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Discover what made the future: Dune Buggy

The Manx Dune Buggy is named after the Manx cat, known for its turning ability while chasing.

Bruce F. Meyers used the experience gained through sailboat building to build the first dune buggy, “Old Red”. Old Red was shortened VW Beetle, cased in a fibreglass shell with a pickup truck (bakkie) suspension – gave it a bit more ‘bounce’. There was no top and no hood and the fenders were arched high to make space for off-road racing wheels.

He made it in his garage under his company name, initially for desert racing. The invention was a car kit that would be applied to a shortened chassis of the Beetle. The lighter weight gave it greater power and better manoeuvrability which helped the dune buggy dominate dune racing and break numerous records. Meyers and a friend broke the Ensenada – La Pax record of 39 hours, despite both being amateur racers, by 4 hours. The dune buggy’s domination, although not even four-wheel drive, led to the formation of the National Off-Road Racing Association.

The Manx commercially produced version featured an open-wheel shell on the modified VW Beetle frame (shorter RR-layout). It received a lot of attention when it won the 1967 Mexican 1000, later Baja 1000. It was even selected for the Hot Rod magazine – crossing genre lines to be the first of the off-road vehicles featured. The design became so popular that other companies started manufacturing them. Manx appealed to the courts but their patent was rescinded for not being patentable- mass production ensued.

The Manx was used in a few Elvis Presley films and a drastically modified version was famously driven by Steve McQueen, equipped with a Chev Turbo-Air 6 engine. Kids will remember many dune buggy toy cars, with Barbie’s custom pink and white dune buggy being in the famous doll’s collection for many years.

It also appears in the Forza game series, a widely regarded motor racing game.

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