The Meyers Manx is one of the most recognizable shapes in the automotive industry, but the Manx recently featured on “Jay Leno’s Garage” has a surprise under its familiar bodywork.
As an upgrade, he created the Meyers Manx dune buggy Bruce Meyers, a fiberglass body married to a Volkswagen Beetle platform and a flat-4 engine. Before his death in 2021, Meyers sold the company to venture capitalist Phillip Sarofim and car designer Freeman Thomas – whose CV includes the VW New Beetle and the original Audi TT – and worked to bring the Manx back.
This Manx is one of the newly minted versions, but there is no VW DNA in the rear engine. It is a 2.0 liter radial engine, the cylinders are arranged in a circle around the crankshaft. This configuration is popular in aircraft and has been used in some ground military vehicles, but is rarely seen in automobiles. Designed for gyrocopters and bush planes, this engine makes 200 hp in an aspirated kit (and 300 hp with a supercharger), but here it’s tuned for 130 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque.
How did this engine get into a Manx? The construction company, the Australian company Radial Motion, works with VW fans, Sarofim explains in the video. They wanted to test the engine on the ground and decided to install it in a Beetle named “Zombie Bug”. Turns out it’s a pretty good replacement for the original flat engine and even mates to the VW transmission.
Unlike the VW engines traditionally used in Manx dune buggies, this one is water-cooled (the coolant is added through a hole in one of the dusk housings). The engine is also designed to be smoke-free, which is not always the case with piston engines in airplanes, but is mandatory for road use, Sarofim noted.
It’s unclear if the radial-engined Manx will be a regular production model, but the company is introduction of an electric version. The full ramp-up of production is planned for 2024.