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The Grand Tour’s resident loveable fuddy-duddy, James May, has famously made his position on old, inefficient, loud, uncomfortable, and all-around undesirable classic cars quite well known over the years as a TV presenter. James May seems to be a man that appreciates comfort and practicality over most other aspects of motoring. However, it has recently come to light that he has kept one of the least practical cars ever from a Grand Tour special, his VW-powered replica Meyers Manx beach buggy.

James May of Top Gear and Grand Tour fame, standing with his replica Meyers Manx Buggy
James May and his replica Meyers Manx | YouTube, Drivetribe

James May loves his “classic” car

First off, the aforementioned car that James May loves so much isn’t exactly vintage. It is, however, based on something made in the 1960s. James May showed up in a new clone of an original Meyers Manx beach buggy in the Grand Tour special where the lads went to Namibia. 

“I don’t really like classic cars, to be honest, but this isn’t one, really,” says May. “It’s more of a deeply personal effect that flowered unexpectedly and beautifully in the dustbin of automotive rubbish.” 

Before May’s flowery beetle language on the Drive Tribe’s video, May essentially says his beach buggy is great for two reasons: one being simply that it is a beach buggy. Secondly, as a fervent VW Bug hater, May is happy that his buggy required the life of a VW bug. The fact that his buggy exists means that another dreadful VW bug is off the streets forever. 

What is a Meyers Manx beach buggy? 

Bruce Meyers started taking old VW Bugs and converting them into these Beach Boys songs on wheels starting in 1964. The maestro of automotive good times managed to transform the joyless and painfully slow VW bug into these joyful chariots by making fiberglass body kits for others to join the grinning revolution. 

James May’s buggy is not technically a Meyers Manx, though. His 100-hp beach buggy is essentially a copy of the original Manx built and then re-built (after the Grand Tour) by Crazy Dave Fisher of Kingfisher Customs. 

James is clear that his Manx copy is good despite itself. In fact, May says that his buggy is “great not because of what it does but because it is a coded message of hope to all humanity….” That is one hell of a car review. 

May goes on to say, “It’s impossible to be miserable when you’re driving a beach buggy,” he explains. “It’s a testimony to the triumph that good will ultimately achieve over evil. A wonderful coda, really, to the most incredible car story in history […] What other car has achieved this transformation, from an icon of oppression to everlasting party on wheels?”

The Meyers Manx is proof that bad cars can be great

Bruce Meyers Manx Dune Buggy
Bruce Meyers Manx Dune Buggy | Eric Rickman/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

A car’s worth is so much more than just the things it can do. Sure, plenty of people simply want the most powerful, fire-breathing joke of a status symbol, but many true car lovers have found ways to connect with these machines on a deeper level than just what is going on underneath all the bodywork. 

Truly great cars often have little to do with performance. Instead, these true greats have captured the essence of a certain time, scene, subculture, or mindset that allows people a clearer look at the bigger picture. Maybe this is true, or maybe we just say these things to give our passions deeper meaning. Either way, James May believes it enough for all of us.


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