1962 VW Beach Buggy
Year of manufacture1962
Number of seats2
• Extremely rare model assembled in Switzerland
• A brand famed for the quality of their construction.
• An icon of the Sixties & Seventies.
• Reliable and inexpensive Volkswagen mechanics
The dune buggy is a car designed for the sand. Fashion and its fun look made it successful far beyond but it remains a creature designed for summer fun. Generally, the dune buggies are the result of the transformation of a used Volkswagen Beetle, of which they preserve the shortened chassis and the mechanics, sometimes heavily reworked. The history of the dune buggy is of a phenomenon that, up to a certain point of its evolution, remains typically American. Already in the 1920s and 30s, young people living on the U.S. coast combined pieces from various vehicles and scrap from old Ford Ts, to create vehicles to explore the sandy areas. The secret to floating on the sand was wide wheels and the first examples were equipped with large wooden “barrels”, instead of tires. With the passing of time, an ever more varied offer of scrap became available and the dune buggys changed shape, becoming in the 50s and 60s a modified car chassis without bodywork, fitted with powerful 8-cylinder engines. Then, in America, came the Volkswagen Beetle which was imported in large numbers. It was soon noticed that the traction and lightness of these cars were favourable to travelling on the sand. Creating a dune buggy starting from a beetle was very easy: it was enough to remove the bodywork and travel with the bare chassis, equipped with huge low-pressure tires. The low cost of this operation made the “dune buggy” even more popular, although it remained a niche market. Then came Bruce Meyers, and everything changed. First as a beach lover and then as a designer of fiberglass hulls, Meyers wanted to give a body to the rough frames used to run about on the dunes. He did it so well that his Meyers Manx created in 1964 became, in the collective imagination, the image of the dune buggy as we now know it: open engine, wide tires and exterior lights, wave-shaped sides, no doors or hoods. The spirit of protest at the end of the sixties was, in some way, conducive to the spread of an anti-machine like the Manx, in fact fashion exploded and, in a short time, several manufacturers copied the idea, mainly proposing kits to modify ageing Beetles. At the end of the sixties, there were more than 20,000 dune buggies circulating in the United States. The dune buggies soon began to race, to be precise south of the Mexican border, in April 1967, when Bruce Meyer and Ted Mengels driving a Mayers' Manx took only 34 hours and 45 minutes from La Paz to Tijuana, in the California peninsula; the first Baja 1000 was held. Also in Europe, considering the simplicity of construction and the ease of finding Volkswagen mechanics, the manufacturers of these cars spread, particularly in England and Italy. The dune buggy, in the early seventies, quickly replaced the local spiaggine and became a fashion phenomenon that died at the end of the decade. Many companies were more or less freely inspired by the Meyers Manx, which still appears to be the most successful and at the same time the most balanced in its originality. In Italy, the main producers were Automirage, All Cars (later Autozodiaco), the carrozzeria Momo (later Helvetia) and Puma (one of the most long-lived). In all, it is likely that between two and three thousand examples of various buggies were produced in Italy between the end of the 1960s and the middle of the 1970s. In America, on the other hand, where there is great interest and a considerable trade in accessories, it is estimated that more than 250,000 dune buggies were produced. As often happens, in the history of a particular model, the success of the dune buggies was such that even the cinema wanted to benefit from its fame. In the film The Thomas Crown affair, the beach-chase scene, with Steve McQueen at the wheel of a dune buggy (no stunt, of course) entered cinema history. In Italy, however, the opposite happened, that is, it was the movie that contributed to the success of the car, in 1974 the release of the movie Altrimenti ci arrabbiamo! (“Watch Out, We're Mad!”) with the popular Bud Spencer and Terence Hill helped raise the visibility of the dune buggies.
Albar was a workshop that originated in Switzerland, founded by Al Barmettler and which, later moved to Germany, under the name ALBAR buggy Berlin. It specialized in the construction of body parts for the Volkswagen Beetle and in the creation of dune buggies. It was, if not the only, certainly the most famous Swiss producer of dune buggies, a very unusual vehicle for that landlocked state. Albar was known for creating luxury dune buggies, assembled with care and, it was ironically said, with typical Swiss precision; an unusual feature for a dune buggy, which were more often delivered as a kit or with rather poor finish. The level of finish of the Albar buggies was such as to be a serious invitation to use these cars in all seasons. For the winter months, it was possible to obtain a hard-top with removable doors. The entry-level model was the Albar S. The car in this lot is a Volkswagen typ 11-1300 Albar Buggy S, with chassis no. 119340661. It is, therefore, a type S Buggy, produced by Albar, on the frame of the Beetle 1300 (1285 cc). It has all the iconic features of the dune buggies: uncovered engine, wide tires and exterior lights, wave-shaped sides, no doors or bonnets. Typical of these vehicles is also the pearlescent effect paint, but unusual is the brown color. It has anatomical seats, a sports steering wheel, a double chrome exhaust and a pale canvas roof with a vinyl rear window. The car has Swiss documents and registration. A real rarity for fans of the dune buggies, now increasingly difficult to find.
State of the Art
Partially restored, in excellent condition.
• James Hale,The Dune Buggy Phenomenon, Veloce Publishing Ltd, UK 2015
• James Hale, The Dune Buggy Handbook: The A-Z of VW-based Buggies since 1964, Veloce Publishing Ltd, UK 2017
Swiss license and registration, up to date and in order.
Swiss license and registration, up to date and in order.