Press-Telegram (Long Beach)
Bruce Meyers, 94, popularized ’60s dune buggy craze
Bruce Meyers, who used his skills as a boat builder to invent the first fiberglass dune buggy, igniting the late-1960s craze for offroad riding, and thrived until copycats flooded the market, died Feb. 19 at his home in Valley Center. He was 94.
The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer, said his wife, Winnifred Meyers.
Meyers' invention got a big promotional boost after he and a friend drove the Meyers Manx (named for the cat with a stub of a tail) to a time record over nearly 1,000 miles of the rough roads of Baja California in 1967. The victory proved the vehicle's viability.
“Go back to the lifestyle I lived when I came into this thing,” he said in a 2017 interview with Motorward, an automotive website. “It wasn't about higher learning or education, but just about having fun.”
Born in Los Angeles on March 12, 1926, Bruce Franklin Meyers was a surfer in Southern California who in the late 1950s and early ‘60s watched fourwheel-drive Jeeps struggle for traction on sand dunes.
But he saw better expressions of the freedom of offroad riding in modified Volkswagen Beetles, which were more effective at navigating dunes because their engine weight was in the rear.
For 18 months, he worked in his small garage in Newport Beach to create the Meyers Manx. He completed the Beetle-turned-Manx in 1964. He began selling kits that would let others convert their Beetles. But sales did not perk up until 1967, when he and a friend, Ted Mangels, an engineer, drove the Meyers Manx from La Paz, Mexico, north to Tijuana in only 34 hours and 45 minutes breaking the previous record, which had been held by two motorcyclists, by about five hours.
Meyers turned out more than 5,000 kits, but it was estimated that at least 20 times as many faux Meyers Manxes were produced. He lost a legal fight against a copycat manufacturer. In 1971, he shut down B.F. Meyers & Co.
In addition to his wife, Meyers is survived by a daughter, Julie Meyers; five grandchildren; and a brother, Richard. Adaughter, Georgia Meyers, and a son, Tim, preceded him in death.