Otto Lot Of Hard Work – Paul Hinchcliffe’s 1963 Deluxe Beetle

Words by Joe Halliday Photos by Dan Pullen

We often follow our hearts rather than our heads and sometimes, just sometimes, it pays off! With a little madness and a good eye for the final vision, the end result can be something really rather spectacular! That certainly has been the case with this awesome little 63 Deluxe Beetle ‘Otto’. This very sympathetic, yet highly involved restoration, all carried out by the dedicated owners Paul Hinchliffe and his partner Jade. 

The couple first spotted ‘Otto’ online in April 2019 and instantly fell in love with the look of the killer patina. They had already made the decision to treat themselves to a Beetle to complement their fleet, having owned a 1967 Westfalia SO42 since 2013. The couple met 15 years ago in the Bahamas on a diving expedition Paul was running. They cruised around in a battered series 2 Land Rover for 4 years and spent the next 4 years in Fiji working running a similar remote marine expedition.

Finally they came home in 2011 with their boys Oliver and William to begin life out of water in the UK, which is when they purchased their Bus. They were keen to relive the excitement they felt all those years ago with purchasing the Westy. It was time to add another classic to the fleet, in the shape of a Beetle.

Keeping an eye online Jade stumbled upon the advert for a deluxe beetle and immediately knew it was ‘the one’. They contacted the owner and got talking, which is when the extent of the work needed began to be apparent. The pictures proved that although the awesome sunburnt exterior was really quite straight and solid, and of course full of the most amazing character, it had unfortunately rotted on the inside due to water ingress and condensation. After much deliberation the couple reluctantly passed on purchasing Otto after deciding it was just too much work to take on. Not one to miss out on an opportunity though, Paul didn’t come away from the conversation empty handed.  The owner cannily mentioned he had a Westy trailer for sale also, which Paul couldn’t resist. Happy with his purchase but a little disappointed not to have fulfilled their quest for the right Beetle the couple went back to the drawing board. 

 Fast forward to August 2019 and they hadn’t stopped thinking about that 63 deluxe beetle and his amazing sun kissed looks all summer. They eventually gave in and decided to see if the car was still available, which surprisingly it was! They contacted the owner again and arranged to go and have a look. Car trailer in tow, Paul and his good mate Weener set off from Surrey to Ipswich. When Paul saw the car he was suddenly reminded of what a big project it was going to be. With his big boy pants on and a deep breath Paul decided he had deliberated enough and began trying to knock the guy down on price. Meanwhile Weener eagerly decided they were having it no matter what and was already busily loading it onto the trailer, the negotiations stopped there! A deal was done and the pair were soon back on the road and heading for home with a happy looking Otto in tow ready for his next adventure!  

The deluxe was originally found by Rob Gibson in Montana. It was a one owner car from new and had been left sitting in a yard since the early 80’s. The original owner had bought the car for his wife and had strangely fitted some rather ugly orange side lights (which are now long gone). According to his son, the lights were to make the car more visible to other motorists. However the son suspected it was really so that the car was more recognisable at night so his Father would get an early warning for a quick evacuation when up to no good with his mistress! The family who owned it had another Beetle, and part of the deal for Rob was he had to get the other Beetle running for them before they would let Otto go. Rob sold the car to Chase from Cage 66 but it never reached him as he passed it on to his friend Stacey in California. It wasn’t long before it was purchased by the chap Paul bought it from and he had it shipped to the UK, ready to fall into Paul and Jades hands only a few months later. 

Upon getting Otto home, Paul and Jade soon realised they had absolutely nowhere to store it, let alone anywhere to complete the work. So after plenty of head scratching they decided the only course of action was to knock the garden wall down and winch it into the back garden! They bought a big gala tent to work under. Paul acquired a welder from a friend and set up a makeshift but fully practical garden workshop. Hats off to them as many people would consider that kind of destruction a step too far and would simply give in, not Paul and Jade! And it’s that thinking outside the box and mucking in that really has been the ethic on the whole build.  

The first job was to strip the car totally down and weld in braces to make sure the body kept its shape when lifted off the rotten pan, and to ensure everything would line up again once complete.  Paul rounded up some great friends to help lift the body off and roll out the haggard pan. Again, having good mates on hand to get stuck in when needed really is what it’s all about, and with plenty of muscle to successfully lift Otto’s body safely off, Paul could really begin to get the car ready for the much needed replacement metal it so needed to make the car solid again. The Neighbours were going to love the sound of the grinder! Paul certainly did get through plenty of discs but being the gentleman he is, kept the noise down as much as possible and only worked at reasonable hours! Which is definitely something you need to take seriously, and consider when taking on a full resto at home, especially in a tent in the garden!  

The car came with many of the panels needed for the restoration, including a pair of new channels, and a pair of Wolfsburg West floor pans. Paul was a coded welder back in the day, so didn’t have any issues welding but was shocked at the poor quality of some of the after-market panels. This really is an issue and one I’ve found myself, so to make life much easier and to achieve a much more professional finish, Paul decided to bin the cheap heater channels and splash out on some Klassic Fab items which were amazing quality. The metal work didn’t end there, as the ’63 deluxe beetle needed the usual surrounding panels to meet the new channels. So Paul replaced both lower rear quarters, lower A & B pillars, outriggers, rear body mounts, and bumper mounts.  

It was a joint effort to blend and touch in the paint, which the couple opted to match to the cars original shade of VW Anthrazit L469, and Paul and Jade are very happy with the work they have carried out. Not being a car mechanic by trade, but normally working on trains. Paul was able to use his skills to achieve a quality of resto to match that of a specialist VW shop. Looking at the photos work that they both should be very proud of.  

Paul treated the freshly restored floor pan to a good few coats of Por15 before moving on to the mechanicals. It has had new king and link pins and track rod ends fitted as they were totally shot. He went with the original stock rebuilt brakes, opting to skim the drums. He made new brakes lines and fit new flexi pipes. To finish off the brake system Paul then treated it to a new master cylinder. Moving on to the drive train. Paul cleaned up and overhauled the original 1200 box, fitting new seals and replacing the oil. A bit of forward planning to convert the car to 12 volt saw the bell housing being bound out to accept a 12 volt flywheel, and the car has a 12 volt Bosch automatic starter motor fitted.  

Sadly the bug came without an engine and would never be a matching numbers car. With this in mind they decided to have a bit of fun and put in a 1641cc long block built by the VW Engine Company. Paul assembled the ancillaries and installed and set up the unit himself. Paul opted for a fairly stock arrangement, but with the extra grunt of the 1641cc barrels and pistons, and went with a centre mount single Dellorto 36 DRLA for the 63 deluxe beetle. Getting the carb tuned was trial and error but with plenty of fettling it’s all good now. The engine also has an electric carter rotary fuel pump fitted, wired up to a fuel cut off relay. To set off the freshly built motor Paul treated it to a brand new Vintage Volkshaus exhaust, courtesy of Michael Hausman, and Paul absolutely loves it! With the rolling pan sitting pretty on the stock 15” Smoothies shod in new Michelin MX155 82S, it was time to enlist the help of his good buddies to reunite the now solid body to the freshly restored floor pan. 

Paul and Jade had planned to slam The ‘63 initially, but getting to know Otto’s character and charm helped them to decide it looks great the way it is, trying to keep as much of the originality as possible. They obviously didn’t have to do much to the paint, just give it a coat of boiled linseed oil. With the car back on its wheels and the bodywork complete the fun could begin of refitting all the pretty stuff. You can’t beat a stock interior, so Paul and Jade wanted to recreate what was there before, but unfortunately they had to replace the old vinyl due to being totally shot. So the couple recovered the seats in the original style brick red colour vinyl which came from TMI, which they are super happy with. The carpet is a reproduction square weave made by Newton’s Commercials, whilst retaining the original floor mats to the car, along with the original door cards and headliner, all carefully cleaned and back in situ. The steering wheel is also original to the car, which now has the correct style d-ring horn push thanks to Seb at German Junkies. A good thing about a US ‘63 is they had seat belt mountings. They installed rear inertia belts for the kids with ease and are safe in the knowledge that they are fitted correctly as VW intended. Another bit of fun, and one to cover up an area of the headlining that was sunburnt to a crisp is a sticker patch work on rear window headliner. Not original of course but you’ve gotta have a little fun, right?  

“The car originally had a CB radio so we rigged one up to the existing mounting holes and aerial.” Says Paul, A nice touch and one to stick with the cars originality. Another neat addition is an original peka towbar that Paul has fitted with that little Westy trailer he bought in mind, isn’t it great when things come around full circle! And the name Otto? Well that comes from a nice original service sticker on the inside of the glovebox lid from ‘Ottos Auto service, and something that has just stuck! 

All in all, it took them 3 months of hard graft to see Otto back on the road. The project was a huge learning curve for both of them, but one they are so glad they took on, and would definitely do it again if the right car comes along. Paul would like to give special thanks to his partner Jade who has always been there to lend a helping hand, and a big thanks to friends Grant, Dave, Claire, Luke, Rich, Kim, Simon and Weener for the muscle!