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Where Have All the Dune Buggies Gone?

There was a time that Dune Buggies were a part of car culture throughout the United States. People bought and built them everywhere. They were not necessarily used just on dunes, though. The simple novelty of the vehicle made it attractive in every neighborhood because it was fun and different. Today, they are not as easily spotted in Anytown, USA, as they once were. To understand why we must dive into the history of the vehicle.

Dune Buggy | Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger

What is a Dune Buggy?

Dune Buggies, also known as Beach Buggies, have been around since the 1950s. However, they did not become popular until Bruce Meyers created a fiberglass tub to sit upon the original Volkswagen Beetle chassis. He called it the Manx. It gained popularity quickly and has been prolifically copied, even to this day.

Mr. Meyers created B.F. Meyers & Co. in 1964 as an avenue for offering the Manx in kit form to the public. The fiberglass body made the vehicle lightweight. It also had a short chassis, a rear-engine, and had a low hood. These characteristics are ideal for traversing the peak of the beach or desert dune. The Manx was also street legal with the addition of a few modifications. So, kits sold almost as fast as his company could manufacture them.  

The Dune Buggy popularity increased, and other kit manufacturers got in on the production of their copies. Mr. Meyers took legal action to stop them but lost. So, his company faced competitors with buggies of their own that, in some cases, were at lower price points. In 1971 his company, B.F. Meyers & Co., closed its doors.

Sand Rails

Sand Rail
A Sand Rail is seen practicing the course as part of the Liwa 2016 Moreeb Dune Festival in the Liwa desert, some 250 kilometres southwest of Abu Dhabi. | KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

That is not the end, though! The Myers Manx left an impact that lasts to this day. Although sand rails existed before the Manx made its debut, many current Sand Rail manufacturers can trace their influence back to the original Meyers Manx Dune Buggy. Even though Sand Rails tend to be full custom vehicles versus component kits, the same characteristics are sought after with their current design parameters – lightweight vehicles, rear engines, good visibility.

As time has gone on, Sand Rails have become safer, more refined, and more prolific. Full roll bars and better-quality welding have contributed to that. Dune culture has also grown in places where it mostly makes sense to have a Sand Rail – around desert dunes, beaches and rock trails. 

Where Are They?

Dune Buggies are not going to disappear anytime soon. They are still around! Like Sand Rails, Dune Buggies have also migrated to areas more conducive to their off-road capabilities. Today, you may not spot one at a car show in Manytowns, USA, but you are more likely to find them in coastal and desert areas. A testament to the dune culture being alive and well is that demand is still strong enough that Bruce Meyer formed a new company to offer the Manx again, along with and other variants.

In areas that are not so close to the desert or beaches, the Dune Buggy has been replaced with other capable vehicles. The popularity of ATV’s and trucks like the Ford Raptor and Ram Rebel TRX have been filling the gap.

Navy Seal Dune Buggy
A Desert Patrol Vehicle rides over soft sand. The buggy can carry three US Navy SEALs at speeds of over 80 miles per hour. It has a sealed bottom, two machine guns and a missile, and costs about a quarter of a million dollars. | Photo by Jim Sugar/Corbis via Getty Images

What Do Dune Buggies Cost?

On Ebay you can find used completed Dune Buggies starting at $5,200. Or, if building one is more appealing, Bruce Meyers’ new company, Myers Manx, Inc. has new kits available. They start at $2,400. Keep in mind that the donor vehicle is a separate cost for the kit packages.