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

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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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

The Manx interiors were simple and unadorned | Sotheby’s

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.

This article, written by Bob Golfen, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.

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