a wrought iron volkswagen by rafael esparza-prieto celebrates the iconic beetle

a wrought iron volkswagen by rafael esparza-prieto celebrates the iconic beetle

a volkswagen beetle with a wrought iron body celebrates the iconic car. created by artist and master blacksmith rafael esparza-prieto, it is one in a limited series he created, some of which were commissioned by the german automaker over the course of his life.

a wrought iron volkswagen by rafael esparza-prieto celebrates the iconic beetle

images courtesy of RM sotheby’s



rafael esparza prieto, who grew up in a blacksmith’s shop in mexico, comes from a long line of blacksmiths. when prieto took a second job at a local auto parts store he was asked by the owner of the shop if he could build a wrought iron car to use as a sign for the business. using an actual beetle as a form he created the skeleton shape before creating swirls and patterns to fill in the empty spaces.



the finished product ended up on a rotating platform inside the shop where someone from the volkswagen factory saw it and asked prieto if he could make another one. VW ended up hiring him to build promotional builds for the olympic games in 1968 and eventually for VWdealerships around the world.



the design features 2,600 individual floral-inspired curlicue designs and was crafted using only a hammer and an anvil prior to being painted white. its wrought-iron body sits over a 1970 beetle interior, chassis, and powertrain, which is stock down to the blaupunkt am radio and 90 mph speedometer.



this particular version was unveiled at barajas’ casa linda restaurant in montecito, california, in 1985 and long remained with the restaurant, serving as an occasional shuttle to transport restaurant-goers back to nearby santa barbara. its owner, jose barajas, commissioned his own wrought-iron beetle in the early 1980s and it recently sold for $78,400 in an auction held by RM sotheby’s.



according to vintage VW specialist old bug, 20 of these cars were built officially for volkswagen. there were also two examples rafael built himself in later years when he emigrated to california. including the original built for the auto parts store in mexico, and the model shown here, it would seem a total of 23 were created by rafael – that’s a number that remains unconfirmed, however.



project info


designer: rafael esparza-prieto
name: wrought iron volkswagen beetle
model: volkswagen beetle

  • When I was a kid growing up in Manila, Philippines, there was a local ironworks guy in the neighborhood who built one more ornate than this in the early 60s. I thought this was that one. Was surprised to find out this one’s from Mexico.

    glenn marcelo says:

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