Many people credit Bruce Meyers with the invention of the dune buggy.
To do that you first have a clear definition of what a dune buggy is. There were many pioneers before the "Manx". In fact in a recent interview with Public Television on a show called "California Gold" Bruce to the host of the show, "I didn't invent the dune buggy....I invented this style of dune buggy." Bruce did invent the Manx and clearly spurred the whole fiberglass revolution but, there were many more buggies on the dunes before the Manx. Some of the first dune buggies were just street car frames with the bodies removed and larger tires added for beach use. The late fifties and early sixties saw a sand car craze that paralleled the street hot rod craze. Some were big and ugly but, they were the inspiration for a "kinder gentler" sand car, including the inspiration for the Manx.
With all of the "water pumper" action on the beaches it wasn't long until the first noted VW ride was built by shortening the pan. Petersen Publishing even gives someone credit for this feat. It was Pete Beirning of Oceano, CA that did it in 1958. He took a rolled Bug and made a short pan buggy out of it. From that first trip out on the dune on through today, there has been controversy over V8 power or VW nimbleness. Many people took note of his pan car and followed suit. The first production buggy was not a Manx either. It was an EMPI buggy. The success EMPI had with after market parts in the late fifties continued and grew stronger for the sixties. The "Sportster" was the first production buggy kit that a person could buy and build. It was largely made up of tube frame and sheet metal so there was little weight savings, but the design was dune ready. This about 1960 from what research I have. Tom Slider has much more on EMPI buggies at his EMPI buggy pages. The EMPI Imp homepage.
The "Sportster" created a new market for buggies. It inspired a builder to make a lighter aluminum based buggy. It was the Burro. Built and designed by Hilder "Tiny" Thompson. Two years after the emergence of the "Sportster" the "Burro" hit the scene. The "Burro" was still not stylish at all, but it was selling. About a year later, there were many popping up at dunes around Southern Cal. It is said that a day at the beach watching the Burro contingency, was the inspiration for the grand daddy of buggies. Bruce had been a boat builder by trade and knew right away a more sleeker, lighter, and stylish buggy body could be built than the two previous models.
In 1964, he built the first of 12 "Monocoques". The first 12 cars produced had their own fiberglass floor with mount castings molded in instead of using a VW pan. The one piece chassis/body combo bolted up with VW engine, transaxle, and suspension components.
These cars were expensive and difficult to produce so Bruce re- designed the body to fit on a VW shortened floor pan . As a result, built 5,280 Manx kits and several hundred Manx II's - a total of nearly 6,000 Manx kits. During this time EMPI again moved into production with their own fiberglass dune buggy body.
The "IMP" was said to have been designed at the same time as the first Manx kits, some people debate which came first. The Imp was only a 12inch cut instead of the 14 1/2 inch Meyers pan. Rumor even has it that Joe Vitone of EMPI approached Bruce and asked him if he was interested in building the Imp buggies at his facility.
Bruce had his hands full with the Manx production and turned down the offer. Hopefully Bruce's upcoming book he plans to write will reveal more secrets of the buggy boom of 1969.
By the end of 1969 every boat builder and fiberglass hack in the country was trying their hand at building buggies. Some were works of art! Other were rip-offs and still yet, others were BUTT UGLY! At any rate the race was on and dune buggies were alive and well. Companies began to make subtle changes and sell each others styling. Other companies came up with totally original ideas. The number of actual companies who made clones is very hard to determine because so many worked on shoestring budgets. It is however, we feel, much smaller than people tend to believe. The larger firms quickly designed tier own styles of buggy bodies and created many different models. We have over 225 different body styles ID'd in our Archives. The boom of 1969 ended almost as quickly as it started in some places. Tough 1970 motor vehicle laws across the country, and especially in the east, required closed fenders over tires, no cut frames, and no exposed engines. Many companies like Meyers Manx scrambled to make the required skirts and pods to keep their vehicles street legal. The pressure was too much for even some of the big makers. The Meyers Manx company went out of business in 1971 due to the loss of the patent infringement case and the tax demands of the I.R.S. The 90's were a whole new decade for buggies as they finally received the attention from Vw magazines and fans that they deserve. Berrien Buggy was instrumental with the rebirth of the fiberglass buggy and was one of the few companies who remained in business during the entire revolution. During the last 8 years, the amazing amount of interest they created has even inspired old time builders like Bruce to get back into the buggy business again.
As we look ahead into the new world of 2013, one can only wonder where the new fiberglass revolution will take us.