The following year was the 50th anniversary of the Meyers Manx, and the idea of getting Bruce Meyers to the Baja finish line was compelling enough for me to unearth the 1967 race Manxter and get it prepared for the 2014 NORRA race. It had been purchased by a Manx enthusiast and arrived at my home shop as the overworked wreck that I kind of expected. It was a cobbled mess of arc-welded repair, suspect fabrication and junk parts.
Thankfully, the Bruce Meyers story of failure also became a battle cry. Every call we made was met with enthusiasm and, more importantly, parts and support. It was 2002 all over again. Even my late mentor and racing hero Bob Gordon provided a much-needed engine for the effort. Soon our humble home shop was being invaded with help, including original Meyers Manx builder Jim Chamberlin and our vital support team of motorcycle champion Andy Grider and his father Neil.
The beautifully reworked yellow Manxter, now wearing No. 1964 in recognition of its 50th anniversary, arrived in Newport Beach just in time for a special lunch and reunion of original Meyers Manx employees, VIP and media. From there, it was back to Baja.
Armed with as many spare parts as we could muster, the plan was for our team of Bruce, Andy Grider, Pirelli’s Rafael Navarro and myself to share driving duties, all dependent upon a then 86-year-old’s daily aspiration. Following the journey was a group of Manx Club members and their cars, my Dual Sport along with Bruce’s beloved wife Winnie.
We called the five day race the “Destiny in Dust Tour,” outfitted ourselves with special t-shirts and custom sunglasses gifted to us by Oakley. Bruce was even given a new driving suit and helmet from Impact Safety, but he especially liked rocking those new shades with special pride.
On race day, Bruce took the green flag out of Baja’s traditional Ensenada starting line for what turned out to be the final time. Handing the car off to Navarro, the group made it to the overnight stop in remote Bay of Los Angeles. The car arrived with a broken gearbox. No matter, we had a spare and our crew worked late into the night. As luck would have it, the hastily obtained transmission didn’t fit. Dejected, we crashed for the night with a looming sense of failure – again.
The next morning a friend looked at my pristine Dual Sport and realized it actually had the correct gearbox. We unceremoniously yanked the engine and transmission out of it and just made our 10:00 a.m. start time.
Looking back, the next four days was a blur of more broken parts, a weary crew and an unexpected engine change — this time we had the right spare.
Leaving La Paz on the rally’s final run to Cabo San Lucas, the little yellow Manx did everything it could to keep its reputation as a diabolical loser alive and well. My job was to get the car to Bruce about 10 miles from the checkered flag, but when I got the car from Andy both the backup engine and transmission were almost done. Huffing and chugging, we made the 100 or so mile leg to meet a smiling Bruce.
What was the finish like? Per Meyers’ book: “The intention was for me to finish a race before I die, so a few miles from the Cabo San Lucas line, I waited, helmet in hand, with my co-driver Neil Grider. The badly running car showed up after 1000 miles of torture. Yelled at over the noise of the engine, I was told it had only third gear and was running on three cylinders! Off we went, revving up to keep from killing a sick engine without first or second gears. My much-younger co-pilot, Neil, had better eyes than mine; he saved us, as I was troubled by the setting sun in my face as we approached the finish line.
“As I think back to that whole experience, the effort that was made by so many just to ensure that I actually finish a Baja race, I have to remember the pull, the drive that one feels in this accomplishment by so few lucky men.”
The Manx group was there at the finish and were able to see their hero finally meet a destiny that he never thought would be fulfilled. Amazingly, after five days and almost 1,300 miles, we managed to post an official race finish by just minutes.
So much heart had gone into it, but so much more was returned in the form of achievement and satisfaction. I swear there was a tear or two behind those Oakleys.
Perhaps the memory of that moment will be the catalyst for finally finishing a Baja Social Club odyssey that has remained my perennial entry in the DNF club. We did film our Destiny in Dust project, just in case. Whatever happens, seeing one of the sport’s most influential personalities soaking in that NORRA moment may well be enough.
Rest in peace my dear friend. History shows your final record was 1 for 6.