We’ve known for a while that plans for a modernized, electric version of the legendary Meyers Manx — the car that sparked not just the whole dune buggy craze but the entire sub-industry of Volkswagen-based kit cars — has been in the works. Designer Freeman Thomas, the man behind the Audi TT and VW New Beetle, took over the resurrected Meyers Manx company in late 2020, and now that the new EV Manx has been revealed, I can see that Thomas was an excellent choice. The new Meyers Manx company has created something that feels modern yet is unmistakably a Manx, all eager and fun and yet capable-looking at the same time. What’s especially exciting to me is that at a glance I can see at least one significant legacy old air-cooled VW part in there.
Before I talk about that part, let’s just take a quick look at the original Manx, and talk a bit about the man behind it, Bruce Meyers. Bruce died in 2021, and it’s important to remember that he started out as an artist – a sculptor – and that the look of the Manx was a very carefully considered balance of emotion, fun, practicality, and mechanical constraints, filtered through an artist’s eye. As Bruce described it:
“I’m an artist and I wanted to bring a sense of movement and gesture to the Man. Dune buggies have a message: fun. They’re playful to drive and should look like it. Nothing did at the time. So I looked at it and took care of the knowns. The top of the front fenders had to be flat to hold a couple of beers, the sides had to come up high enough to keep the mud and sand out of your eyes, it had to be compatible with Beetle mechanicals and you had to be able to build it yourself. Then I added all the line and feminine form and Mickey Mouse adventure I could.”
The Manx inspired countless copycats; in some ways, it was a victim of its own design achievement. Sometimes you hit the nail on the head so hard, so perfectly, that nobody else sees a point in doing it any other way.
The new EV Meyers Manx 2.0 understands this, and updates the design instead of starting over, which is the right choice. A great example of how close the new design is to the original can be seen in the part that the new and old one share: the front axle.
Yes, that’s right. The same old-school double torsion-beam front axle assembly that has been bouncing the front wheels of over 20 million Beetles since 1938 (with updates over the years, of course, but the design is basically the same) is a crucial component on an electric car right here in the fresh new year of 2022. It’s incredible.
Meyers seems to be telling outlets that the only shared part from the original is the headlight housing, but they must be referring to the body, because that is definitely an old-school VW front axle. I bet the steering box, which is pretty integrated to the axle, is there, too.
Maybe they re-engineered it and it just looks the same? I suppose that’s possible. [Editor’s Note: I’d say it’s likely. -DT]
Meyers Manx says they’ll have the car to show at The Quail car show on August 19th, and I’m going to be there, so I’ll roll under there and see if there’s any other exciting old-school surprises.
I mean, that axle is proven. Why would they bother to change it? It works. It ain’t broke, so you know the rest.
It does seem that everything else about the Manx 2.0 is new. It’s only 1,500 pounds, not that much more than the original, and comes with either a 20 kWh battery for 150 miles of range, or a 40 kWh battery – both lithium-ion pouch cell types – that can go up to 300 miles. Honestly, for a car like this, I suspect that even the 150 mile one would be fine, but if you want a full day of driving on dunes and getting to those dunes is a bit of a haul, then I can see where the 300 would be useful.
That said, those estimates seem a bit generous for batteries of those sizes, and I’ll be curious to see what official testing reveals.
I’d suspect that there’s a weight difference between the two battery sizes too, but that doesn’t appear to be mentioned specifically, at least not yet.
Design-wise, the proportions are incredibly close to the original, but of course there are notable detail differences. There’s an air intake, likely for battery cooling, on the lower front fascia, behind the push bar, and its impressive how well it blends into the design, considering original Manxes never had or needed such an intake.
Around back the most obvious change is there’s no air-cooled flat-four engine hanging out of the back, likely with a big stinger exhaust and lots of intestinal-looking header pipes. Instead we get a mesh and a fairly enclosed little rump, where the pair of electric motors, one per rear wheel, hide. There’s some sort of gearing going on in there as well, and Meyers Manx has said the power can be “up to” 202 horsepower, enough to get the featherweight buggy from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. That’s an improvement over the original.
Perhaps more important, though, are those taillights, because they represent the first serious attempt to adapt the 1962 to 1967 (US market at least, much later in other markets) Beetle taillights into a modern design vocabulary.
So far reaction from most parts of the Taillight Community have been positive. The overall shape of the old light is retained quite remarkably close, but the interior is hollow, giving the light a radically different look. The diffuse plastics of the light give an interesting gaussian blur effect to the interior, and the overall look feels modern but unmistakably that taillight.
I’m not yet clear on the location of the turn indicator or if it illuminates amber or if the interior illuminates or anything yet. I can see that reverse lamps and retroreflectors are in separate round units below, sort of suggesting an old Manx’ exhaust outlets.
A Manx’s interior has always been minimal, as it’s barely inside anything enough to even be an interior, and the new one is no exception:
There’s a lone gauge with everything in it, just like the original, which used a Beetle speedo/instrument cluster, and the twin arrows bursting from either side of the gauge seem to be buttons to control lights, wipers, etc. The gauge design looks to be inspired by old Beetle VDO gauges, but with some interesting depth effect going on.
Also, I bet those wipers are the same as what the original used, too.
The steering wheel appears to have no airbags, suggesting this will be a low-volume car and fit within the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015, allowing Meyers Manx to build up to 325 cars per year and not having to require airbags or crash testing.
Meyers Manx will be selling 50 cars in 2023 as part of a Beta program, and owners can give feedback to help refine the car for its full production in 2024. This is one of those rare cases where I wouldn’t mind paying to do some of a company’s work for them. I know, I know. But it’s a Manx!