Meyers Manx Reborn as All-Electric Dune Buggy


The iconic Meyers Manx is one of those vehicles everyone recognizes, even if they don’t quite know what it is. Developed in 1964 by Californian engineer, artist, boat builder, World War II veteran, and surfing enthusiast Bruce Meyers, the Manx became a popular way for people to convert ho-hum Volkswagen Beetles into truly capable dune buggies. It became an overnight success among those looking to dabble in off-road racing on the West Coast and was gradually embraced as a viable street rod. But it’s probably best known for being America’s de-facto fiberglass beach vehicle, ready for whatever kind of Surfin’ Safari its owner had in mind.

If you liked cars as a child, you probably had a toy of the Manx (named after the adorable tailless feline) and undoubtedly noticed it featured heavily in cartoons broadcast during the 1970s and 80s. But formal production of the model actually ceased in 1971, due to troubles with the IRS, leaving copycats with a few decades to do their thing until limited production resumed in 2000. Shortly before Meyers’ death in 2021, he sold the company to Trousdale Ventures and they’ve opted to relaunch the model as an all-electric vehicle.

While Meyers Manx, Inc. continued production of the original model, it had also expanded into building updated variants and modern equivalents using newer (more readily available) VW host vehicles. Trousdale Ventures seems to think an EV is the next natural step, and may very well be correct considering how the Manx is synonymous with California. The Golden State eventually plans to ban the sale of anything that produces emissions from an exhaust pipe, meaning the company likely has to pivot to electric models or consider moving out of state in a few years.

Designed by Freeman Thomas (an industry veteran responsible for the Volkswagen New Beetle), the Meyers Manx 2.0 Electric definitely looks to be the most modern ride offered by the company. But it has still managed to retain a lot of the hallmark trappings of the original. On the surface, it’s more Manx 1.0 than the all-electric ID. Buggy Volkswagen teased and then failed to build. But, beneath the aluminum monocoque, it’s the other way round.

Customers are said to be able to purchase the model with either a 20-kWh base battery or a larger 40-kWh option. The range is estimated to cap out somewhere around 150 miles on the standard model and 300 miles if you splurged for the bigger power pack. While that may not sound feasible at first blush, these cars are only supposed to weigh 1,500 pounds. Granted the larger battery adds 150 lbs, but the model is also said to offer 202 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of instantaneous torque. According to the manufacturer, that’s good for 0-60 rushes in just 4.5 seconds.

EVs will come with front and rear disc brakes, independent rear suspension, electric power steering, and an electric emergency brake.

The only real negative (other than the absent handbrake) is the fact that the car doesn’t come with DC fast charging capabilities — though it’s supposed to be available as an optional extra. Despite the company seeing this as a recreational vehicle designed to hit the dunes, those living in warmer climates might opt to use the Manx 2.0 for simply getting around once in a while. And there will certainly be plenty of people that actually want to drive to the fun spots and have enough energy to make it home after hours of bouncing across uneven terrain. Plowing through sand and dirt will undoubtedly deplete the battery much faster than sticking to the pavement and owners will have to consider that before setting off.

The good news here is that, since the vehicles have relatively small battery packs and are exceptionally lightweight, those equipped with DC fast chargers shouldn’t take all that long to recoup a useful amount of energy. I’d still rather have a gasoline-powered (Subaru boxer, ideally) Manx myself. But there seems to be a use case for an all-electric model, especially if would-be owners aren’t particularly interested in picking up a wrench.

If you’re interested, the Manx 2.0 is supposed to commence production in 2024. However, I have concerns about the preceding beta program the company wants to conduct in 2023. Here, Meyers Manx plans to offer 50 pre-production examples to hand-picked customers in order to get feedback that will be baked into the final product. While that could result in a better vehicle come 2024, these programs have a way of dragging on and may ultimately delay the vehicle’s formal arrival. But it also makes the above information subject to change and makes it impossible to price this thing.

The Manx has historically been an extremely affordable way to get into automotive fun. We don’t yet know if that’ll carry over to the all-electric version. But that may change once the company opens up the books for pre-orders and applications for the beta program on August 19th.

[Image: Meyers Manx]

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