SEMA News—February 2014
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Petersen Archives
Not everything on the cover of Hot Rod magazine in the ’60s was, well, a hot rod. In fact, the editors seemed to be looking for “the next big thing” during a period in 1966, as several issues in a row featured vehicles not usually found in “Everybody’s Automotive Magazine.” There was a painting of customizer George Barris and some of his most famous TV cars on the cover of the June issue; a Super Modified oval-track racer all crossed up in the dirt on the July issue; and a hot-rodded ski boat on the September cover.
The August cover heralded a “New Craze—Off the Road Fun Cars,” with a special section on dune buggies and four-wheel drives. Almost bursting off the cover, all four wheels far off the ground, was a bright yellow dune buggy—a Meyers Manx—with Bruce Meyers himself at the wheel. (That photo and the outtakes shown here were shot by Hot Rod’s Eric Rickman.)
Inside the issue, Editor Bob Greene’s story on “Terra Firma Funny Cars” talked about how the “sudden swing to off-the-road specialty vehicles is really not sudden at all; it has been building for the last 10 years in a multitude of camps….” Meyers’ Manx fell into the camp of “kit bodies now available for the VW chassis,” wrote Greene. “The smartly designed fiberglass shells bolt on in a matter of hours, offer somewhat more protection [than the open chassis of a wrecked VW] and considerably more class at a slight sacrifice in last-ditch maneuverability.”
The Manx on the magazine cover was the latest in a string of vehicular developments from Meyers’ fertile imagination. He was inspired to design a dune buggy after seeing a few on the sand at Pismo Beach on California’s central coast. After first experimenting with a converted Volkswagen bus chassis, he utilized his experience building sailboats to design a fiberglass body with an integral steel frame that would bolt up to a VW’s suspension pieces and drivetrain. He soon realized, though, that he could make the body much lighter—and less expensive—if he modified it to attach to the VW’s floorpan.
It was that version of the Manx that appeared in Hot Rod and brought instant fame—and a flood of orders—to Meyers. The Manx would gain added notoriety a few months later when it won the very first Mexican 1000 off-road rally, the race that would become the Baja 1000.