Islander fulfills longtime dream of owning a dune buggy
Robert Taylor had wanted a dune buggy since 1968, just a few years after California surfer and boat builder Bruce Meyers invented the breed by bolting a fiberglass body onto a shortened Volkswagen Beetle chassis.
“For me, they represent island style and something different,” said Taylor, a Galveston resident. “When you drive down the road in one of these, people give you a second look.”
While dune buggies of all sorts have become associated with beaches and surf, especially along the West Coast and during The Beach Boys’ heyday, they began their journey into American pop culture out in the deserts of California.
Meyers built his first buggies — which he dubbed “Manx,” after the tailless Manx cat, because it was stubby — for Baja-style off-road racing. The Meyers Manx, like its namesake, proved to be fast, nimble and rugged. It dominated the sport for a time and set a bunch of records.
Soon B.F. Meyers & Co. was selling kits for street-legal models and the buggies were on their way to becoming the sputtering fiberglass personification of summer at the beach.
Taylor waited almost 50 years to make the first move toward buying a dune buggy, but once he got past that hump it went pretty quickly.
“I found it on Craigslist at 1 a.m. one morning about three months ago,” Taylor said. “I sent the guy a message, thinking I might hear back from him by the next day. He got back to me in 15 minutes.”
The two soon met and $4,200 later, Taylor had fulfilled his long-standing dream with assurance that absolutely nothing was wrong with the buggy, he said. About another $1,000 later, that was more or less true, he said.
“These things are like a high-maintenance girlfriend or a boat,” Taylor said.
Although it looks a lot like one, Taylor’s buggy is not a Meyers Manx. Its exact pedigree has been lost to history, but, like a Manx, it’s a kit-car built on a Beetle chassis and drivetrain.
And as with numerous sorts of unconventional vehicles built from kits or from scratch in home garages by handy gearheads, it’s powered by the venerable air-cooled VW Beetle engine — the automotive equivalent of a Briggs & Stratton lawn-mower engine.
In the case of Taylor’s buggy, it’s a 1,600 cubic-inch engine built in 1970.
While the buggies have long been associated with the beach, the days when you could drive one on beach dunes are past, and rightfully so.
That’s fine with Taylor.
“The only time this one is getting in the sand is when sand is drifting over Seawall Boulevard,” he said. “This is a street machine.”