It’s 2023, but the Meyers Manx is alive and kicking with all kinds of love for the 1970s. Under new ownership, Meyers Manx Inc. is bringing back the famous fiberglass dune buggy conversion kits for the classic VW Beetle. And as you can see with this prototype at Jay Leno’s Garage, there’s a significant addition to the familiar formula.
Actually, some might say there’s an omission here. In place of the traditional air-cooled four-cylinder VeeDub engine is a water-cooled three-pot, but the lack of a cylinder does not hamper this dune buggy in the least. Rather, it’s the party piece for the new Manx because it’s a bonkers three-cylinder radial engine used for aircraft. It comes from an Australian-based company called Radial Motion, which developed it for light airplanes and gyrocopters. However, as Meyers Manx Chairman Phillip Sarofim told Leno in the video, the company tested the engine first in a VW.
The one in this modern Manx is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter three-cylinder, and though it looks like an air-cooled mill, it’s actually water-cooled. The unique design doesn’t use any belts; the alternator is chain-driven and there’s no power steering pump or air conditioning to fuss with. The engine’s internals are LS components from General Motors, and it’s fuel-injected with a 6,000-rpm redline.
To prevent hydraulic lock in the lower cylinders, a compression valve with a scavenger pump pulls oil that might seep past the piston rings. And while radial engines usually conjure images of tremendous smoke clouds on startup, this one is modern and smokeless. It produces 130 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque, though forced induction versions can reach upwards of 300 hp. Considering it powers a vehicle weighing approximately 1,600 pounds, it doesn’t take much power to get this new Meyers Manx rolling.
And roll it does. Just like the OG Manx from the 1970s, the new version is still offered as a conversion kit for the classic Beetle. The transmission is a Beetle-spec four-speed manual, and as the video demonstrates, it sounds downright mean under throttle. For those seeking something a bit quieter, there is an electric version coming that folks can buy turn-key ready. However, the sights and sounds of a radial-powered buggy have our undivided attention.
The video states this is a prototype, and while the radial engine is cool, it’s not necessary for those who prefer classic VW power with their brand-new dune buggy body.
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