by Don Wilcox
Ted Trevor and the Myers Manx Crown Mfg. Super Buggies, Etc.
I first met Ted at an autocross or slalom type event a couple of months after I totaled the yellow Devin in San Diego. I had been running the championship events in a series of borrowed cars that friends had been willing to loan me, primarily because I was leading the SCCSCC Championship points race at the time of my wreck. I ran one of the Championship events in Jim Dunn's TR-4 and managed to win the class, so I got the maximum 100 points out of that one, and ran another in Roy Ferguson's Lotus Super 7, and won that class in it for another 100. So when I met Ted, I was still in the Championship points race lead, and looking for a ride that could replace the Devin.
The event was in Pamona somewhere, and was not a Championship event, but a smaller and less formal one that allowed "fun runs" after the timed event was over. I was there to watch, and keep an eye out for a potential ride I could borrow, when Ted drove in in the strangest vehicle I had seen in a long time. It was a bright purple metal-flake Myers Manx dune buggy with huge sand type tires on it, and a Corvair engine!
All the sports car purist types laughed at it, and had a lot of fun with jokes about such a car daring to show its face at a "real" sports car event. I felt a little differently about it, because when I looked the car over carefully, several things began to add up in my head.
First the workmanship in the car was all of superb quality. The car was beautifully built, and was full of special parts that had obviously been handmade. Second, it had several factors in its basic design that had real potential for a slalom/autocross car - short wheelbase, high power to weight ratio, quick steering, light weight, etc. The more I thought about it, the more it looked to me like a potential winner.
I talked to Ted for a long time, asked a lot of questions about the car, and we "hit it off" right from the very beginning. He was the owner of Crown Mfg in Costa Mesa, and was in the business of special machine parts, among which was the hardware to drop a Corvair engine into a VW! The buggy was his pet, and "demo" car for his line of such equipment, and he was quick to see a potential market if the car could be competitive in this type of event.
I encouraged him to enter the event (he said he had never seen one before!) and he agreed to do so, if I would also enter the car and drive it to give him an idea of what the car could do with a more experienced driver. The results were pretty funny.
The car had huge tires on it, because it was set up for off-road work in sand and desert. The suspension was jacked up as high as it would go, and the car was set up for the opposite of what we were asking it to do. Ted immediately spun it out and off the course several times, and everyone had a real big laugh about the funny looking car. When I drove it, I managed to keep it on the course, but the car showed only its potential - we did not win that event.
After the runs and after all the laughter had died down, Ted and I talked for about an hour about combining forces: installing my hot, Bill Thomas built Corvair engine (now "surplus" after totaling the Devin) into his buggy, and then the process of Ted setting the buggy up specifically for Slalom/autocross type events. The plan was for me to bring the engine down to his shop in Costa Mesa on the coming Thursday evening and proceed from there. I did not know Ted yet, and had no idea of how quickly he operated, or that he had almost total recall about anything mechanical.
When I got to his business Thursday evening, I nearly went into shock. The car looked like it had exploded! It was literally scattered all over the shop. It had been completely dis-assembled and parts of it were everywhere. I had mentioned several things that I thought we needed to be competitive: wider wheels, fat, sticky, low profile tires, good shocks, quicker steering, lower center of gravity, etc.....
All of this was in the process of happening. Ted had made a set of wheels for the car: 13 inchers (7 inches wide) to drop the front end, and a set of mind blowing 15 inch rear wheels that were 10 inches wide. (This was in the days when normal race tires were on 4 to 5 inch wide wheels, and the tire revolution had not yet started!) He had come up with a set of Koni shocks (Porsche racing version) and had dropped the suspension so that the ride height was about 6 inches lower in front and 8 lower in the back. A set of super sticky racing recap tires was enroute from San Franscisco where a company that did sticky tires for drag cars had agreed to do a set on road racing carcasses, and include a bit of a tread pattern for legal reasons only. Every thing on the car that could be removed to lighten it a bit was gone, and although it looked like the car would never run again, it was really in the process of starting to go back together again. I asumed that it would be a month or so until we could hope to try it out, but Ted said to come down on Saturday, and we would try it a bit in a huge nearby parking lot!
When I got there Saturday morning, the car was so transformed that other than the bright Southern California purple metalflake color, it would not have been recognizable. Instead of being a "high rider" with a foot of ground clearance, it was lowered to the max, and the top of the dash board was now less than waist high. It sat on the widest set of tires I had ever seen, and the hot engine was in and ready to go. When we fired it up, and I tried it out a bit, it was obvious that we had something special on our hands. We had nothing to compare it with, but it was QUICK! The handling was so sensitive that it was a bit of a handful to control, but it was obviously going to be some serious fun!
The next day, we took the car to a big event, and started with a rather embarassing debut. Ted was taking the car through tech inspection, and for the brake test, each car had to accelerate up to about 40 and make a hands off the wheel, brakes locked stop. Ted was feeling a little frisky, and for the acceleration part reved the thing way up, and dropped the clutch to pull a big wheely (which the car would do fairly easily at that point, before we did some weight re-distribution). The result was very impressive for about 20 yards, then the ring and pinion gear in the transaxle let go, and our day was over - before the event had started. Everyone laughed and had a great time abusing us as we crippled the poor thing home.
During the next week, Ted repaired the transaxle and passed a law for the car: NO full throttle starts in first gear! And no more wheelies! Starting in second gear, the clutch slipped just enough to get the car launched without the revs bogging too much, and it was so light that there was really very little loss in performance. So second gear starts were the rule from then on for all competition events.
In the next six months, we secured the year's overall Slalom Championship with a perfect 1200 point score, (never done before) which meant that we were never beaten at a Championship event during the year - by anyone, regardless of class. We entered 20-some events, and won every single one in our class, and all but about 4 of them over-all as well. We were definitely off and running. The large picture in our basement of the dune buggy with all the trophies around it is the original purple car, and the trophies are our "take" from the first SCCSCC Championship year that we campaigned the car together.
During the next year, we ran over 40 more events, and set the FTD or "Fastest time of the day" at all but two or three, where we lost usually to only one car - Chuck Green's factory Cobra. Those were often "open"courses where we couldn't come close to the Cobra's upper end performance. (We still usually beat the other 20 some Cobras, all the Vettes, and the Lotus' etc. but Chuck was just too good!) I think that during the time that we ran the buggy, it was really only beaten by a couple of people when we got in a run that was really our best stuff: Chuck Green and Chuck Beck who eventually built an even smaller, and lighter, monster autocrosser. Chuck Green was as smooth and accurate as anyone could be at that type of event and was always a threat for FTD - and Chuck Beck was a creative designer/builder who was braver than Dick Tracy, and if he finished without hitting any pylons, he was FAST. I also remember several other amazingly quick guys that I always liked to watch and learn from: like a kid named Elliot Forbes-Robinson in about a "stage 7" Sprite! There were some seriously quick people playing the game at that time, and that made it real fun for everyone.
As we experienced so much success, we got to feeling pretty frisky, and had a lot of fun playing mind games with people. We would wait until as late in the day as possible before we ran the car, letting everyone chip away at the FTD until everyone had taken their "best shot" - then we would run the buggy and beat 'em all. Man, was that fun!
After a while, people began to grumble that we always waited until everyone else had run so that the course was cleaned of any tiny rocks or that rubber had been laid down by the cars all day, making the course "faster" when we ran. This was partly true, but in order to play with their heads even more, we started going to the events very early in the morning, when they were first set up, and running - then leaving the FTD for everyone to shoot for, and we won them that way also.
On another occasion up in a race at Santa Barbara, I got into the last turn too hot and spun the car 180 degrees approaching the finish line. I just kicked in the clutch and let it roll across the line backwards, and the time was still nearly fast enough for FTD. The announcer was having a lot of fun with the fact that the defending Slalom Champion of Southern California spun out, and was razzzing Ted about it. So Ted, in his usual subtle fashion offered to bet the announcer that we could take our next two runs, spin the car again both times, and still take the FTD - backwards. The bet was made, and I spun the car on both the remaining runs, and we did set the FTD - backwards.
Another neat period was when people began to try to outlaw the car via various rule changes. Some were pretty funny, and one that we had a great deal of fun with was a "safety" rule that was passed requiring that "all engines be enclose with metal" to be cleared through tech inspection. Of course, this also outlawed all the vettes with their fiberglas bodies, but before it was repealed, we ran a couple of events with an engine cover made of coat hangers and aluminum foil. The engine was enclosed in "metal" and was legal in the strict sense. The car usually left the "engine cover" at the starting line, or somewhere on the course, but it still won.
The car was running in the Modified sports car class, and we made no pretense of it being a "stock" or production car, so we really did not care at all what class they put us in. We ran with the idea of FTD every time we showed up. We ran with the object of beating every car that entered, and we didn't care what it was. They eventually settled on a Class N designation for the car, where we ran against the unlimited class vehicles: pure race cars with big engines (over 2 liters displacement) formula cars, etc. which arrived on trailers. We drove the buggies to the events, often with my wife riding shotgun and our daughters Laurey and Lisa in the back with a picnic basket, ran the events, (and won over 90% of the events we entered over a 3 year period), then drove home.
We always both drove the car at events, and Ted always ran first, and was a very good driver - usually finishing second in our class, and in the top dozen or so overall. At one event, he ran particularly well and set the FTD on his run, so I never took my runs and he got the FTD. I could have sand bagged my runs so he could win, but we knew each other too well for that. We ran the purple car, and later the blue Pikes Peak car, over 100 times together, and this event (and Pikes Peak in 1966, but that is another story) were the only two times that Ted was faster.
The spring of 1966 Ted began to talk about building a second buggy, and making it a race car from the beginning. The catalist of the idea was the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. One of the most famous races of its kind, it is a full USAC Championship event, and attracted some of the big names along with a bunch of eager amatuers. Ted decided that we ought to take a shot at the mountain, and he wanted to drive it too, so he built a second car that he called the Crown Meyers Manx Super Buggy. This car was built literally in two weeks preceeding the event, and is the blue Manx that is in our garage at the moment.
The Pikes Peak saga is a whole chapter of its own, so I will skip the details of that event here. When we got back to Southern California we decided to semi-retire the purple car, and start racing the blue one on the slalom and autocross circut. The first two events were a disapointment because the turbocharged engine in the blue buggy sputtered and choked every time it turned hard to the right. We spent two events before Ted found the "fix" with a vent tube inside the carb to handle overflow fuel. After sorting that out, we went on to win another Championship or two, and the buggy was a consistant FTD level competitor as long as we ran it.
Our interest in the parking lot type events was sort of "dulled" by the heady experience of Pikes Peak, and we began to look at the idea of expanding a notch. Ted wanted to get into off road racing and try to gain a foothold in that market segment, so the blue buggy was fitted with all sorts of crash bars around the engine and under the car, off road lights, and some very ugly spare tire mounts etc. I never liked it set up that way. It was like a thorobred made to pull a plow! Ted eventually gave up on trying to make a competitive off road car of it, (after it finished 4th in the Mexican 1000, driven by Eric Ressler), and bought a "Burro" a hugely ugly off road racer that was sturdier, stronger framed, and had longer suspension travel.
But the real jump into the big time was our venture into USAC Indy car racing! That also has its own chapter, but it started in the spring of 1967 when Ted bought a three year old Indy car that was being rebuilt in a Costa Mesa shop after Al Unser visited a wall with it. After running the Indy car the summer of 1967, we just never really got back into the full swing of the slalom and autocross events that we had so much fun with. After 200 miles an hour, and running with Andretti, Foyt, and the Unsers - it just was never quite the same. Also, about this time I had wound up in a good college job and was beginning the learn to be a decent band director. When the opportunity came up to leave the Southern California smog that was so hard on Kaye Jean and Lee (who was about a year old at that point), we bought the blue buggy from Ted for $1000, threw it on its towbar, and moved to Kansas.
Courtesy of Don Wilcox (email@example.com)... .