In His Own Words: Bruce Meyers on What Makes the Manx So Special

Volkswagen’s latest electric retro-mobile, the I.D. BUGGY made its debut at the New York International Auto Show last week. To celebrate the occasion, the automaker invited Bruce Meyers, creator and namesake of the legendary Meyers Manx to speak to journalists. While sharing stories about the creation of the Manx, he offered some insight into what he thinks made his buggy such an enduring legend.

“First of all, I love cars and I love art,” said Meyers. “I spent many years in art school drawing. Figure drawing especially.”

Meyers explained that, unlike portraiture in which photographic devotion to accuracy is key, figure drawings rely on a sense of motion to express their subject.

“It’s more of a sense of movement and life: gestures,” he said. “Without the gesture, your figure drawing is kind of dead. So learning to draw cars with a lot of gesture—a sense of movement, of life—is no different.”

But it wasn’t all expressionistic style and motion. There was some good old fashioned cuteness in it, too.

“It used a lot of Mickey Mouse,” he explained. ”Any little dinky car with big wheels is fun. That says fun, right now. Of course, it also says adventure.”

Finally, Meyers focused on something we’re all still trying to master: stance.

“The business of its stance was very important. I was very aware of that,” said Meyers. “The car has a lot rake. Down in the front, up in the back, short, tight wheels.”

All of it combined to give the car a wealth of personality. Despite being small and simple, its lines, its stance, and its cuteness amounted to a car that was more than the sum of its parts.

“That damn windshield is so blatant and those popped up headlights. It seems to be thumbing its nose at tradition,” he said. “And I think there’s something about that in people. I think everybody wants to break the law a little bit. The car did that.”

The car was an instant success off-road, winning the very first Baja 1000 in 1967. But it wasn’t until Car and Driver featured the Manx on its cover in 1968 that sales really took off—and that turned out to be a mixed blessing for Meyers.

“I built one [kit] a week myself,” he explains. “Just the body kit. I was trying to be very honest and give the [buyer] everything I could.”

Not only was he dedicated to quality, he only had one mold to make kits with. So five a week was asking a lot. When the car was featured on the magazine, though, he was quickly overwhelmed with orders.

“[We] got 300 orders. So we had big problems,” said Meyers. “So we started making molds and I got a little crew together to make more molds and it took about a year and a half to get 16-18 molds and then we moved into a larger facility.”

To ask Meyers, though, the success had less to do with the Manx’s successes off-road than it did with the way it looks.

“It had a folding windshield and a hood that opened and a battery box and place for tools and 15-gallon gas tank and all these things I could connect into this very simple thing and I didn’t know that they didn’t give a god damn,” he says. “They liked the look. This crazy look seemed to be overpowering it.”

Naturally, Meyers is flattered that VW has chosen to honor the Manx with their homage, the I.D. BUGGY.

“A dune buggy is the best thing that Volkswagen could possibly do,” says Meyers. “It’s beautifully styled, of course.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t have a few notes: “I question the size of the car if that’s any question at all. I suppose there are some problems with the packaging that’s under the floor. That may be the driving reason for the size, but I like the thing. To me, it’s just a little large.”

Still, he’s flattering overall of the design and the idea, admitting that he has long thought that an electric dune buggy would be a great idea. Just don’t expect to see it at the Baja 1000.