“The whole Meyers Manx story could be a college course in industrial design, economics, and law,” says Steve Harman—the guy behind this stunning Meyers Manx tribute car we spotted at the 2021 Goodguys Summit Racing Nationals..
The driving force behind his eponymous company, Bruce Meyers revolutionized the kit car hobby, yet was undone by his own ingenuity. That’s because, while the construction of his early prototypes was labor intensive, Meyers soon developed a brilliant (and relatively easy) way to adapt a VW Beetle floorplan to his dune buggy design.
Problem was, copycats were looking over his shoulder.
“As soon as he made it as simple as a shell that can be bolted to a Volkswagen floor, that opened the door to all the imposters” Harman says. “They put him out of business.”
So while it’s fairly easy to spot a dune buggy that mimics Meyers’ design, finding a real-deal Manx is quite a feat. “It’s estimated that 250,000 knockoffs were completed in a ten-year time period between 1968 and 1978,” Harman explains. “But only about 5,200 [original] Manx kits were ever produced.”
Steve Harman is a big Manx enthusiast and was a personal friend of Bruce Meyers before his passing earlier this year. “I knew him very well. He always looked forward, very pragmatic.”
As a tribute, Harman decided to build a Manx inspired by the original prototype, serial number 0001—the inaugural Baja-winning Manx that Meyers himself had lovingly nicknamed “Old Red.”
Step one was finding a legit Manx to build upon, which Harman describes as pretty easy. “There’s a guy in Texas who has a barn full of these things,” he laughs. And while he ultimately found what he needed, there was still a lot of work to be done. “It was really rough, because it had been sitting out in the sun for many years.”
The buggy was brought to Ohio where an extensive restoration began. Thankfully, Harman had an exhaustive number of pictures of the real Old Red to show where things should go, which parts to use, and what color the car should be.
Harman even recalled some insight from the man himself: “Bruce told me, point blank, that a proper Manx has the windshield parallel to the roll bar.”
Yet several aspects of the restoration were still challenging—like finding a VW Wolfsburg steering wheel for instance. “I called some specialized wrecking yards and they all laughed,” Harman admits. Fortunately, the popularity of the Beetle meant that he could source a quality reproduction one.
And better yet, the Meyers Manx company still exists, so Harman could get some parts direct from the factory, like an original windshield and frame. The bumpers and roll bar Harman had fabricated by a local tube-bending shop.
Though Harman did make some strategic departures from the original Old Red recipe. And that’s evident out back, where instead of a VW air-cooled engine, there sits a high performance four-cylinder pulled from a Porsche 912.
Yet some parts are truly unobtanium and required a bit of ad-libbing. As an example, the exhaust is what Harman calls a “modern interpretation of a classic Sidewinder.” But Harman also jokes that “Bruce would hate that, because he’d tell me it’s too low, that it’d get knocked off on a rock.”
All told, the finished Manx is a stunning testament to Bruce Meyers’ engineering and vision. And Harman is glad that his tribute car now serves as a rolling reminder that the Meyers Manx is the original dune buggy:
“The car was so elegant, nothing like it ever had been made before.”