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Meyers Manx Company Sold to New Owners

By Dean Larson

Photos: Steve Temple and Paige Helms

It was over 56 years ago when Bruce Meyers completed his first VW-based beach buggy at home in his garage in Newport Beach, California. Utilizing his background in fiberglass boat construction, Meyers built a sexy composite body that concealed the humble air-cooled running gear, giving West Coast off-roading a new trendy image and making an indelible mark on automotive history the world over. Now at 94 years old, Bruce Meyers and his wife Winnie have passed the torch on to an investment firm named Trousdale Ventures to write the next chapter in Manx buggy history.

Of course with so many air-cooled aficionados in our crowd, Bruce and the Meyers Manx need no introduction, but certainly hitting a few highlights is fitting, considering all this little car has come to represent. Meyers will tell you himself that he’s not the creator of the buggy, but instead the fiberglass-bodied beach buggy, which Meyers saw as the solution to many of the early tube-frame buggy’s problems. To start, they were a bit unsightly, usually stripped-down frames of passenger cars, and the lack of bodywork offered no protection from the sand and elements. They were also heavier and larger than they needed to be for maneuverability in the dunes.

So Meyers got to work, starting out with air-cooled VW components for their mechanical simplicity, light weight and abundant availability. His first prototype was completed in 1964 and was called Old Red. It was based on Beetle mechanicals, Chevrolet truck-arm rear suspension and a fabricated monocoque chassis, not to mention that telltale Manx bodywork. Meyers maintained over the years that the he just designed what felt right, but it seems there was purpose behind every line. The hood was short for improved visibility, the skirts were cut away to improve ground clearance and the arched fenders provided ample room for large tires, not to mention a convenient flat surface to place a beverage on. Meyers also remarks that the relationship between the front and rear fender arches were somewhat inspired by the female body as well.

Meyers went into business in the early years with his monocoque buggy design, but soon came to the conclusion that it was much too expensive, and looked into further utilizing VW components to lower costs. It was then that the Manx came to be based on a VW pan, shortened 14-1/2 inches for improved maneuvering. With favorable coverage Hot Rod magazine and a win in the 1967 Mexican 1000, the Manx became an overnight sensation, and Meyers' small operation was inundated with orders. B. F. Meyers and Co. built some 6,000 Mk I Manx buggies along with several other models into 1970, but the overnight explosion of buggy competitors began to take a toll on the business, and the company had closed by 1971.

But it became clear that the fiberglass beach buggy had become a cultural icon, representing freedom and fun the world over, with the Manx at the center of it all. So Meyers opened Meyers Manx, Inc. in 2000 and began producing buggy kits once more. A designer at heart and not willing to rest on his laurels, Meyers designed new kits to run alongside the Classic Manx, including purpose-built off-roaders like the Manxter DualSport, along with modernized buggies like the Kick-Out S.S., proving to the world that great designers never stop their work.

At 94 years of age, Meyers and his wife Winnie has remained champions of the brand and heavily involved in the air-cooled hobby to this day, but there comes a time to pass the torch. Meyers struck a deal with Trousdale Ventures, forming Meyers Manx, LLC for the purpose of creating a new generation of dune buggies. Trousdale’s chairman, Phillip Sarofim, is allegedly a well-known car guy, and named Freeman Thomas chief executive and chief creative officer of the company. Thomas is also a petrolhead who has four decades of experience in the auto industry with VW, Porsche, Audi and Chrysler on his resume.

To put it best, we’ll leave you with this message from Bruce and Winnie on the transition:

“It is with great pleasure and happiness that Winnie and I would like to introduce you to the new future of Meyers Manx. 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.”

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