"I beat the bikes because they got lost all the time!" Bruce Meyers on the early Mexican 1000, Off-road racing competition.
In an interview last week, Bruce Meyers admitted why he beat the bikes in the early Mexican 1000 to become the Baja 1000. "The bikes always got lost, they didn't know how to get to La Paz in the fastest way. I did, I checked out the route and had enough fuel to get me to the finish line."
"The bike guys finished behind us, because they weren't on the right roads", Meyers went on.
So, the first four wheel competitors won the early races not because of performance, but because of pre-planning and logistics. Simple speed failed.
The very bitter Meyers went on to say how he still feels he got ripped off by the desert, home builder, fab industry of the off-roading community. 'Ripped off', by the desert rats of the west, not respecting his patents and his attempts to control the market, of his style of 'dune buggies'. More on the rise of the Meyers Manx at the new "Club", Bruce Meyers has online now.
Take a walk near the small towns that sit perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and it's impossible to ignore the signs nailed to fences, telephone poles and beach houses that lead to the sand dunes of coastal California.
"MANX IS BACK," they read, usually in large, block letters.
Others are even more simplistic, more direct: "Thanks, Bruce."
Thanks to a revolution, thanks to a new generation that is enjoying the simple pleasures of an older generation, thanks to Bruce Meyers and the Meyers Manx, dune buggies are back.
Four decades after melding Volkswagen parts with a little fiberglass, one man couldn't be more proud.
"All I was looking for was a chance to get out in the open wind and have some fun," Meyers said a few years ago during the introduction of a new dune buggy. "Who knew it would catch on again like it did then?"
If you've never heard of Bruce Meyers, chances are you've wished you were driving one of his creations.
Considered by many to be one of the most groundbreaking automotive designs ever built, the fiberglass dune buggy wasn't just a car -- it was a lifestyle.
Meyers used skill and backyard engineering to build something that broke convention to plow through the California sand. Some say his creation was what made hot rodding so hot.
Even he couldn't have known.
Meyers grew up in California during the early days of surfing, drag racing and beach combing. After serving his country in World War II, Meyers sailed to the South Seas and built a trading post in the Cook Islands, near Fiji. He loved sailing and his interest in boat building, especially catamarans, turned into all kinds of projects that involved fiberglass.
But it was on California's Pismo Beach, in 1966, where he saw his first "Dune Buggy." Known as "water pumpers," they were V-8-powered machines that were so heavy and crude that Meyers knew there had to be a better way.
Working out of his garage in Newport Beach, Calif., Meyers had a dream: He would build a buggy for the wilds of Baja, a thin strip of sand and surf jutting out of California into the Pacific Ocean. The vehicle would be light. It would be mobile. And it would blow the doors off the water pumpers.
After modifying a Volkswagen Kombi bus with wide rims, Meyers used his boat-building experience to craft the first fiberglass dune buggy. One trip to the beach turned into the catalyst for an entire industry.
What a trip it was.
Meyers made 12 cars that first year, produced using monocoque bodies (that had their own integral frame) with a VW engine and transmission. They were expensive and difficult to produce, so Meyers redesigned the body to fit on a shortened Beetle floor plan.
The result became a legend.
The Meyers Manx began the off-road revolution, eventually leading to more than 6,000 Manx kits sold in 10 years. In dune-buggy circles, the Manx would take the country by storm. It landed on the cover of Hot Rod magazine. Celebrities drove them.
But imitators were everywhere.
Other manufacturers sprung up overnight. Over the course of the next 20 years, more than 300 companies made 250,000 look-alikes and near-look-alikes that would flood not only the beaches, but the streets of America. Meyers attempts to patent his product were unsuccessful. The courts said he hadn't produced anything that was worthy of a patent.
Meyers went on to produce more off-road vehicles, including a buggy called the Tow'd, a smaller and lighter Manx. But it suffered under the weight of production problems, selling less than 1,000 units. Meyers built other vehicles: the Manx S.R. (Street Roadster); a four-seat Tourista built for hotel chains; and a few utility vehicles for Los Angeles lifeguards. But in 1971, after 10 years fighting competitors, the Meyers Manx company was out of business.
And then something remarkable happened: People wanted his dune buggies again.
Decades after that first buggy, with a renewed interest in the hobby and following the urging of many of his friends, Meyers reformed the company, opening the door to a whole new generation of dune buggy owners and enthusiasts.
After countless hours of design, he unveiled a new dune buggy, symbolically adorned with the same color as the original creation (dubbed "Old Red").
With more than 2,000 members in the Manx Club, Meyers, then 76, felt the time was right to get back in.
The new buggy was "the culmination of a creative vision that has been nestled in my mind for years," he said during the unveiling in 2002. "The return of retro styling in automotive circles happened to perfectly coincide with the need in the market for a car that was just plain fun."
A father couldn't be more proud.
"If the Manx is art, and art is truth, then this kind of truth will survive for today's generation to rediscover.""
From the club: "Bruce Meyers grew up in Southern California during the early days of surfing, drag racing, and hanging out at the beach. Loving the lore of the sea, Bruce first enlisted with the Merchant Marines before serving his country in the Navy during World War II. Assigned to the Bunker Hill, an Essex-class Air Craft Carrier, Bruce was forced to jump from the ship when it was hit by two Kamikazes at the battle of Okinawa. After saving a burned pilot downed in the water, and though the ship was severely damaged, Bruce was one of the volunteer skeleton crew who went back aboard the smoking acrid, flesh-smelling hulk limping back to port. After the war he sailed on a square-rigged ship to the South Seas to build a trading post in the Cook Islands for a very wealthy man.
After six months on this coral atoll of Tongereva, Bruce completed the trading post amidst a tapestry of child-like people, pearl trading and a steady diet of fish. He then spent six months in Tahiti before returning to the US. It was his love of sailing and the Polynesian life-style that later moved him to build his 42’ catamaran, which he intended to sail back to the South Seas. The allure of Tahiti was not to be however, and so Bruce went on to build tooling of the first fiberglass sailboats for the Cal-boat line of Jensen Marine designed by world famous Bill Lapworth. It was at Pismo Beach, CA that Bruce first became acquainted with "dune buggies".
These "water pumpers" were crude and heavy so Bruce took it upon himself to design a lightweight version that would be fun on the beach or in the wilds of Baja. After modifying a VW Kombi bus with wide rims (called "Little Red Riding Bus"), Bruce used his expertise in boat building to design the first fiberglass-bodied dune buggy, the Meyers Manx. The first 12 cars produced were all-fiberglass, monocoque bodies that had a steel structural frame within the fiberglass that attached to the VW suspension and running gear (“Old Red” - #1 now resides with Bruce). These cars were expensive (for their time) and redundant in that so much of the VW was thrown away. Bruce redesigned the body to fit on a shortened VW floorpan, which ultimately reduced the price as well. As a result, the Meyers Manx took off. It took the country by storm when magazines like Hot Rod and Car & Driver featured the fiberglass car on their covers.
This caused a rash of over 300 orders. Not able to immediately fill these orders, other manufacturers sprang up overnight and ended up producing over 250,000 look-a-likes and near look-a-likes. Eventually over 300 companies, worldwide, copied the Manx in one form or another – even the copiers copied each other. Bruce tried to stop the floodgate of imitations with patent infringement laws but failed to convince the judge that he had produced anything worth a patent. In subsequent years B.F. Meyers & Co. built 5,280 Manx kits, several hundred Manx 2's, about 1,000 Meyers Tow’ds, a couple of hundred Manx SR’s and 75 Resorters - a total of nearly 7,000 kits. The performance of the Meyers Manx was amazing, especially off-road! It handled better than any other off-road vehicle and was much more fun to drive due to its supple suspension and light weight.
A pair of Meyers Manx’s won 39 out of 41 slalom races and won its class in the Pike's Peak Hill Climb beating Corvettes, Cobras, and most open wheel sprint cars! The roots of off-road racing were the old motorcycle elapsed-time records. The very first Meyers Manx, “Old Red” (driven by Bruce and Ted Mangels), beat these bikes by over five hours culminating in the first Baja off-road races. Meyers Manx’s came in first overall and second in their class in the first official race, the Mexican 1000 - 1967. This started the off-road revolution and eventually the Score’s Baja 1,000 off-road race. The Meyers Tow'd was originally produced for off-road use only. It was an effort to diversify and expand the B. F. Meyers & Co. product base.
The original Tow’d, aptly named as it was to be towed (get it?), had no hood or fenders. People thought it was so cute that they demanded it also become street-legal. Eventually the Towdster evolved adorned with hood, fenders and engine cover – even a soft-top for weather protection. The Tow’d in general had production problems however and never really caught on like the Manx. The body was smaller and lighter than the Manx and was built on a custom tube frame. One might say that the Tow’d was the predecessor of the modern sandrail. Bruce raced a Tow'd in the second Baja 1,000 and ended by crashing and breaking both legs. He is reminded daily by a worn out stainless steel ankle today, which is detected by his slight limp. The next product of the company was the Manx SR (Street Roadster).
This car was an attempt to short circuit the Manx copycats. Penned by Stewart Reed, a student fresh out of Art Center College of Design, it was intended for the street only and possessed a sleek aerodynamic shape that is still contemporary today. It was built to fit on the same shortened VW floorpan as the original Manx to keep the great handling characteristics. The car had thirteen fiberglass and many metal pieces making it much more of a challenge for the garage-type mechanic to complete. Though it was thought that there were 400 to 600 of these kits produced, it now appears more like 200 were sold by B.F. Meyers & Co. and possibly 200 more sold by the successive companies that bought the molds after the company went down. The Resorter/Turista was also produced by B.F. Meyers & Co, though not designed by Bruce, to provide a 4-seat tour vehicle. The Resorter had lower sides for easier entrance and exit.
The car was originally produced and sold to hotel chains in Puerto Rico, Acapulco and Hawaii. Bruce was not fond of its shape and claimed the sight of it gave him the "turistas" ("Montezuma’s Revenge"). Three Utility cars were produced, two of which were sold as Lifeguard buggies for Los Angeles County and one buggy designated for the California Forestry Service. These buggies were equipped with a covered rear bed for hauling life-saving gear and which required the use of a VW "pancake" engine. The third utility buggy intended for the Forestry Service was stolen from the company before it was ever delivered. It has only recently been rediscovered, though its history is still clouded in mystery. The last vehicle in the Manx fleet was the Kuebelwagen.
This car was a replica of the German Desert Staff car of WWII and was built on a full-length floorpan. Sadly, there was only one of these cars built. Totally restored, this car reigns high in the Manx Club. In 1970, with the burden of fighting the cheap imitations of the copiers, cross-country shipping difficulties, the loss of the patent infringement case, demands of the rule changing Excise Tax Board, conflict within the company and an impending divorce, Bruce left B.F. Meyers & Co. for a less stressful life. Under the direction of John Blick, B.F. Meyers & Co. closed its doors in 1971. A public auction equivocated Bruce’s dream at less than ten cents on the dollar. Now 35+ years later, Bruce and the Meyers Manx are back. Offering the new Manxter 2+2 and the Manxter DualSport, these street-legal fiberglass dune buggies are dreamed, designed and brought to reality by the man who started it all." See more at http://www.manxclub.com/
Baja Racing News.com