This man invented the dune buggy

This feature was originally published in the December 2013 issue of Top Gear magazine

“I’m not smart, but I’m talented. I can draw, I have a good sense of proportions, I know a lot about fibreglass, and I’m a horny old ******. I’ve raced at Bonneville, shaped surfboards, and I’ve never had a business plan. The whole of that – the whole of me – is in the Manx buggy.”

Bruce Meyers is 87, and in 2014 the Meyers Manx will celebrate its 50th birthday. A car that became a bandwagon, defined the Californian beach culture it grew from, fathered the Baja 1000 and wheel-to-wheel off-road racing, exploited one of VW’s most celebrated innovations, and intercepted the chain letter of play-it-safe received automotive aesthetics. It’s been copied more than 300,000 times, all over the world, and it owes its creator a fortune. Literally.

It’s also utterly, indecently cute. “When I was a little kid in Newport Beach – before the buggies and the cars and the beach boy life – I crawled around with comics,” says Meyers, insouciant to the fiercely colourful, baked-on charm of his home and workshop in Valley Center, near San Diego. “Mickey Mouse drove around in these tiny cars with great big wheels. I wanted to drive them right off the page. I never thought I would, but I kind of had an idea that cars would be part of my life.”

Words: Matthew Jones
Photography: Robert Yager