Many museums and galleries remain closed due to COVID-19 — but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the holiday for artists worldwide. On April 15, Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday, an annual observance is held to honor and encourage artistic creativity and expression. To celebrate this year, we are featuring five artfully adorned cars that feature everything, from beads to paint to metalwork. Learn more about these creative, colorful cars and the compelling stories behind them.
- The Vochol: The name “Vochol” is a combination of vocho, a common term for Volkswagen Beetles in Mexico, and Huichol, another name for the Wixárika indigenous group in the western states of Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico. In 2010, a team of Huichol artists decorated the chassis and interior of the Beetle, meticulously covering the car with resin and applying over 2.2 million beads in intricate patterns and symbols by hand. In combining the Volkswagen Beetle — a pop culture icon in Mexico and around the world — with the Huichol traditional craft, the Vochol is a unique display of folk art’s persistence in a modern world.
- The ‘Million Dollar’ Scirocco: Over the course of a decade, Volkswagen fanatic Jason Whipple took apart and rebuilt his 1980 Scirocco S from scratch, including a hand-built motor, transmission swap, custom wheels and a new engine management system. Whipple also partnered with a graphic artist to hand-paint the vehicle. With a rainbow motif and wild graphics, the vehicle offers social commentary with phrases like, “The future is our fault,” and “Things won’t change until we do.” It’s no surprise that this hand-painted hatchback drew attention from artists and automotive enthusiasts alike when it was unveiled at the SEMA Auto Show in 2018.
- The Wedding Beetle: This metal masterpiece was the creation of Rafael Esparza-Prieto, a welder and blacksmith from Mexico City in the 1960s. Using a Beetle as his base, Esparza-Prieto built a skeleton out of white wrought iron and artistically filled in the gaps with floral patterns and decorative swirls. The wire shell left the vehicle’s simple yet sophisticated mechanics fully exposed so anyone could see under its hood. The white whimsical designs of the car evoked images of Cinderella’s horse-drawn carriage and, as the car’s moniker suggests, it was loaned to happy couples as a picturesque getaway car for their special day.
- Woodstock’s ‘Light’ Bus: Artist Robert “Dr. Bob” Hieronimus was 26 when he was commissioned to paint a Volkswagen Type 2 for Bob Grimm, a musician in the Baltimore-based group Light, in 1968. The ‘Light Bus’ traveled to Woodstock, where it was photographed by reporters and became a counter-culture icon. In 2018 — fifty years after the event — Hieronimus helped create a replica of the original van. A team of restoration experts across the country helped make his vision a reality, reproducing every psychedelic symbol and color. Today, it serves as a reminder of the legendary Summer of Love.
- A Mountainous Masterpiece: To highlight Volkswagen’s support of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI), artist Mimi Kvinge gave the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, Tiguan and Atlas a colorful makeover. She painted a mountainous landscape against a blue sky on each of the vehicles, paying homage to her home in the Pacific Northwest. The vehicles appeared at major ski and snowboard resorts to promote PSIA-AASI’s educational trainings for ski and snowboard instructors across the country.