Once my friend Jodi was in France with her sister. They went to order crepes and Jodi chose strawberry. Her sister ordered next, and picked chocolate. When Jodi saw how good the chocolate one looked, she tried to change her order.
“Oh ho ho, jealousie,” said the crepe-maker, and I don’t remember how the story ended. I just wanted to talk about jealousy. I have been super envious of Fred because he got a dune buggy for a recent Dirt Every Day episode. Maybe I shouldn’t be jealous really, since Fred spent more time pushing than buggying, but the fact remains, Fred has a dune buggy and I don’t.
Make that, I didn’t.
Meet Perry. He’s the dude on the far end of that buggy body in the photo above. Perry has a bunch of amazing cars, including a swarm of real Meyers Manx dune buggies, some Cobras—also real, a big-block Chevelle, a Corvette, you name it, he probably has it. The other day Perry asked me if I wanted to throw together a Manx, as he had most of the parts for one just sitting around. Why wouldn’t I say yes to that? I said yes so fast it sounded like a hummingbird sneeze.
Dune buggies have been around before the Volkswagen, but the popularity and availability of that little car made for an explosion of VW-based buggies in the 1960s. The most famous is the Meyers Manx designed by Bruce F. Meyers. As a side note, dune buggy Bruce F. Meyers is a different Bruce than L.A. car collector Bruce Meyer. Meyers (with an S.) is an artist and surfer who came up with the fiberglass Manx body after working with the material in boat-building. He went on to win races with the first ever Manx, and the Manx shape was so popular there have been tons of copies since it first showed up. HOT ROD did a big Meyers Manx history piece, so you can learn more about Bruce by clicking that link. He’s neat and I’m excited to build one of his cars.
I don’t have a ton of experience with Volkswagens, so we’ll learn all this stuff together. Most buggies sit on a shortened VW pan. Perry had a pan that had already been cut, so we get to skip that step. There are a bunch of variations on the best way to trim the VW down, but they all take a little more than a foot out of the central tunnel and surrounding floorpan. You can see where that’s been done in our pan.
Once the pan is short you can paint it or, if you’re fancy like me and Perry, get it powdercoated. Either way, you’re going to want to block off any threaded holes, and fuel lines or other such easily-plugged-up stuff. I really wanted to make our buggy floor metallic orange, but Perry said satin black is both easier and cheaper. He’s probably right, but I’m still a little sad.
I think the guys at the powdercoater were impressed with how well the pan fit in the back of the Dodge truck. Do you think we could build the whole car in there?
No wait, I have real questions for you. What engine should we use? Should we go traditional dirt-buggy or try something new, like a lowered, souped-up handling Manx? Do you think we could build something that would beat the Vette Kart? What seats should we use? What shifter? Are you building a buggy, or do you have one? He doesn’t know it yet, but we’re racing Swedish Roadkill fan, Kim Kvartingen Johansson to see if we can finish ours before he finishes his. We can’t really tell if we’re ahead or behind since his project seems to be buried under Swedish vacuum cleaners. Get to work, Kim!