This Meyers Manx packs a three-cylinder surprise
The silhouette might be the same as it’s ever been, but this yellow dune buggy is hiding a secret. Not only is it a real Meyers Manx, it is powered by a brand-new engine. And if anyone is going to have an interesting opinion about an interesting combination like this, it’s Jay Leno.
This Manx was brought to Jay’s garage by the new owner of Meyers Manx, Phillip Sarofim. Following Bruce Meyers’ passing in 2021, the company was sold and the new owners are dedicated to keeping the timeless shape of the Manx in production. The company will now sell the traditional kits that people like you and I can assemble and make our own, along with turn-key cars powered by EV drivetrains.
There is no electric motor in this car though. Instead, the fiberglass buggy is sporting something experimental: a three-cylinder radial engine designed for ultralight aircraft. It makes sense to use the Volkswagen chassis as a test bed since it is not uncommon to convert VW’s air-cooled flat-four engines for aircraft use. As Sarofim jokes in the video, it’s best to test new aircraft stuff on the ground first. Well said.
Of course, stuffing a radial in a car chassis is unusual and strange for a reason: It creates a lot of problems. Chief among them are cooling issues, but this new radial is water-cooled. We were tricked at first glance, too. The black radiator and electric fan are tucked above the engine on the right, and the fins machined into the cylinders and cylinder heads are almost purely decorative. The second big issue is the oil containment. While the engine is running, the dry-sump oil system can pull vacuum on the crankcase to keep it circulating, but once the engine stops, the oil in the crankcase will drain down and can even hydrolock the lower cylinders. This new design features a decompression system that doesn’t vent straight to the exhaust, making for cleaner start-up and running.
On the road, the buggy appears to drive like most people wish the originals did. The odd three-cylinder exhaust note is unique but not annoying. Certainly the 130 hp makes the driving experience more fun, too. After all, the total weight is just 1600 pounds. Peppy but not overkill, this Manx would likely be a blast out on the sand dunes, where horsepower can come in handy. It might not be the wildest engine swap, but it’s different enough to be cool without going over the top.