What the hell is a Manx, anyway?

A brief history of the littlest VW

Front wheels are on the ground, so it must be stationary.

Way back in 1936, a young Ferry Porsche and his mates used to spend their weekends bush-bashing in the remote parts of Fascist Germany. Ferry's day job was running the VW factory at Wolfsberg, and his choice of off-road gear was a Beetle floorpan and drivetrain. Ferry sat on a folding chair to drive and his mates hung on as best they could. According to Ferry, the stripped Bug was a truly awesome go-anywhere vehicle, and the only thing that slowed it down was the constant backtracking to pick up his mates after they flew off the back. Sadly, history does not relate how much Schnapps they drank before, after and during these expeditions, but the smart money is on “lots”. Ferry didn’t know it then, but he was the vanguard of a long and illustrious tradition of making offroad Beetles go very fast.

King Bucket. The legendary Kubelwagen. When Germany went to war in 1939, the Beetle was adapted to military service. The Kubelwagen (literally "Bucket Car") served in every part of Nazi-controlled Europe and North Africa. In 1945, the Allies tested a captured Kubelwagen and a Willy's Jeep back-to-back. They concluded that the Kubel matched the Jeep in every way except fuel consumption. It could carry the same load, withstand the same abuse, reach the same speed, go anywhere the Jeep could go, and used only half the fuel. Despite the Jeep's size, power and legendary reputation, it was outclassed by a puny 34bhp 1100cc two-wheel drive that was called a bucket even by the people who designed and built it!

A Manx in it's natural environment, searching for V8s to humiliate. In the 1960s, VW Beetles from the rebuilt Wolfsberg factory were pouring into the US market, and Bruce Meyers was building and sailing boats in Southern California. As you'd expect (given his nautical inclination) he spent a lot of time on the beach, where he observed the birth and infancy of what is now known as the beach buggy. Most of these early buggies were powered by small-block V8s. They had lots of grunt, but they also weighed a lot and they didn't impress Bruce. He thought that a buggy should be small, light and well balanced, so he designed and built a number of VW-powered buggies. Eventually he settled on a configuration that was cheap, easy to produce and went like stink - a shortened Beetle chassis, jacked up and wearing custom fibreglass bodywork. The Meyers Manx.

     Yump! Low weight means short takeoff runs.

History is silent as to how much Bruce knew about Ferry's drunken weekends when he originally had the inspiration for the Manx. I'd like to think that Ferry's antics had something to do with Bruce's creation. If you look at a Manx, you can almost see a bunch of pissed German lunatics, blasting through the Black Forest, hanging on for grim life, screaming abuse at Ferry and occasionally falling off and bouncing through the scenery. Well, I can. Yes, I'm also seeing a psychiatrist. Well, I'm actually seeing his wife, but I reckon that's close enough. If you don't care for the Teutonic connection, picture half a dozen bronzed hippie surfies, tanked to the gills on tequila and hallucinogenic drugs, thrashing a Manx from one end of Baja California to the other, dodging cactii, big rocks and the occasional pink elephant, in search of groovy surf, hot chicks and, like, cosmic harmony, dude... Same thing, just a few decades later and on the other side of the world.

Big sand scoops on the rear mean big wheelies and bigger grins! As it had in the searing Saharan desert and the frozen Russian steppes, the VeeWee motor did it's thing quietly, efficiently and reliably on the west coast of America. It was just like the Kubel and the Jeep all over again. Bruce Meyers' little Manxes kicked sand in the faces of the V8 buggies and set records left, right and centre. Bruce sold over 5,000 Manxes in kit form, and a lot of other people sold a whole heap of various knockoff versions.

Well, that's my version of Bruce's story. If you prefer Bruce's version (ie: the truth), it's here.

The idea behind the Manx is very simple and not too far removed from Ferry's bush-basher. Take one cheap, basic, reliable small car. Cut all the bodywork off it, 'coz it's heavy and boring and real Aryan supermen don't need weather protection. (The Kubelwagen was completely open too!) While you're wielding the angle grinder with skill and aplomb (and a blood alcohol level off the measurable scale) chop about a foot out of the floorpan as well. This reduces the wheelbase and makes it easier to wheelie (Jawohl! Ist gut!). Slam down some more Schnapps, weld the floorpan back together, jack up the suspension, bolt on a light fibreglass bodyshell, throw in a couple of bucket seats and there you have it. Time to grab a bunch of crazy mates and plenty of grog. Then head bush at full throttle. The Manx is small, light, unbreakable and has heaps of ground clearance. All the weight is over the driving wheels, so it has excellent traction and will sit up and beg with anything more than 40bhp pushing it. Just the thing for blasting down the beach, through the scrub, or up an Alpine pass. Or maybe into Poland. No, on second thoughts, scratch that one.

Yes, that's a Porsche-powered Manx. Note the wheelie castors! The best part about a Manx is the fact that it uses a VW engine. Whether you love them or hate them, you've got to admit that the little air-cooled flat-four motor is well developed, reliable and dead easy to hot up. There are countless aftermarket parts manufacturers making all manner of go-fast bits for VeeDubs. You can buy everything and anything you could possibly need, and it's usually dirt cheap. If you've got a 1600cc motor, 100bhp is easy, and four times that is possible with some forced induction and a bit of effort. If you're a woose and you can't make your VeeWee go, Porsche flat-six motors bolt straight in. With the addition of an adaptor plate, so do modern Subaru motors. Anyone for a WRX-engined twin-turbo 500bhp Manx?

Fast-forward to the near future. The location is a beach on sunny Queensland's south-east coast. The vehicle - of course - is a cut down Beetle wearing fibreglass, fully worked and going much faster than Herr Doktor Ferdinand would ever have believed possible. It's full of drunken idiots who are generally carrying on like pork chops, having a great time, and occasionally falling out and hurting themselves. Yes, you've guessed it - it's us. Hello!

Great minds thinking alike? Fools seldom differing? Or just some things never going out of style? You decide. And when you do, tell us what it is. We're too busy getting blasted and having fun to care. Pass the rum!

We're aiming for something like this. But faster.