Image: Volkswagen, Bruce MeyersI’ve realized that I form of have a sort with regards to individuals I maintain as private heroes. They are usually mechanically-minded tinkerer/artists, individuals like Alexander Calder or Rebecca Horn or my pal Tom Jennings. They don’t essentially take themselves too severely, however they do significant work. There’s one other huge one on that checklist, somebody I’ve admired for years: Bruce Meyers, the person who just about singlehandedly began the entire great {industry} of Volkswagen-based package vehicles and dune buggies. He died at the moment, at his dwelling in Valley Center, California.Bruce was greatest recognized for the automotive that bears his title, the Meyers Manx, which is, I believe, an absolute icon of automotive design, nonetheless the picture that pops into everybody’s thoughts after they hear the phrases “dune buggy.”People in Southern California had been hacking collectively “dune buggy”-like autos from previous Jeeps and stripped-down vehicles for years, and as soon as the Volkswagen Beetle started to realize reputation in America within the Fifties, the form of individuals that enjoyed to drive in piles of sand started to note that the sunshine little automotive had surprisingly good traction, was robust, and the physique was simple to take away, all nice qualities for a bit of off-roader.People started stripping Beetles down for off-road use, and Bruce seen this within the early ‘60s. Bruce wasn’t simply content material yanking the fenders off a Bug and calling it a day; Bruce was an precise, no-joke artist, and he had been constructing fiberglass boats for Jensen Marine, a mixture that led to the method that will make him well-known: a wonderfully-designed fiberglass physique that might bolt proper on to a (shortened) Beetle chassis.Photo: Meyers ManxG/O Media might get a feeThe first model of Bruce’s thought, in-built 1964, was a bit totally different than the later manufacturing ones that will come to be known as Manxes, after the tail-free cats, in that it was extra of a unibody design, with onerous factors to bolt the Volkswagen axles and drivetrain however no want for the pan.That first Manx, with inexperienced add-on gasoline tanks produced from re-purposed welding gasoline tanks, was referred to as Old Red, made a record-setting off-road run from Tijuana to La Paz, a run that will encourage the well-known Baja 1000 off-road race that’s nonetheless run at the moment. Let’s simply take a second right here and have a look at the Meyers Manx, as a result of it’s a type of designs that’s so woven into our cultural automotive consciousness that it may be onerous to consider objectively.Photo: USPO, NRHAGiven the constraints of the necessities for the Manx—robust, low cost, simple to place collectively in a yard with primary instruments—the result’s, I consider, and absolute design triumph. The physique is one primary tub that comes with just about every part—you simply bolt on a windshield, lights, and a roll bar and also you’re good to go, just about. For the period, it was a very up-to-date design, a very totally different design path from the Thirties Beetle design, and with its almost-catenary curved fenders that kind the general form seems like an Eero Saarinen architectural work, simply on a a lot smaller scale.Meyers described the Manx in an interview:I’m an artist and I wished to deliver a way of motion and gesture to the Man. Dune buggies have a message: enjoyable. They’re playful to drive and may appear to be it. Nothing did on the time. So I checked out it and took care of the knowns. The prime of the entrance fenders needed to be flat to carry a few beers, the edges needed to come up excessive sufficient to maintain the mud and sand out of your eyes, it needed to be suitable with Beetle mechanicals and also you had to have the ability to construct it your self. Then I added all the road and female kind and Mickey Mouse journey I may.”The consequence was completely good for what it wanted to be, maybe too good, as a result of it was imitated nearly instantly, mercilessly and unrelentingly.Photo: SearsEverybody, even upstanding cornerstones of American commerce like Sears, had been cranking out and promoting shameless Manx-clones, and regardless of holding a design patent, Meyers was unfortunate in courtroom, and the flood of knockoffs ended up placing him out of enterprise in 1971.Bruce bounced again, inventing the fiberglass sizzling tub, and later in life getting again into constructing Manxes.Photo: Jason TorchinskyI received to satisfy Bruce a couple of years in the past, once I was driving a Class 11 desert racing Beetle; he was heat and sort and we talked at painful size about every kind of Volkswagen and dune buggy ephemera. He was so sharp and heat, and it was onerous to reconcile that this was an precise human being who had created this factor that appeared prefer it will need to have in some way all the time existed.The Manx dune buggy design was so iconic to me that assembly Bruce had the identical form of surreal impact that you’d really feel when you had been launched to the person who invented that feeling you get after an extended enjoyable day on the seaside with mates, once you’re younger and exquisite and a bit sunburned and your hair feels thick and salty and the sundown is making the within of your automotive shades of vivid orange and every part feels great on this planet. It’d be like assembly that particular person. Only all of that feeling is a automotive.Bruce Meyers I believe doesn’t typically get the popularity he deserves as a automotive designer; he will get acknowledged certain—his first Manx is on the National Historic Vehicle Register, in any case—however I believe his achievement places him amongst extra acknowledged auto designers like Virgil Exner or Gordon Buehrig.He designed a automotive that sparked a complete new class of car, a complete sub-industry; what number of automotive designers can say that?Bruce Meyers confirmed the world how a lot enjoyable vehicles might be, then put the flexibility to truly construct these vehicles into the arms of anybody with a couple of free weekends and a ratty previous Volkswagen. His Manx was freed from pretension or silly standing or posturing—it was easy and enjoyable, and a present to everybody who loves the feeling of being in movement.Bruce stays one in every of my automotive heroes, and he’ll be missed.