This Meyers Manx packs a three-cylinder surprise

Jay Leno's Garage

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.

Lenos garage meyers manx engine
Jay Leno's Garage

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.




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    Exciting developments at the old Meyers Company – I’m with Jay, it’s great to see the new ownership working on both new and different stuff, but also adhering to the original vision of the Manx.

    Never have been a believer in any 3 cylinder engine. The only 3 cylinder engine that truly worked well for a long period of time was the Deutz diesel 3 cylinder air cooled. Odd number cylinders only work well in radial type aircraft engines. There have been over the years 3 cylinder and some 5 cylinder auto engines built by GM i believe and neither worked very well for very long.

    Wonderful smooth little diesel in my Kobota Excavator, SAAB 2-stroke 3 cylinder patterned after DKW have a long history including winning lots of rally & ice races. Lots of Smart Car engines running around the planet,
    Just saw a Triumph Tiger in Germany this week, need I go on …

    Ask any Audi aficionado about 5 cylinder engines. They’ve made several that were incredible. There are also more mundane, but reliable 5 poppers as well. Toyota’s new 1.6 liter turbo 3 is nothing to sneeze at, either. The fact that it now develops 300 hp is even better. 😀

    Don’t tell Audi that. They’ve built a successful company building amazing 5 cylinders from 1980 through 2022s RS3!

    Did a tour of Germany several years ago, and in Nürnberg, there were very small Mercedes taxis. If I’m remembering correctly, I was told that these were propelled by 3 cylinder engines. I was quite taken aback at the smallish car with a Mercedes Star on its hood, especially with only 3 cylinders!

    too bad Hagerty doesn’t offer Dune Buggy coverage in Canada. just sold mine because I couldn’t get insurance coverage. Even having two other classic cars insured with them, the answer was still NO.

    Perhaps they didn’t work because they were built by GM. Plenty of other manufacturers have had great success with 3,5,7,9 cylinder engines

    Engine sounds reminiscent of a VW Beetle engine, but different enough to know it isn’t one. It has enough power to get the job done. I’m guessing the engine must be fairly expensive if there aren’t plans to build more than a dozen copies. Too bad, because this would be the engine of choice for off-roading in this car.

    Is this the Radial Motion engine from that cool bunch of gearheads in Australia? A couple years ago I talked with them about possibly mounting one to my Volksrod (painted up like a WWI German fighter plane, so it would be a good fit with the theme). Unfortunately, this wonderful engine was a bit outside my budget and they didn’t need anybody to represent them and get the word out in the States. Oh well – it never hurts to ask! 🙂 Great bunch of guys, though.

    Interesting car. Of course, there’s not much call for “dune buggies” up here in Canada. We’re short on dunes, at least of the sort you might be allowed to drive a car on (!), and the weather is not exactly conducive for entirely open cars either. This three-cylinder radial rig should last just fine. And the five-cylinder Mercedes-Benz 300D/300TD is one of the longest-lasting engines around!

    The 3-cylinder 2-stroke 750cc Rupp snowmobile with cvt drive was a 125mph (on the snow)!) machine!
    LOTS of power!!! It went faster than I was comfortable with!

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