Fit For Royalty: Californian Classics and the Sultan’s 1956 Oval Beetle

Imagine being asked to build a car fit for royalty — literally!

That’s exactly what happened when Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor, Malaysia approached Californian Classics.

Being entrusted with the restoration of a Beetle destined for a private museum owned by a distinguished enthusiast was no small task, but we’re nothing if we’re not eager to rise up to a challenge.

Every now and then, we’ll take on something of the non-Ghia variety, and on this Way-back Wednesday, we’re taking you back to the grind of that time…

1956 Oval Beetle - Californian Classics


Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s passion for vintage automobiles led to the creation of his impressive car collection, showcasing automotive heritage from various eras. Adding the iconic 1956 Oval Beetle to his collection was a significant endeavour, reflecting his commitment to preserving automotive craftsmanship history.

Displays of the Sultan’s extensive car collection can be seen in Malaysia, in the Royal Automobile Gallery at Istana Alam Shah in Klang.


Sourced by Californian Classics, this 1956 Oval Beetle was an incredibly rare find. Although it had spent many years in the UK, it was originally an Australian CKD (Complete Knock Down); created to get around Australia’s importation restrictions, these cars often arrived in parts and were assembled at the docks upon arrival.

By the time Californian Classics found it, it was a mere shell.

a. Initial Assessment: Californian Classics conducted a thorough evaluation of the 1956 Oval Beetle to determine the extent of restoration required. We needed to source a fitting chassis, engine, engine lid, and interior, documenting each component’s state and developing a comprehensive restoration plan.

b. Disassembly and Documentation: The car was carefully disassembled, with each part meticulously labelled and documented. Each repair or replacement part was kept safely aside ready to be assembled with the car. This ensured that all components could be reassembled accurately and aided in identifying year-incorrect, missing, or damaged parts.

c. Bodywork and Paint: The body of the 1956 Oval Beetle underwent extensive repair work to address any rust or damage. Skilled body shop technicians primed and painted to restore the car’s original colour scheme, paying close attention to achieve an authentically regal finish.

d. Engine and Mechanical Restoration: The engine and mechanical systems underwent a meticulous overhaul, with a brand new 30-horse engine and semi-crash gearbox. The team sourced original or high-quality replacement parts to ensure the vehicle’s performance matched its original specifications. The restoration included a complete rebuild of the engine, transmission, suspension, and braking systems.

e. Interior Refurbishment: The interior was carefully crafted, creating a stark red leather-look which beautifully contrasted with the black body.

f. Final Assembly and Testing: Once all the individual components were restored, they were reassembled with precision. The car underwent comprehensive testing to ensure it met the highest standards of looks, functionality, performance, and safety.


Californian Classics successfully restored the 1956 Oval Beetle, surpassing its former glory, and exceeding the Sultan’s expectations. The car’s exterior exhibited a flawless paint finish, showcasing its timeless elegance.

The interior exuded an edge in contrast with the nostalgic charm of the era, with attention to detail evident in every element. The mechanical systems were meticulously rebuilt, allowing the car to operate smoothly and reliably.

The restoration of the 1956 Oval Beetle by Californian Classics for the Sultan of Selangor’s car collection museum exemplifies the company’s commitment to preserving automotive heritage without sacrificing quality.

We’re quite proud of this one if we do say so ourselves. We’re also incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to contribute to the Sultan’s mission of preserving automotive history for future generations to appreciate and admire.