Words by Joe Halliday & Photos by Dan Du Cross

You know when you see a car sitting there at a show and you just think, “Wow, that guy has nailed it“. Well, that’s exactly the case of this sweet little ’63 Bug. Resto Cal as a style can easily be over done. Like seasoning a fine Italian dish, or actually more to the point – like making an exotic cocktail. Your instincts are telling you to whack more booze in, sugarcoat the rim, chuck a sparkler in with an umbrella and garnish it with an olive. Now, such a beverage might sound awesome if you answer to the name of Derek Trotter. But, in reality, any taste you were hoping to achieve was lost long before you decided it needed that second shot of Drambuie and a Glace Cherry. I’m thankful the days of buckeroo’d up roof racks and stacks of vintage tat everywhere are long gone. James and Nicky Murphys 1963 Beetle is testament to what can be achieved with a little self restraint, good taste and an eye for knowing when it’s time to stop.

The Murphys, both from Bicester in Oxfordshire, also have a 1970 Bay Window Camper and have done for the last 10 years – A firm member of the family. Before that, James had a string of Beetles going way back to the UK Cal Look heyday in the late ’80s. He attended his first BugJam in 1987 and was hooked. His first Beetle being a lowered ’71 1300 on EMPI 8’s. He got into VWs due to the fact that his Mum had always had them when he was a kid, so Volkswagens were in his blood. Alongside the Camper, James decided after a 7-year break from Bugs it was time to start looking for another one, and gave in to satisfying the withdrawal symptoms. James, a Sales Manager of a fire and security firm, and his wife Nicky, an office manager of an engineering and manufacturing company, bought the Beetle basically in a similar aesthetic state to how it is now. The family happened upon it by pure chance in the summer of 2018, after falling head over heels in love with its smooth Resto Cal looks sitting pretty in the ‘For Sale’ section at Stonor Park. They – along with their two daughters Charlotte, 20 and Jessica, 18 had been looking for a Beetle to join the family fleet and accompany their Bay to VW shows throughout the summer months. They had their hearts set on a nice finished or nearly finished early Beetle. One that wouldn’t need too much work but something they could put their own mark on and enjoy. They looked far and wide, looking predominantly for a small window, but also viewing some later cars before finding this little beauty. As soon as they clapped eyes on it they knew it was the one that would be coming home with them and joining the Murphy household.

The car, originally an American import from the West Coast, was supplied in VW Anthracite Grey and spent most of its life in the States presumably in stock form and looking a little different to how it does now. It later found its way over to Sweden as a Rat Looker before being imported once again in 2011 to our shores here in the UK, where it would be treated to a total restoration 2 years later by the previous owner, Martyn Bellis. Martyn, with the help of his Brother-in-Law, Stirling Langley went the whole hog with the restoration, opting to carry out the usual full body-off routine to fully assess the extent of the work needed to bring the car back to its former glory. Once the body and pan were separated it became clear just how much metalwork would be needed to make her solid and straight again. The chassis was sent to Carls Cool Campers to be fully blasted, and the pan halves replaced. Once it was fully sealed and painted Martyn turned his attention to the body, which again was blasted at Carls Cool Campers. With the shell cleaned up, it became clear that it needed both heater channels replaced, inner-wing repairs and front/rear aprons. Thankfully the original doors, decklid and bonnet could be retained and repair sections grafted in to make good of the original components. After the metal work was complete it was time to choose a colour. The final choice was VW Fjord Blue ‘L434’ – A pastel hue slightly different, but not a million miles away, from the cars original finish and definitely a great choice for a subtle Resto Cal Looker such as this. The body was finished off with a full set of Aircooled Accessories stainless side-trims and brand-new stainless steel blade bumpers with overriders.

Suspension wise – the ’63 has been treated to Limebugs finest. In the form of their 4″ narrowed king and link beam, drop spindles, Atomworks 2″ drop plates and Limebugs full airbag beam on the rear. The air management duties are being taken care of by a full Airlift Performance Kit, with a VIAIR compressor and tank, Munro Air Shocks, and the Airlift digital controller with 8 different height settings and the ability to fine-tune the ride height at the press of a button. The brake system comprises of a CSP front disc conversion and fully rebuilt drums at the rear. All of this hiding behind a set of fully refurbished 4″ smoothies wearing 145 15″ up front and 185 15″ at the rear – with babymoon caps and Aircooled Accessories stainless beauty rings. I think you’ll agree the wheel choice is spot-on to give it that cool subtle Resto Cal flavour. The engine received a total overhaul – being treated to 1641 barrels and pistons, Bosch 009 distributor and a pair of Weber 34 ICTs with an EMPI Hex Bar linkage. Finally the engine was dressed with a few choice stainless steel goodies, such as a Bugpack breather, S/S rocker covers and a full Vintage Speed exhaust system. To get the most out of the 1641’s new found extra grunt the engine has been mated to a fully rebuilt Cogbox IRS GT gearbox, with a high ratio 3.8 final drive, making long distance cruises to shows effortless.

With the body and pan finished and mated back together again, it was time to turn attention to the interior. This, has been totally recovered in commercial pale grey vinyl at Duo Flex in Brackley, Northhamptonshire. Matching Grey and Mid Grey door panels were fitted along with a complete oatmeal carpet set from Rugs For Bugs. To set off the re-trim, the car sports a few cool accessories to tie in with the “less is more” but suitably accessorised feel to the car. These being an Autometer Sports Comp 52mm tachometer sitting proudly on a custom steering column mount from Aircooled Accesories and perfectly complimenting the original grey D ring steering wheel and Vintage Speed stainless steel Sports shifter. By far the coolest accessory on this car, and indeed one that I for one have never come across in the past but wish I had, is the American “Southwind” petrol heater that cleverly sits up front under the bonnet – blowing air downwards into the footwells, something we could all do with on those late-night cruises when the weather is decidedly chilly. To keep James entertained on such journeys is a cleverly reworked original radio – converted to run an MP3 player or phone.

Since owning the car, James and Nicky have made a few effective changes to the overall look of the car. Not wanting to over-do or ruin the subtle appearance, James opted to fit a pair of original Hella 356 headlamps, 356 grilles, tweak the stance with the new tyres, fit the Vintage Speed shifter and protect the beam with a skid-plate. The car keeps him busy with many an hour spent tinkering, tuning, servicing and even recalibrating the Air Ride system. The Murphys use this little Bug all the time. Taking both VWs to shows, days out and whenever the mood takes them. The quality of the build has to be seen to be appreciated, and in James and Nickys ownership the Beetle has won many trophies in the Show and Shine competitions across the UK.

It won Best Resto Cal at Bugjam 2018, Top 10 Aircooled at VW Action 2018, 2nd place in the Resto Cal class at Stonor Park 2019, Top 10 Aircooled once again at VW Action 2019, Best Beetle at Beach Dubbin’, and was shown at the Volksworld Show this year, not to mention Hayburner Choice at Stonor too!

So look out for these guys and their perfectly dressed ’63, check out that Petrol heater and remember, less is more people!

Nailed It - '63 Beetle Full Gallery