We’re big fans of the new Meyers Manx EV dune buggy and, of course, the original VW-based kit car. Depending on which generation of VW motor was around, you could get your little off-roader fitted with a high performance air-cooled VW 1600 motor, good for all of about 60 horsepower. Clearly, what this platform was missing is an Aussie radial motor from a bush plane.
This specific car was built by the Meyers Manx company, which was sold to investor Phillip Sarofin a few years ago. According to Sarofin in this video, the company heard of aircraft engine maker Radial Motion and that company’s experiments with Volkswagens and plane motors.
Here’s what Radial Motion’s ZOMBUG looks like:
Sarofin points out that the new Meyers Manx spent a ton of time working on the EV and it was nice to take a break and work on hot-rodding one of the throwback kit versions. It looks pretty good.
This radial motor is a 2.0-liter, three-cylinder. It’s all gear-driven and fuel-injected/water-cooled, though barrels and heads are finned to give an almost VW-like air-cooled look. This version is de-tuned to 130 hp/130 lb-ft, or more than double the power one might normally have (the Manx only weighs about 1,600 pounds so de-tuning makes sense). These motors can go up to 200 horsepower if you don’t value your life.
[Editor’s Note: I just want to note that there is some precedent with VW-based cars and radials, since one of the early proto-Beetles built by P0rsche was done under contract to motorcycle-maker Zündapp in 1931/1932, and that car, known as the Porsche Type 12, had a strange five-cylinder radial engine that Porsche either hated and had forced on him or demanded himself, depending on who you believe. Look!
Weird, right? – JT]
Credit to Jay Leno for not letting anything stop him from driving weird cars (it’s possible this was shot prior to the fire or motorcycle crash). Jay seems to enjoy the ride and, that makes sense, given his proclivity for airplane-engined cars.
Photos: Jay Leno’s Garage, Radial Motion
Am I going to hell because I want to put one of these engines in a Beck Spyder?
If I had asshole money, one of the cars I designed that I’d have built would be a 9-cylinder Rotec converted to fuel injection under a NACA cowl. So stupid and expensive, but I love the things.
I didnt have time to finish the video. At how many minutes in does the car go on fire?
Is there any kind of a power plant that doesn’t work in a dune buggy? I don’t think so.
I have been wondering about a steam powered dune buggy for many years. For the good of humanity have never got any further than some drawings
Bonus points if you can make it run on sea water! Then you could get away with a smaller water tank for less weight and more zoom.
EDIT: I interpreted “beach buggy,” needless to say, out in the desert this is a bad idea…
If someone could develop a metal that could resist regular water corrosion and seawater / saline corrosion they deserve a lifetime supply of chicken tikka masala.
There’s a steam powered Land Rover:
I kind of want illustrations of various dune buggies with different power plants. Horse-drawn, nuclear-powered, Flintstone’s style, pedal-powered, solar, natural gas, steam, geothermal somehow (probably really limited area of operation), hydroelectric with a top-mounted tank pouring water down through a turbine, maybe gravity-powered (push it down a hill and go).
A 4 wheel drive pedal-powered dune buggy with E-bike hub motors on all wheels please!
With less than $5,000 worth of off the shelf but relatively low-volume parts and some scrap metal, one could build a sub-200 lb rig making 60 horsepower peak at the wheels, with AWD. That would be pretty damned nuts. Cheap $300 Chinese Leafbike motors and a PowerVelocity controller running each with a 180V battery pack of Molicel P42A batteries all controlled by a CycleAnalyst v3 computer could do the trick. Lots of custom fabrication and sweat equity would be necessary, but the results would be more than worth it. You’d be looking at the possibility of 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds with a vehicle that could climb anything.
There are prototype motors going back 15 years ago that could allow an even more outrageous build, but they aren’t available for purchase. The ones from AMZ Technologies weigh 7 lbs and make 50 horsepower peak.
It’s quite amazing what modern technology allows in the light electric vehicle space. If I had the money, I’d build and sell custom-designed microcars with velomobile aerodynamics and more than 1 horsepower per lb of vehicle with AWD. Why? It’s all about two things: 1) Hoonage 2) CHEAP transportation A car that follows a similar set of design principles is also the ticket to inexpensive EVs appropriate for sports car enthusiasts. We don’t need oversized, heavy, wasteful battery packs.
Shoot, I really want this now, but I do not have the time and fabrication skills. You’re absolutely right that it would be a better use of resources than the current method of just piling in batteries.
My proof of concept single-seater I built does 150-200 miles range at 30-35 mph on only 1.5 kWh. It weighs 91 lbs, and with all of 13 peak horsepower, is faster to accelerate than most new 4-cylinder cars. With better aerodynamics to cut the drag to 1/4, 3 kWh could possibly yield 200 miles range at 70 mph in a similar vehicle. That is such a small battery and the rest of the components are sufficiently inexpensive that this opens the door to the possibility of single-seater enclosed transportation that can perform faster than most cars and cost similar to a moped to manufacture, while having a total ownership cost measurable in pennies per mile, where every component in the car costs no more than a few hundred dollars to replace if something goes wrong(including the battery).
For a two seater where the rider and passenger are slightly offset side to side but not in tandem(ala VW XL1), a vehicle with a CdA value of under 0.2 m^2 and a mass of under 900 lbs is possible if built as a carbon fiber and kevlar monocoque, which could have AWD via hub motors for its 4 wheels, as well as over 200 peak horsepower on tap with no mechanical losses putting ALL of the power to the wheels. You’d only need a 20 kWh pack to get 300+ miles range speeding down the highway, and it would be an absolute terror on a race track.
EV components have gotten so power dense, that in a hyper-efficient chassis/body design, placing enough batteries for decent range could result in a vehicle that is significantly lighter than an ICE vehicle of similar peak power. Especially considering you don’t need things like a transmission or emissions and exhaust systems. The issue is keeping the battery pack small, so that the rest of the car can be kept light, which requires an extensive focus on aerodynamics in order to get acceptable range. Lightness begets more lightness. Colin Chapman knew this and it is a shame he didn’t get to play with the components that exist in this era, because I’m certain he’d be creating vehicles that are a complete opposite to what Lotus builds today.
Modern cars are designed nearly completely backwards from this philosophy, in the interest of increasing costs/profit margins and preserving planned obsolescence. The modern “safety” regulations lobbied into existence and written by the automakers to help prevent meaningful competition from forming don’t help things either.
Depending on how far back you want to trace your energy supply chain, all dune buggies are either solar powered or gravity powered.
…but yes, I’m still waiting for my dune buggy drawn by a horde of camel spiders. I’ll mount a little sun shade up front for them to chase.