Members of the Classic Buggy Club come out in force to car shows and other events in the Milwaukee, Wis., area. Member Dennis Pallen of New Berlin, Wis., has a Meyer’s Manx. Some people think Bruce Meyer made the first dune buggy. That is kind of like crediting Henry Ford with inventing the automobile.On “California Gold”—a public TV show in California—Meyer’s said, “I didn’t invent the dune buggy; I invented this style of dune buggy.” It is believed that Pete Beirning, of Oceano, Calif., actually made the first VW-based sand cruiser in 1958. Meyer started a trend towards fiberglass VW-based buggies.
EMPI—an aftermarket parts supplier—developed the “Sportster” in the late ‘50s. It had a tubular chassis and metal body and was the first regular production dune buggy type vehicle. Next came Hilder “Tiny” Thompson’s “Burro.” Then, in 1964, boat maker Meyers put together his original offering called the “Monocoque.” It had a fiberglass floor replacing the VW pan and a single unit chassis/body that bolted up to the VW drive train and suspensions. At about the same time, the smaller IMP buggy arrived.
It was towards the end of the ’60s that the dune buggy craze really took off, with at least 200 companies making kits or complete cars. However, new federal safety regulations pushed most small companies out of the market very quickly. By 1971, even Meyers Manx went out of business because of patent and tax issues.
In the 1990s, interest in dune buggies perked up again and Berrien Buggy Company benefited from the revival. Meanwhile, people across the country-largely the growing number of Volkswagen collectors-started finding and restoring many of the early buggies made by various ‘70s manufacturers.
The Classic Buggy Club, based in Wisconsin, is dedicated to fiberglass dune buggies and has members across the United States, Canada and England. It includes enthusiasts who have been involved with dune buggies for decades, as well as new collectors who attend club events together, share historical and restoration tips and have an active Website where dune buggies can be traded.
The club was formed by Volkswagen dune buggy owners and its stated goal is to show the classic buggies to the public and share knowledge about these cars and the dune buggy experience. Membership in the Classic Buggy Club is easy and free. To join, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].