The Meyers Manx dune buggy is an icon of the 1960s and Mexico’s Baja peninsula is hallowed ground for off-road racing. The history of both are intertwined, and the book Call To Baja by the Manx’s inventor himself takes a look at the early days of off-road adventure.
I guess I should say “recreational off-road adventure” because technically humans were adventuring without roads since before recorded history. But you know what I meant.
(Full Disclosure: The book’s distributor sent me a free copy of Call To Baja with a t-shirt from sister outfit Dirt Co.)
Bruce Meyers (not to be confused with Bruce Meyer, no “s,” a fairly well-known car collector who did not invent the Manx buggy) is in his 90s now. You might have seen him cited last year when VW trotted out its electric buggy concept with his blessing. But in 1964, Manx and his friends were exploring Mexico’s western peninsula in simple, home-built VW Beetle-based vehicles, running down “roads” that are still pretty rough in 2020.
Meyers raced in Baja into the 2000s, but the most interesting bits of Call To Baja are pictures of what the place looked like in the ’60s and ’70s. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t all that different from the way it looks now! It’s also cool to see early iterations of the Manx and some of Meyers’ illustrations. He’s a genuinely talented artist, as you can see from some of the sketches published in the book.
The synopsis of the saga is that the Meyers Manx buggy owes its existence to the combination of traits that Meyers himself had... he was adventurous, artistic, and entrepreneurial at a time and place where off-road action was starting to become a thing.
He wanted to see Baja, so he built a car. He had an eye for design, so that car ended up looking great. And when he realized there was a demand for the sweet little machine he’d brought to life, he figured out how to get car bodies stamped out en mass. Relatively speaking, of course.
Meanwhile, he ended up becoming one of off-road racing’s pioneers with his not-a-truck, not-a-car, definitely-not-a-motorcycle vehicle. You might even argue that his platform inspired the UTV buggies that are now ubiquitous everywhere off-road driving is a thing.
Flipping through Call To Baja’s 76 pages, I do have to acknowledge that it’s apparent Meyers’ creative flair applies more to visual skills than storytelling. The book opens with a reference to Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary and a cringey passage about an awkward interaction with a prostitute. But be that as it may, Meyers was indeed one of the O.G.s of off-road racing and innovation as we know it and we’re lucky to have his record of that scene’s early days.
You can cop the book for $25 from the Meyers Manx website. The paperback’s big and wide, and the old photographs in it are faithfully restored in impressively good resolution. My copy’s been on my desk for a few weeks now and I’ve enjoyed thumbing through it more than a couple of times.