The market for the dune buggy car seems to have perked up once again with the buggy becoming a style icon: afresh on the vintage racing circuit. The dune buggy in the days of the 50’s was not only one of the most affordable options of owning an open-roofed joy car but it also captured the essence of youth and freedom. The dune buggy was the only car that succeeded at being equally comfortable racing on the dunes as well as cruising on the home roads. People of all ages fell in love with it, and it used to be a point of discussion wherever one went. Let us trace this iconic cars’ history over the past half century.
How did the Dune Buggy Come into Being?
The first coming of these cars on the American roads can be termed more as a ‘movement’ or a ‘phenomenon’. Rather than being produced by any mainstream manufacturer the car was introduced by driving enthusiasts more of as a fun car by modifying their original Volkswagen cars. The mid 1960’s were the prime days of the cars’ popularity with everyone rushing in millions to buy and be a part of this fun car craze. The dune buggy reached the peaks of its popularity very quickly with ubiquitous appearance in every possible media. Dune buggies became a major item of endorsement by the renowned celebrities of that time.
The credit for building the first buggy car can be given to Pete Beirning of Oceano, CA who stripped his Bug and transformed it into a short pan buggy in 1958. In the 50s, a lot of these cars came into being for use in dune buggy racing. Performance scored more than aesthetics; however, the car caught the attention of the racers and thrill seekers in a big way and design too began to find its way into the list of important features.
Beginning of Mainstream Production
The EMPI buggy can be labeled as the first mainstream production dune buggy. This 1950’s buggy was the creation of Joe Vittone. Joe who was the owner of a Volkswagen factory soon began rolling out ‘buggy kits’, which gave the users a freedom to make their own dune buggy. The cars created from the kit used mostly sheet metal and were named ‘Sportster’. This was somewhere around the 1960s.
Several variants of the dune buggy were introduced around this time. One such type was the ‘Burro’ built by Hilder ‘Tiny’ Thompson. The vehicle was a lightweight dune buggy made as it was from an aluminium frame. The ‘Burro’ sold like crazy and became an inspiration to Bruce Meyers, a boat builder to build the Manx. The Manx was a superior refinement of the ‘Burro’ and Bruce struck the right chord as he made a more streamlined and sleek fiberglass model of the earlier ‘Burro’. The ‘Manx’ became a super hit and the kits for the same became a rage among the public. The kits were sold in thousands and are still very popular.
The EMPI again entered the market with their fiberglass creation of the dune buggy and termed it as the ‘IMP’. By this time there were plenty of fiberglass hacks and boat builders trying their hand at making the dune buggy. Some of the results were beautiful and sound while some were failures while yet others downright ugly. Some companies came up with original ideas, while others tried to ape their competitor. However the stricter motor vehicle laws of the 1970s saw the downswing of the boom which had begun in the 60’s. However, the 90’s again resurrected the lost glory of these wonderful machines. Consequently the last eight years or so have seen a remarkable interest in the fiberglass buggy. Such interest was so intense that even stalwarts like Bruce have been tempted to get back into the business.
Well, we can just wait and watch to see what the future holds for the dune buggy.