Wild Cat! 1970 Ocelot SS Dune Buggy

I am neither a fan of, nor a hater of dune buggies. I don’t dislike them, but I have never wanted to own one. Even so, I do appreciate the attraction they have for some people, and there’s no doubt they can be fun drivers. There are a couple in my neighborhood that are out on the roads every summer and their drivers are always smiling.

Dune buggies were invented by the now iconic Bruce Meyers, who first launched the Meyers Manx back in 1964. The Manx was a cute and swoopy little fiberglass body built to fit on the ubiquitous VW chassis with the engine pretty much out in the open, no doors, and both driver and passenger sitting more on top of than inside the body of the buggy.

Dune buggies were a product of southern California beach culture, and they definitely look the part.

Since Meyers built the first dune buggies more than fifty years ago, over 300,000 dune buggies have been manufactured and sold by a wide variety of builders.

After I saw this ad, I  set out to learn something about the Ocelot SS dune buggy that is shown for sale on here on craigslist in Trumbull, Connecticut about ten miles from where I live. It did not take me long to discover that the Ocelot was built by Automotive Design Associates, Inc.

The big surprise for me is that this company was based in Stratford, Connecticut, where I now live. I’ve never heard of this company before but that certainly got my attention.

In any case, this little speedster looks to be in fairly decent condition. Here is what the seller has to say about it: “Original gel coat fiberglass body in very good shape. Does NOT run. Includes additional (was running) single port VW engine. Has old Porsche rims and buggy seats from the 60’s. Floorpans and frame in good shape. Have old Pennsylvania title last issued in 1979. Last registered in 1988.”

The photographs supplied are pretty good and except for a bit of rust in the pan shown here, the car looks very clean.

Volkswagen engines are pretty easy to rebuild – I’m a terrible mechanic, but years ago, using John Muir’s famous “How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive” even I was able to work on my various VW’s with reasonable success. You can find the PDF of this incredible manual online for ready reference if you want to take a crack at rebuilding this buggy’s engine. And hey, you get two engines as part of this deal anyway.

Dune buggies have a pretty big following and I was easily able to find all sorts of online resources and information about them; I discovered that the Ocelot was a copy of the Bushwacker and shares a number of features with that brand.

The Dune Buggy Archives site features a number of Ocelots and has information about a number of other dune buggy brands that surfaced over the years. The more I looked at this sleek little car, the more I find myself liking it. I surely do not need another vehicle, especially one that does not run, and I definitely do not have any place to store or work on this Ocelot SS, but I hope someone else will find it as attractive as I do, and get it back in shape to drive. The asking price is $4,500, which seems a bit steep to me, but then again, I think most car prices today are crazy, so what do I know?

Update on Ocelots – I found two listings for manufacturers of Ocelot Dune Buggies! There was one based in Fullerton, California as well as the one from Stratford. Do any of our readers know more about the story of the Ocelot SS?

 

 

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    That sure is “a bit” of rust in the pan!

  2. Fred W.

    I owned a Corvair powered, VW platform buggy in green metalflake around 1975. There’s a photo of me flying over the dunes in the FL panhandle in the high school yearbook. This was before anyone cared about the dunes, now you could probably go to jail for it if you had dunes to fly over (hurricanes washed most of them away). I also had Muir’s book and used it to keep several bugs alive. They were amazingly easy to work on, even for a not so mechanical student.

  3. Matt G.

    Hey, I live in Fullerton, CA.

    I’ll have to look into our local Ocelot history. Cool find.

  4. DRV

    The original gel coat is a huge bonus, but I would like the side panels on this design.
    This is a great weird design!

    • David Wilk Member

      From what I have learned about the Ocelots, the side “pods” were optional, and are considered desirable by collectors. It seems likely that the first builder of these was in Fullerton, and maybe the Connecticut company either copied theirs or licensed the design to build and sell. There is very little information about either of these companies online, at least that I could find. There were quite a few start-up dune buggy builders in the sixties and seventies, most of whom did not last very long.

      • Dave H

        Keyword: Copied – The original design was the Bushwhacker copied to make the Ocelot in So Cal then copied or licensed to Automotive Design Associates. The Bushwhacker was the first buggy with Side-Pods integral to the design to hide the ugly side wall left when you pop a one piece body out of the mold. It was styled to look like the Ferrari/Porsche race cars of the mid sixties with the curves and “Coke Bottle” sides. When the Bushwhacker was copied it made the designer(my dad) so mad he took the bodies off the market and created 500+ rental cars in resort areas like Hawaii and Miami. This is when the higher in back “Hot-Rod” styled top with integral Roll-Bar and Moon-Roof was added to keep tourists out of the rain.Ralph Nader came by to inspect the cars and declared the Bushwhacker a safe vehicle and informed him they were the 7th largest carmaker in the U.S. in 1968.

    • Dave H

      If you’ll look closely the Side-Pods are there – they are painted black.

  5. Howard A Member

    The “dune buggy” had a rather limited life span in the mid-west. For a short time, it seemed many had a dune buggy project going. Of the ones that were finished, people quickly found, they were much better on a beach, than on an interstate, or in traffic. I’m sure some are still in barns or garages being used as a workbench. And Fred is right, what kind of monster would disturb the little turtles ( that rarely make it to the sea anyway). Big fine today.

    • Dave Wright

      I was involved with many “dune buggies” when young. In the northwest, we really didn’t get the dung part so much. They were awesome street and auto cross cars. One of the last cars you could drive to the meet, race and be competitive. One of the cars we had was powered by a 180 HP Corvair, my buddies dad was a very well known northwest race car driver and owner, thought it had a flat spot in the power band so he installed a secret nitro system. On the back of a course (Where he precived a flat spot) in a hairpin corner he would hit the nitro button and it would smoke the tires for the balance of the course. It didn’t take long before we were discovered and disqualified. But what fun while it lasted. These were never intended to be a serious car…….just a fun toy and they succeeded in spades. People tried to civilize them in various ways like adding tops and fancy interiors but they are the best as they were designed, simple uncluttered fun vehicles just a step above a motorcycle.Real Dune buggies quickly evolved into rail tube frame off road only vehicles with paddle tires and huge engines. Nothing even closely related to this vehicle. This has some nice design features but I would find an original Meyers. There is a great club with fun people that take there cars all over the southwest in packs like a Harly club. Bruce Meyers was still very active the last I knew. Fun stuff.

      • Dave Wright

        I can’t tell if this is on a shortened full length cars are not as much fun.

      • Dave H

        All Ocelots and Bushwhackers are normal buggy shortened 14.5″ There is another”clone” out there full length.

    • Dave H

      Howard A, The renewed interest in Dune Buggies all around the world is exploding – Congress now names the American Icon cars every year and has an event with cars on the lawn at Congress. The first car named of course was the Shelby Cobra ( with originals going for about $1.5 million). The second car named as American Icon was the Dune Buggy – specifically Bruce Meyers original “Little Red” Manx. Bruce’s first Manx ran through Baja so fast -they started the Baja 1000 race because of it and it won the race the first year. It also sparked the 60’s period of fiberglass buggies and kitcars built from VW’s. Overnight a lot of buggies tripled in value-Worn old Buggies in need of rebuilding used to be $500 -$1500…now you see guys selling them for $4500-$6500. Original Manx’s -$15-20,000. I saw one of only 4 Zuma Beach Lifeguard Manx’s on Ebay for $75,000. Not good on an interstate or in traffic? You should check out the Dune Buggy crowd in Hawaii – They build them as slammed street racers with 250hp turbo motors -a freakin’ kick in the pants to drive-and stuck in traffic is the best-people flip out over them! And yes nowadays you go to a legal offroad beach area (Glamis,Calif – Pacific City,Oregon (has incredible dunes with redwood trees by the beach) to name two here in the west. Dune Buggies are BACK and they go up in value every year like a lot of vintage cars now.

  6. Jeffro

    Porsche rims? I see the rims are the wide 5 lug, but I’ve never seen a Porsche with those from factory. The body has some nice lines. However, the a$$ end is kinda fugly. Wonder if it comes with the top cause I see the snap buttons around the back.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Jeffro, I found them both ways, the half top looks like it required a roll bar, which I can’t believe this doesn’t have. Didn’t Hendrix have something like this?

  7. rustylink

    there’s a reason that the Manx style Dune Buggies command more price wise- they are much better looking. I would call this an Ocel-NOT – that is one ugly buggy.

    • Dave H

      When the Bushwhacker’s center third driving light hole was filled in to be a bump on the Ocelot clone, Bruce Meyers called it the “Awful-lot” When you put fat street tires, a hot-rod motor and a lowered windshield on a Bushwhacker or Ocelot -then the curvy lines make sense reflecting the Ferrari/Porsche race cars of the late 60’s.

  8. Jeffro

    Jimi had a Manx in 68. He also had a thing for big block Vettes.

    • David Wilk Member

      No roll bar in this buggy either! Check out the upholstery – what is that material?

      • Dave H

        Look again the roll bar is the straight line going vertical behind Jimi’s head. During shooting the crew unbolted the top and popped it off for Jimi, but the high roll bar that fit the top was welded on, so Jimi used it to do gymnastic moves..the top and interiors were loud Hawaiian flower print vinyl material.

    • hhaleblian

      Judging by the blonde’s expression Jimi’s right hand is not on the shift knob.

      Like 1
    • Dave H

      Jimi did not have a Manx. In 1969 he went to Hawaii to film the “Rainbow Bridge” movie and his entourage rented a Bushwhacker with it’s sparkeling metalflake, crazy pinstriping and loud Hawaiian flower print top and interior for the film. The crew unbolted the top and Hendrix can be seen flipping on the Roll-Bar(he was a gymnast). Barry Hilton had 50 custom colored Bushwhackers at his hotels -Light Blue and Gold colors and the had big rainbow stickers on the top and sides so naturally it got used in the movie making the Bushwhacker an icon of the psychedelic era.

      • Dave H

        Here I found a still taken from the “Rainbow Bridge” Hendrix movie, the Hilton Hotels model with big rainbow stickers.

  9. Scotty Staff

    Nice research, David! What a cool machine, I love the look as is. It’s almost boat-like, very appropriate for running around on a beach. This post will live on the internet for decades, or until they shut it down, and be helpful for folks researching these cool things in the future.

  10. Rabbit

    The 5-wide wheels suggest the chassis is quite a bit older than a ’70, unless they’re using adapters/spacers. And…..are those ’65 Chevelle taillights? Those two things, plus the single port mill, I’d be checking the chassis number on the tunnel against the registration/title.

  11. Jeffro

    67 was last year of 5 lug wheels on VW’s. 1st year for 12V system

  12. hhaleblian

    There’s only one true iconic dune buggy and it’s the Meyers Manx. The rest are all also rans.

    • Dave H

      Let’s see….7th largest carmaker in the U.S. in 1968/ First Buggy with integral Side-Pods setting a style standard for all buggies to come /used in the Hendrix movie “Rainbow Bridge”/ used in the “Castaways” Rock and Roll TV show in the late 60’s – I’d say it’s a pretty strong case for the Bushwhacker being #2 icon buggy -of course I have a biased opinion.

  13. Susan

    My father, Marion Ruggles, owned Sand Chariots which manufactured The Ocelot, and much more. I had the most wonderful childhood growing up in this atmosphere. My father will turn 90 years old on May 22 of 2017. I love to hear people still talk about the dune buggies he built.

    • Ashley

      Hi Susan, I just purchased one of your father’s buggies that had been in storage since 1970.

      • Susan

        Ashley, thank you so very much for posting that. You completely made my day and put a huge smile on my face. Sadly, I just recently lost my father, 91 years old. He would have loved to read this.

  14. DaveH

    Here’s another pic of our STOLEN family heirloom Bushwhacker STILL out there in So Cal area…All CAR lovers keep an eye out PLEASE! One of a kind Red Meatalflake with Gold Side-Pods, Red Top/Interior and Moonroof. BIG REWARD-call police with location of 175 KFW (Cal Lic Plate#) Red Bushwhacker Dune Buggy or email: bluuwav@aol.com THANKS Barn Finds CarPeople!

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