Born in 1964 in California, the concept of this small fun car, often without a roof, swiftly crossed the Atlantic to take up its roots with us. No less than five Belgian car preparers launched themselves into the adventure between 1969 and 1976. We come across Buggies under different makes: Ritter (in Jemeppe), Apal (in Blegny), Van Clee (in Roeselare), VF Dune (in Namur) and Méan (in.. Méan).
The distinctive characteristic of the Buggy is that its bodyshell is in polyester, commercialised in kit-from to be fitted to an inexpensive car chassis – that is to say, at that time, that of the Bug (even though there were also other makes). This is probably the reason why the name ‘Buggy’ refers to its English nickname: “Bug”
Belgium built some 10,000 Buggies that for the most part were exported. Today there are more than 700 Buggies left in Belgium.
During the months of February and beginning of March, Autoworld will be exhibiting fourteen Belgian Buggies.As well as a real Meyers Manx, seven APAL and several other Belgian Buggies will be on show.
Around 1965 in California a certain Bruce F. Meyers builds vehicles for the dunes with a polyester bodyshell based on the VW Beetle. The Meyers Manx can be labelled as being the original Buggy. There is an immediate success but one needed to wait until 1968 for the first "Buggies" to be imported in Europe.
Edmond Pery, the man at the root of the APAL make in Liège, is one of the first to see the potential of the buggies. He wants to be the first to show an original Buggy to the Volkswagen management in order to obtain a guarantee from the manufacturer for the mechanical parts.
Charles Van den Bosch designs the bodyshell with the typical cut down flanks which characterises an APAL buggy. In collaboration with the French Multimaco company, a first APAL Buggy is exhibited at the 1969 Paris Motor Show. 160 orders are taken in 10 days.
Pery receives Volkswagen’s authorisation to commercialise his buggy via Volkswagen’s official network in Belgium and succeeds in passing the crash-test required for the necessary homologation of his vehicle by the TÜV in Germany. And so the story can start.APAL then also builds coachwork for Ritter and several other manufacturers. However, there are other Belgian manufacturers who embark on the buggies adventure for a more or less lengthy period: Vanclee in Roulers, but also Mean in the commune of the same name in the Ardennes and VF in the Namur region.
Abroad various manufacturers also jump on the bandwagon, but APAL in all likelihood is the most important with not only classic Buggies, but also sporty models such as the Jet and the Corsa, or leisure time vehicles such as the Auki. It is reckoned that APAL built some 5,500 Buggies. Even though this might not be a record for a European company, it definitely is not far off …