Surfing has always been at the heart of the cool, endless summer, laid back lifestyle that most people associate with California — southern California, to be precise. That vibe included a number of cars that attained cult status among the Jan and Dean/Beach Boys set — the Ford woody, the Bonneville station wagon, the Volkswagen Micro Bus, and the Myers Manx.
Born in a garage in Newport Beach in 1964, the Myers Manx created the dune buggy craze. It was made possible because the original Volkswagen Beetle was built on what today we call a skateboard chassis. Lift off the body, bolt on a fiberglass tub, add two seats and some wide tires that wouldn’t get stuck in sand, and go off-roading to places you could never get to before in an open air vehicle. Bruce Myers’ creation spawned an entirely new industry filled with copycat designs from which he earned not one penny in royalties.
Bruce passed away last year at the age of 94, but before his demise, he and his wife Winnie sold the rights to the Myers Manx to tech entrepreneur Phillip Sarofim and designer Freeman Thomas. According to Autoweek, Sarofim is a venture capitalist, car collector, and racer with a passion for cool cars. Thomas is a designer who worked at VW, Audi, and Porsche, where he was involved in the design of the New Beetle and the Audi TT.
Together, they are planning to manufacture a new version of the Myers Manx, one that is faithful to the original but updated to include front and rear crush zones, side impact protection, and other safety features. There will even be a full roll bar that will be unobtrusively incorporated into the windshield header.
The Same But Different
Thomas tells Autoweek, “When people actually see [the new car], I’m hoping there’ll be an ‘aha’ moment. Bruce’s masterpiece, he created something really special, and everybody identifies with it. They recognize it, they know what it is, and at the same time, visually, it’s something that’s not aggressive. It’s something that gives you a Zen (moment), that makes you smile. I always called it a ‘vessel of freedom.’ But it was so much more than that.”
The new Manx will be a battery-electric vehicle. “We started off looking at the challenge of packaging, and electrification, as well as the size. And one of the goals that I wanted was not to change the size of the Meyers Manx at all,” Thomas says. “It’s kind of like taking the original 911, and it goes through all of its generations of evolution from let’s say, 901 to 964. Dimensionally it’s still the same car, but it’s evolved. It’s just a better, more capable car.”
Thomas and his design team started by digitizing the original Manx, then examining it from every angle on a computer. They studied its wheelbase, width, even how people sat in it. They studied how the battery, electronic systems, and EV drivetrain would fit in the new car. While few technical details are known at this point — experimentation and prototyping is still going on — the company expects the new Manx to weigh 1600 to 1700 pounds, which is about 400 pounds more than the original. It will have a 180 kw (240 hp) electric motor and a range of 200 miles.
Thomas says people won’t be able to tell by looking at it that it’s an EV. All the components will be hidden, but you’ll still know it’s a Manx. “Anytime you have something that is an icon like that, you want to protect it, you want to preserve it.”
Battery Technology From CoreShell
Co-owner Phillip Sarofim is an investor in a tech startup known as CoreShell. Its technology will play a key role in the new Myers Manx BEV. On its website, the company says, “The dream of dependable, long-range electric vehicles that are affordable for everyone is contingent on enabling new battery materials that can allow cheaper, smaller batteries to provide the same performance as large, expensive ones. Coreshell’s coatings can accomplish this by increasing battery energy density by 30-50% while simultaneously improving battery manufacturing costs.”
“Right now, what happens every time you’re charging and discharging your battery is that you essentially are rusting them from the inside out. You have this degradation there that happens on the anode and cathode,” chemical engineer and Coreshell CEO Jonathan Tan tells Autoweek.
“We’re not the first, as you’ve seen, to pick up the concept of being able to coat the inside of your battery, or almost anything inside of your battery, with this nano layer of film that prevents that degradation from happening. We are the first to be able to show it off in a scalable process that integrates seamlessly into battery production. So that’s kind of our key claim to fame — the scalability of that process.
“And in terms of the features, it’s not just longer lifetime, but its ability to charge into higher voltage range, higher limits, and to squeeze more juice out of every single battery, have it last longer and prevent the thermal runaway. So it’s kind of a combination of all three.”
Myers Manx EV Prototypes Coming
Getting a look at the new Manx is still several months or a year away. In the meantime, the team will be testing several mules to determine everything from acceleration and regenerative braking to functional car tops and where to put the electric motor. Running prototypes will begin testing next year, Thomas says. There has been no mention of battery size as of yet. After the electric version launches, the idea is to add a gasoline version powered by an original air-cooled Volkswagen flat four engine as a kit car.
“It’s not really a car you drive daily on the freeway. It’s a car that you drive down Coast Highway, and off-road,” Thomas says. “This is going to be fully off-road-capable, as well as be able to handle Mulholland and be able to just take a quiet, relaxing drive down Coast Highway to your favorite coffee stop.
“It’s not going to be aggressive. We will test the power and we have software that we will be able to get the power exactly where we want it so it doesn’t scare people, but it also has really good performance — it accelerates amazingly. We want people to just feel confident in it. It’s not going to replace your everyday CUV, SUV, electric thing, gas thing. It’s not the goal of this. The goal of this is to have something that you fall in love with, and you want to drive it as much as you can.”
Volkswagen hopes to recapture some of that surfer dude, summer of love vibe with the new ID. Buzz, which will be a vastly superior car to the original Micro Bus but looks almost nothing like it. Sarofim and Thomas intend to make a fully updated Myers Manx that looks nearly the same as the original. Volkswagen showed off its ID. Buggy a few years ago at Pebble Beach — an homage to Bruce Myers and his vision. That car may or may not ever see production, but the new Myers Manx certainly should.
The EV revolution is about changing over all sorts of vehicles to battery-electric drivetrains, from tractor trailers to forklifts to sports cars. The Myers Manx EV will be a welcome part of that transition.
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