Holding up a spotlight to a vibrant personality in off-road racing’s rather eclectic culture, race organizers have announced they will honor 93-year old Bruce Meyers as Grand Marshal for this week’s BFGoodrich Tires Mint 400. Widely known as the inventor of the world first fiberglass dune buggy in the early 1960s, Meyers was also a surfer, sailor, guitar/ukulele player, artist, engineer and founding father of the entire off-road lifestyle and industry.
Meyers originally created a flowing fiberglass body to fit on an old Volkswagen floor pan. Using much of the stock VW drivetrain, suspension and other parts, that first car, built in 1964 in his old garage in Newport Beach, California, was eventually called a Meyers Manx. Nicknamed “Old Red,” in mid-1967 Meyers and buddy Ted Mangels drove the car from La Paz to Tijuana a five full hours faster than previous trans-Baja runs done on motorcycles. The feat not only garnered attention around the world, but also resulted in the formation of the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA), an entity that created and promoted the very first Mexican 1000 later that year.
The first true professional desert race, the inaugural NORRA Mexican 1000 was won by Mangels and Vic Wilson in a factory-supported Meyers Manx. Over 50 years later, Meyers will drop the green flag for the 2020 Mint 400 and send off the best racers in the world on a 428-mile battle with the rugged Nevada desert outside of Las Vegas.
“Bruce Meyers is the godfather of off-road culture,” said Mint 400 CEO Matt Martelli. “When you think of the Southern California dream of driving down the beach with your girl and your surfboard in the glowing California sun, that dream was created by Bruce Meyers. This guy was the “King of Cool” long before (Steve) McQueen, (Paul) Newman, and (James) Garner climbed into a car.”
The Meyers Manx sparked a huge automotive and lifestyle fad in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the company eventually producing over 7,000 cars, but also succumbing to a massive industry that knocked-off Bruce’s idea in building 350,000 copies from some 300 companies worldwide.
“When Bruce converted the first VW to a Manx, the world fell in love with the inexpensive practicality of the platform,” added Martelli. “But, most of all, it was the “cool” factor that sold The Meyers Manx. The idea was that you would magically be transformed into a good-looking movie star exploring Baja surf breaks by simply climbing in and strapping your surfboards to the top. Bruce didn’t just invent a vehicle; he invented the off-road lifestyle.”
It is a way of life still enjoyed by the legendary off-road pioneer. Bruce and his wife Winnie still oversee the Meyer Manx business that sells various kits – both old and with new features – as well as factory authorized accessories, parts and merchandise.