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Stegowagenvolkssaurus was built using a real 1964 Volkswagen Beetle.


Field review by the editors.

Highland Heights, Kentucky

Years before Transformers filled the heads of children (and impressionable adults) with visions of morphing machines, an obscure artist in Ohio was exploring the prehistoric alter egos of vehicles.

Some of artist Patricia Renick's ashes are interred inside her unique dino-car.

Her name was Patricia A. Renick. She was an art teacher at the University of Cincinnati and in 1973 she realized that the Volkswagen Beetle had the same humped shape as the body of the Stegosaurus. She thought about how cars used fossil fuels (made from dinosaurs) and about how they might become extinct (like the dinosaurs). She decided to take a year-long unpaid leave of absence from her job to create Stegowagenvolkssaurus, literally "shingle-covered-car-people's-lizard." She was 41, and had never done anything like it before.

In a 2003 interview, Renick recalled how she'd had to erect a tent outside her garage so that she'd have room to build the 20-foot-long creature. She used her kitchen oven to bake modeling clay -- ultimately thousands of pounds of it -- and hauled it to the tent in roasting pans. She got a local dealer to donate a real 1964 junkyard Beetle. In what was serendipity or foresight, Renick completed her work at the peak of America's "Energy Crisis" of the mid-1970s.


Stegowagenvolkssaurus was only exhibited twice, in 1974 and 1975. It was then disassembled and piled in the corner of a Chicago building lobby, where random kids used it as a jungle gym. Renick successfully sued the exhibitor, which gave her the money she needed to build an even bigger follow-up dinosaur, Triceracopter.

Stegowagenvolkssaurus remained a battered mess for decades. Renick died in May 2007. Her passing spurred her long-time partner, Laura Chapman, to oversee the repair of Stegowagenvolkssaurus and its donation to the W. Frank Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University, just across the river from Cincinnati. In January 2009 Stegowagenvolkssaurus was reintroduced to the public, many of whom were not even alive the last time it was exhibited.

Stegowagenvolkssaurus stands in a glass atrium on the third floor. According to dean of the library Arne Almquist, it has been faithfully restored by a high-end auto body shop, right down to its original pearlescent "Cadillac gray" paint. The sculpture is affectionately known around campus as "Stego," and some of Renick's ashes are interred inside the Beetle.

Also see: Triceracopter


W. Frank Steely Library

100 Nunn Drive, Highland Heights, KY
On the third floor of the W. Frank Steely Library at Northern Kentucky University. Park in the Welcome Center Garage on University Drive, then walk up Nunn Drive to the library.
Library hours vary with school calendar. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
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