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The History of the Dune Buggy

What vehicle has large wheels and tires, is often seen on the beach and is just plain fun to drive? The dune buggy of course! At Shanahan's Auto Body & Paint, we love dune buggies. We don't see them every day in Sacramento, CA but when we do, they always make us smile.

The first dune buggies were Volkswagen Beetle car frames with the bodies removed. The Beetle is generally used for dune buggies because of its rear-mounted engine. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the vehicles could often be seen cruising down the beach. 

In 1958, Daniel Rettig from Oceana, CA, took a rolled VW Bug and built a short pan buggy. He was one of many who built these off-road vehicles at the time. A VW dealership in Los Angeles, named EMPI, began offering dune buggy kits, which were called “Sportsters”.

After that, the dune buggy craze really caught on. A lighter, aluminum-based buggy called the Burro was designed by Hilder “Tiny” Thompson. Some say his design was the inspiration for the famous “Manx” buggy designed by Bruce Meyers in the 1960s.

A boat builder by trade, Meyers built the first of 12 fiberglass “monocoques",  a vehicle structure in which the chassis is integral with the body. Since the buggy was costly, he redesigned the body to fit on a VW shortened floor pan. Known for great performance and fun experience, more than 6,000 Manx kits were built.

During the Dune Buggy Boom of 1969, there were a wide range of buggies built-- some more stylish than others. According to Dune Buggy Archives, there were more than 225 body styles developed during this time.

After new motor laws were enacted in 1970, many of the companies building dune buggies went out of business. The Meyers Manx Company closed its doors in 1971 due to the loss of a patent infringement case and IRS tax demands.

During the 1990s, the fiberglass Rettig Buggy revived the days of the dune buggy. In the past, the vehicles were primarily seen on the desert and beach. Today, they are popular for indoor track racing and as on-road vehicles. They are also used by the military. Once called Desert Patrol Vehicles or Fast Attack Vehicles, U.S. military buggies have been utilized by the Navy Seals and other military forces.

Many car fans still purchase dune buggy kits to build their own vehicles. Dune buggy clubs meet in various locations across the United States where they can share memories, advice and their joy of driving a buggy! 

Sources: Wikipedia, and PR Web


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