I’ve been thinking a lot about dune buggies lately. It all started a few weeks ago while I was watching HEAD (1968) on TCM starring The Monkees. This psychedelic blast from the past has many memorable moments including a scene where the iconic pop band drives a bright yellow buggy through some sand dunes while being chased by a giant-sized Victor Mature.
Dune buggies are custom-made cars usually pieced together from a kit or by scratch depending on how mechanically inclined the owners are. They became increasingly popular after WW2 and evolved into a west coast phenomenon in the early ‘60s after a California engineer and surfer named Bruce Meyers revolutionized the buggy. He built what’s now called a Meyers Manx that had a custom fiberglass body and a Volkswagen Beetle frame. The cars were originally designed as all terrain vehicles for racing in the California deserts and taking long drives down sandy beaches but their popularity quickly caught on and for a brief period they became hugely popular around the world. As James Hale points out in his book The Dune Buggy Phenomenon, these lightweight colorful cars that could be made by anyone seemed to represent the free spirit of the swinging sixties and Hollywood took notice. Dune buggies appeared in countless movies made throughout the ’60s and ’70s until their popularity began to wane. Rising gas prices, new driving regulations and safety issues led to the dune buggy’s demise. And as the country became increasingly conservative in the 80s there seemed to be no place for the youth orientated dune buggy that was associated with pop bands like The Monkees. But the Monkees weren’t the only music idols that drove a dune buggy.
You can find more buggies and more movies discussed at the Movie Morlocks
- Buggin’ Out with Buggies @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks