and others, I replaced the engine with a 2.5L Subaru engine from Outfront Motorsports. (Easier said than done, Tom points out, as it took all winter to convert from air-cooled to water cooling, among many other modifications.) Even more changes were made years later, such as a Mendeola transmission and suspension, requiring a new build with each change. Now the buggy has awesome power and handles much better. This summer, I plan to drive the Manxter on a cross-country tour with some Manx Club members which will be led by a couple from Canada: Vincent Parisien and France Rousseau.

Building this Manxter and the adventures it has taken me on have changed my life in many ways. It has bonded me to my husband and given me a new admiration for him. I tackled a huge project and was able to complete it with his guidance and assistance.

I met the Meyers, who are grounded, salt-of-the-earth people. Bruce is a treasure trove of stories about his life experiences. He has given me an experience of a lifetime. (And he even personalized my Manxter, as his signature under hood is a reference to a joke about how an Irishman gets his wife “in the mood.”)

While at Manx On The Banx, I gave him a small sign that said, “A single dream can launch the journey of a lifetime.” The same dream that gave him the vision of creating the Meyers Manx, and took him on an incredible journey, has given me a fantastic journey of my own, a journey with love, friends, excitement and adventure.

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Meyers Manx