MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Ever wanted to take a spin in Cinderella’s magical coach? Look no further than the Wedding Beetle, an enchanting white, wrought iron-bodied coach-built car from the 1960s.
Just a pity it is over in the Americas – but perhaps some enterprising gatemaker here in South Africa could use the inspiration…
The Wedding Beetle was the creation of Rafael Esparza-Prieto, a talented welder and blacksmith in Mexico City, who was working at a parts shop in 1968 when his boss asked him to create a one-of-a-kind Beetle shell to display to attract new customers.
SHOWN OUT ON THE STREET
Using a Beetle as his base, Esparza-Prieto built the skeleton of the vehicle out of white wrought iron and artistically filled the gaps with unique floral patterns and decorative swirls. The auto store owner was so impressed that he displayed the finished product on a rotating platform outside his business.
The car, The Corner was told, quickly drew local attention and the eye of Volkswagen executives down the road at the then new Puebla plant.
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Impressed, Volkswagen commissioned Esparza-Prieto to create two more Wedding Beetles ahead of the 1968 Olympic Games scheduled for exico City – but each with an engine. The wire shell left the vehicle’s simple, yet sophisticated, mechanics fully exposed.
Athletes, artisans, and auto-enthusiasts from around the world admired the vehicle’s 1.5-litre, flat-four, air-cooled, engine. The car proved popular at the games so Volkswagen commissioned Esparza-Prieto to build an another 20 to display at VW branches around the world.
NO SHELTER SO NO RIDES
The white but whimsical design evoked images of Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage and, as the car’s moniker suggests, the cars were loaned to wedding couples as post-ceremony getaway cars for their special day.
Esparza-Prieto emigrated to California where he built two more Wedding Beetles on his own. Along with his original creation, there are about two dozen Wedding Beetles though several other welders have since mimicked his work.
It’s rare to see a Wedding Beetle these days – not only because their limited number makes them sought-after by collectors.
While these artistic automobiles are perfect for post-wedding photo shoots, the quirky creations do not include a windshield or sheet metal to protect passengers from weather or stray pebbles and are not suitable as everyday drives.
The car’s spellbinding silhouette and expert craftmanship still have the effect Esparza-Prieto intended more than 50 years ago: to make people stop and stare.
This wrought-iron wonder is as much a piece of art as it is a Volkswagen.