Motoring | Reader's Drives

Oliver Hill's 2004 Volkswagen Beach Buggy

Back in the UK, Olly had a cool Mk1 Golf and he spent thousands of pounds on restoring it. Now he has another Volkswagen... with a difference.

  • By Imran Malik, wheels magazine
  • Published: 16:08 March 27, 2013
  • Wheels

  • Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/ANM
  • The 70bhp 1.6-litre motor does the trick in kicking up lots of sand — and putting a big grin on his face!
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Where the heck did you find this beauty?
It had been spotted in an auction by a friend of mine and he called me knowing how much I liked these cars, as I worked on a Volkswagen Beach Buggy GP Mk1 in the UK. I immediately went to the auction, registered on site and luckily, mine was the only bid and I got the car. It was no beauty at that time, but I was not going to let it go.

Though we’re surrounded by beaches here, we’ve not seen any Beach Buggies, which is quite weird if you think about it. Are you aware of any others?
The only one that I have seen that is Volkswagen based was in the private collection of Shaikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nayhan in his famous pyramid garage. As far as I am aware, mine could be the only VW-based beach buggy on the road in the UAE.

It doesn’t have a roof or doors. It looks fun to drive but is there any danger of falling out?
Falling out, ha ha! I weigh 130kg — you couldn’t push me out. In the weather we’re having now it is unbelievably fun; I have the best panoramic view of any car on the market. Driving down Shaikh Zayed Road and looking at all of Dubai’s great architecture is just fantastic. Cruising along Jumeirah Beach Road and listening to all the supercars just puts a giant smile on my face.

What does it have under the bonnet? Or, rather, the boot?
It is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder VW Beetle engine and has around 70bhp, which sounds tiny but this car weighs less than 550kg so that’s about 130-140bhp-per-tonne, so it’s quite nippy at the low end.

That’s plenty. But best of all, it has a manual gearbox...
The only time I have ever driven an automatic is here in the UAE. They make driving simple but not fun, while a manual makes driving a lot more enjoyable.
I love taking this out to the desert where I can spin the wheels in the sand and climb up dunes. It’s not powerful enough for things like Fossil Rock or Big Red, but still, it doesn’t mean I don’t try. On small dunes it has no problem; I even had a blast right after this photoshoot before I went home. I take every opportunity I get to muck about with it.

I would too. You’re quite proud of this aren’t you?
I sure am, after all, I rebuilt it myself while the stuff that I couldn’t do I made sure to oversee so that the guys at the garage did it properly. I had a fantastic team helping me, they really took care of the car and made sure it was exactly the way I wanted it.
A lot of good people helped with this car and have made me one very proud owner. Thank you Sam, Danielle, Omar, Ali, De-Costa, Ashraf, Osman, Manu, Nasim, Ahmad Bader, and everybody who helped in any small way to create this awesome car that I hope to enjoy for many years to come.

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Are you collecting an Oscar? Actually, this car is worthy of an award. It must make you feel quite special when driving it around…

I feel like a rock star. I love the attention this car brings — it’s mostly people wondering what on earth it is. If you don’t like attention then this is not the car for you. I love it when people slow down to see it and give me a honk of approval or ask me questions at a red light and take pictures. They love the fact the engine is in the rear. What surprises a few people is that this car is modelled on a classic VW Beetle.

It looks in great nick, but does it give you any problems?
Being a 2004 model with efficient EFI technology, it is very reliable. Also, there is not a lot that can go wrong — there is no AC compressor to leak or break and no radiator to overheat in the summer. Basically, it’s just four wheels, an engine and a body. But I do have plans to modify it. I want a 2.2-litre engine so I can climb the bigger dunes and I want to reupholster the rear bench and add some classic wheels.

Keep us updated with whatever you do. Have you got any favourite roads? Or beaches?
I like driving this car everywhere. You’ll see me on Shaikh Zayed Road, JBR, Jumeirah Beach Road and anywhere in between.

Great stuff. Just a final question; what is your dream car?
I could not narrow it down to only one, it would be more like a dream garage. But in the top five would be a Pagani Huayra, Aston Martin DBS (in black) Ultima GTR, 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible (also in black) and a 1965 Meyers Manx original Beach Buggy — the first ever Beach Buggy created by Bruce Meyers. Without this, my car probably would not exist.

Bio
  • Name Oliver Hill
  • Job Service manager
  • From The UK
  • Wheels 2004 Volkswagen Beach Buggy
  • In the UAE Three years

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