Sports Heroes Who Served: Dune Buggy Builder, Runner, Survived Kamikaze Attack

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In 1964, Bruce Meyers stormed the beach. His homemade buggy, dubbed Meyers Manx, was the very first fiberglass buggy. The fiberglass body covered a rigged Volkswagen Beetle chassis fitted with wide tires.

The wounded from the sinking aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill are transferred to the light cruiser USS Wilkes-Barre off the coast of Kyushu, Japan, May 11, 1945. (Navy photo)

Meyers had previously built surfboards and sailboats at his home in Newport Beach, Calif., So he had experience in fiberglass construction.

The advantage of the Manx over older all-steel buggies was that the fiberglass made it much lighter, sleeker, and streamlined, as fiberglass can be molded into just about any shape.

Meyers then went into business, producing 5,280 Manx kits and several hundred Manx II, a later model.

The Manx received wide recognition when he and co-driver Ted Mangels decided to try to break the record of 39 hours and 46 minutes for the Mexican 1000, a race from Tijuana, Baja California to La Paz in Baja. Southern California, in 1967.

They broke the five-hour record facing off against motorcycles, trucks and other cars. The race was later renamed Baja 1000.

This advertisement prompted enthusiasts all over the world to build their own fiberglass buggies. Some 350,000 similar models were produced, mainly in the late 1960s. According to the Historic Vehicle Association, the Meyers Manx is the most reproduced car in history.

While dune buggy enthusiasts know the pioneering work of Meyers, not everyone knows he was close to death during WWII.

After a hitch in the merchant navy, Meyers joined the navy in 1944, embarking on the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill. On May 11, 1945, near Kyushu, Japan, Bunker Hill was struck by two suicide bombers and began to sink.

The aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill sank after being hit by two suicide bombers off Kyushu, Japan, May 11, 1945. (Navy photo)

Meyers and many other sailors abandoned the ship. As he was floating in the water and awaiting rescue, Meyers spotted an injured sailor who was having trouble staying afloat, so he gave him his life jacket.

He then swam to a seriously injured pilot in the water. Meyers remained by his side until a rescue ship, the light cruiser USS Wilkes-Barre, arrived five hours later.

After the war, Meyers made another tour with the Merchant Navy.

He died on February 19, 2021 at the age of 94 at his home in Valley Center, California.

The Meyers Manx, however, lives on thanks to Meyers Manx LLC., Which still produces fiberglass buggies.

US Special Forces and the US Border Patrol also used the Meyers Manx to build the Light Strike Vehicle, which is in use today.

The Meyers Manx has also appeared in a number of films, including the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair”. In the film, actor Steve McQueen drives the Manx across the beach and across the sand dunes in a lengthy action scene.

The US Army Light Strike Vehicle was inspired by the Meyers Manx, a fiberglass buggy. (Photo from DOD)


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