Born and raised in California, Bruce Meyers pretty much invented the dune buggy phenomenon that exploded in the U.S. in the 1960s. His design for a light and nimble fun buggy - dubbed the Meyers Manx - was defined by a fibreglass body attached to a shortened Volkswagen floorpan.
Sold in kit form, the Manx's basic two-piece fibreglass body proved easy to copy, which many unscrupulous operators did, flooding the market with cheap and poor quality knock-offs.
Fighting the cloners in court for patent infringements proved expensive and unsuccessful, so Meyers brought out new, harder-to-copy designs. The first was the "Tow'd". Launched in 1967, this dedicated off-roader used a tube steel frame and was designed to be towed behind a vehicle, hence the name.
The second shot against the rip-off merchants was the "Manx SR".
Whereas the Manx and the Tow'd were both beach-biased fun vehicles that could be used on the street, the SR that debuted in 1970 was purely a tarmac machine.
The name stood for 'Street Roadster' and was inspired by the fact that many of the early Manx kits were being sent to areas in the U.S. that were nowhere near a beach.
The design, penned by Stewart Reed for Meyers, was defined by a gently-curving profile, oblong wheelarch openings, recessed headlights, a targa roof and scissor doors.
Meyers made Reed's design practical and, in an effort to block the cloners, made it more complex, too. Thirteen separate pieces made up a Manx SR body, including inner body panels that hid all the raw fibreglass undersides. For all-weather use, clip-in sidescreens and a roof panel were available.
Sold in kit form, like the previous B.F. Meyers & Co. offerings, the SR was also designed to fit the same (shortened) 80-inch wheelbase VW floorpan as the off-road Manx.
That meant the SR could take the same VW engines, too, but there was enough space to take an air-cooled flat six, or even a water-cooled Ford V4, thanks to extra-large rear wheel openings that allowed room for radiator airflow.
The Manx SR drew a lot of favourable press coverage and appealed to many Manx buggy enthusiasts, like Richard Hines, who owns the vehicle featured
End of the Line
At the time of the Manx SR's arrival, Meyers was not only fighting the cloners, but also the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for back-taxes. In the end, it all proved too much; Meyers walked away from the business at the start of 1971, B.F. Meyers & Co. folded soon after and all the company's assets were auctioned off in March, 1972. Thus, the first life of the Manx SR was over, but the concept lived on.
Using some of the original Meyers moulds, a company called Karma Coachworks began offering the SR, renamed 'SR2', from 1974. Two other U.S. companies sold the SR through the '80s and '90s, and there was even a South African firm producing an SR.
Including all the post-Meyers "continuation" variants, it's estimated no more than 1,000 SRs were built. Of that total, some sources estimate as little as 300 were genuine Meyers-built SRs, like Richard's, which he believes to be the only one in Australia.
As a Manx buggy owner, Richard knew about the SR and had always wanted one. In 1989, while in Baja Mexico for a club event, he decided to ask the man himself to help track one down.
"I arranged with Bruce Meyers to find one for me if he could, and he managed to do that," Richard explained.
Meyers found an SR - the 23rd built - that Richard bought for a relatively cheap US$1,000, (around AU$1,600 back then), but duties and shipping pushed that to around AU$5,000 total.
As delivered, the SR was only a body, so Richard sourced a 1968-model semi-automatic VW Beetle for a new base. The '68 meant larger Karmann Ghia-spec front disc and rear drum brakes, as well as an IRS rear end.
Richard was fortunate in that his SR was engineer-approved just before a change in the ADR laws regarding vehicles built upon a shortened production chassis.
"If a chassis is shortened today, the vehicle is classified as an Individually Constructed Vehicle and is required to comply with the latest design requirements," Richard explained.
"That's very difficult and expensive to do now. If a Manx SR was imported today, it's unlikely that it could be registered."
For this reason, Richard believes his SR to be the only one - and certainly the only one of its type - in Australia.
This SR differs further from standard practise in being right-hand drive, as well as running a Subaru EJ20 2.0-litre non-turbo engine, instead of the usual VW flat four.
"There is limited space in the rear wheel wells for radiators, so a high output turbo engine would have made more heat than the radiators could handle. Also, there's nowhere to fit a turbo intercooler."
The transmission is a stock VW 4-speed manual, but recent developments with conversion kits mean a Subaru 5-speed could be fitted. Richard, however, has never found an extra cog to be necessary.
This car also has a full non-compliant roll cage, as well as reinforcing steel beams in the doors. The cage was required by the engineer for approval, in order to have steel mounting points for the seat belts and steering wheel.
Given his own experience with Manx buggies, Richard found that the SR was not complex to put together, just time consuming. "It took about 3 years to build. I don't know how much it cost, and haven't added up the receipts to find out. . . . . . I don't want to know!"
Still wearing its original Signal Orange gel coat, this SR also carries a Grant wood-rim steering wheel that Richard picked up in the U.S. The optional roof panel and side windows didn't come with this car, but Richard said he's rarely had need for them. If it is really wet, he has a different "boring" car to use!
Richard stresses that his Manx SR is by no means a concours machine. For him, though, it's more about how it feels and performs when he's behind the wheel.
"It has 140 horsepower to the ton, so it gets up and goes," Richard said of the SR's performance, based on the 850kg body weight against the 120hp (89.5kW) Subaru engine. Sitting only 48 inches high (1220mm), the low centre of gravity makes cornering at speed not only safer and flatter, but more fun, too.
"It has a 64% rear weight bias, so it is a very easy car to brake late into a corner and then throw around with a touch of opposite lock in the dry," Richard explained. "But it is wise to drive sedately in the wet."
Laughing, Richard added: "I have a habit of using roundabouts to test my limited driving skills and it is easy to leave a roundabout faster than it's entered!"
Despite being C1968 spec, Richard says the brakes are very good and will stop the car quickly in an emergency. "With careful pedal control, the tyres can be made to chatter, like in ABS systems, when braking hard."
Inside, there's a surprising amount of room, too, with a full 1380mm of cabin width. Of course, the targa roof means endless headroom.
In seven years of ownership and an estimated 20,000kms travelled, Richard's SR has never let him down once. Regular maintenance means things are tip-top mechanically, so the new owner (see breakout) won't need to add or do anything to enjoy this car.
Now in his 70s, Richard is finding he's not giving this car the exercise it needs, so has decided to offer it for sale.
For Meyers Manx fans, this could represent the sole opportunity you're likely to get to not only own a genuine Manx SR, but also one that's RHD for convenience and legality, and one with a stronger powerplant to enjoy at (legal) speed.
This is a truly unique vehicle, so don't pass up on the opportunity to make this one your own.
Bruce Meyers is still kicking - and still kicking around in Manx buggies - today. We reckon he'd like this SR and what Richard's done to it.
With the desire for a new classic (an A Model Ford or equivalent era Chev roadster is top of the wish list), Richard has decided to sell his Manx SR.
The rarity of this car is a draw in itself, while the extra grunt afforded by the 2.0-litre Subaru engine means this machine can turn on some serious pace, too - 160km/h is easily achievable - aided by exceptional handling in the dry.
Located in Western Australia, the car does show signs of wear and tear, so would benefit from some freshening up of the interior and exterior. But, from the perspective of a car you jump in and enjoy, rather than stand back and look at, this SR is hard to fault.
Asking price is $30,000.
View the ad online at justcars.com.au HERE or by using the ad code JCW3745172.
Photos: Jan Glovac
Special thanks to Motor Book World (Canterbury, VIC) for selected research material used in this article. Ph: (03) 9830 2644, motorbookworld.com.au.