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April 21, 2024

Wrought-Iron Beetle, aka the Wedding Car

Air conditioning is no problem with this rather unusual model of Volkswagen Beatle. The entire body was made out of white wrought iron. The car, built as part of a Volkswagon exhibit, was complete with black vinyl upholstery and all running gear in 1969.

Rafael Esparza-Prieto grew up in a blacksmith’s shop in Mexico. From a long family line of blacksmiths he learned the craft from his elders first hand. As a child he would pump the bellows to keep the fire hot, he even earned the nickname “Blackie” because he was always covered in soot from the forge.

At one point Rafael took a second job at a local auto parts store in Zacatecas and the owner of the shop Mr Montes asked him if he could build a wrought iron car to use as a sign for the business. Always up for a challenge, he agreed and started crafting. Using an actual Beetle as a form, he heat, hammered and formed the skeleton shape of a VW and then created swirls and patterns to fill in the empty spaces. The finished product ended up on a rotating platform at the business and caught the eye of all the passers-by.

One day someone from the VW factory inquired about the creation and asked Rafael if he could build another one. The Olympic Games in Mexico City were coming up in 1968 and VW hired him to build two for promotional use there. As VW dignitaries came to town and saw the cars, they wanted one for themselves as well and as a result Rafael got more orders to build the Iron Beetles. They quickly spread out to VW dealerships around the world. They are also known in the VW circles as “the Wedding Car,” as many of them have been used in weddings.

After Esparza-Prieto moved to California, he built two more Wedding Beetles on his own. Along with his original creation, there are believed to be around 23 Wedding Beetles in total. Several other welders have since mimicked his work and built their own wrought iron versions of the car using different colors and patterns.


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