Palm Springs has stunning rolling sand dunes that many worked diligently to protect. But from the 1960s to 70s, Palm Springs was busy indulging in a new outdoor recreational vehicle: Dune Buggies.
The iconic “Old Red” dune buggy was designed by Bruce Meyers in the mid-1960s. These vehicles were big-tired and open-aired – ideal for off-roading on multiple California terrains. The redesign of the vehicle made the activity more attractive.
However, Palm Springs locals had already discovered the thrill in 1961. Even 82-year old Pearl McCallum McManus, one of our town’s most notable figures, road over the dunes and thought it was a thrilling experience.
When the activity began making headlines in the desert, Paul Pospesil was its biggest advocate. He modified his Volkswagen with oversized tires so the car wouldn’t get stuck. The artist described the sport like riding in the clouds.
The dunes of the valley were not little rolling hills but looked to be three stories high with steep downturns that unnerved and thrilled riders just before the impending descent. The Palm Springs Sand Buggy Association hosted races just east of Palm Springs, allowing locals to race or watch the events on a Saturday night.
Dune Buggies were a cultural phenomenon with little restrictions, enjoyed by everyone in the desert. But it did not go unnoticed that these off-road vehicles could cause damage to the desert ecosystem. As a result, the 1970s saw the beginning of specific areas for off-road vehicles since a balance needed to be found between areas designated for the thrilling rides while simultaneously protecting the natural beauty of the desert.
There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turns 81 in 2019.
One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history. The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a story whose time and place often corresponds with today.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.