Some cars you simply own. Some cars change everything.
About 20 years ago, I had a hankering for a small, pit-type vehicle that could go off road. I first looked at Mini Mokes and VW Things. While both are cool, they’re objectively quite unattractive. Plus, they’re somewhat complicated, and each one that I looked at was rusty.
We were able to get the Manx first. Then we fit my parents’ furniture in and around the Manx parts–a bit unorthodox, but we got home, barely. The weight of the Manx plus all the home furnishings literally tore the frame off my tow vehicle. Thank you, roads of the Northeast.
Once home, we immediately started assembling our Manx. Shorty, our local air-cooled VW guru at the time, built an engine for us. I guess I expected the price to be higher: I will never forget when he told me that a 1600cc dual-port engine would cost too much for a buggy, so $600 for a single-port engine made more sense–and would make more torque, too, he added. (Despite all of the abuse it’s endured over the years–including being filled with water, mud and sand–that engine still purrs away.)
Three months and $3000 later, we had a beautifully restored, period-correct Meyers Manx. My buddy Rennie and I thrashed to get it done in time for the Turkey Rod Run, the annual pilgrimage of the automobile that’s held every Thanksgiving here in the Daytona Beach area. We had an unusual cold snap that year, but despite the 40-degree weather, Rennie, Margie and my then-little kids piled in the Manx to show off our new toy.
We’d later take the Manx off-roading through the wilds. We’ve crossed water so deep that it flowed around the windshield. The Manx once set FTD at a local autocross.
Next time you visit Road Atlanta or VIR, look at the hills: Our Meyers Manx has climbed up all of them. We stopped doing this, however, when we came up over a hill one night and landed in someone’s campsite. No one was hurt, but we realized that we needed to ease up on the night prowling a bit. And then there’s that time the Manx got permanently banned from Daytona International Speedway.
Another memorable time with the Manx: running the Blue Ridge Parkway with the kids. We would get to the top of a hill, turn off the engine, and see how far we could coast. As I remember, we once went 5 miles in one stretch without firing up the engine.
Over the years, I have been lucky to meet a lot of the icons in our industry. I was so enamored with the Manx that I sought out Bruce Meyers, the car’s designer.
When I walked into the backyard of his Southern California home and found him covered with fiberglass dust, I knew I had met my kindred spirit. From his modest shop, he was still churning out Manxes.
Over dinner that night, Bruce and his amazing wife, Winnie, shared countless stories. One that perfectly captures his spirit: He shaped the Manx’s front fender to hold a beer. And despite experiencing some serious adversity, he still had a gleam in his eye.
Bruce and Winnie sold the company late last year, and sadly Bruce passed away this past February. He was truly an automotive icon, and I thank him for creating a seemingly simple car that has added so much to my life.