The amalgamation of Pangea during the Carboniferous produced a winding mountain belt: the Variscan orogen of West Europe. In the Iberian Peninsula, this tortuous geometry is dominated by two major structures: the Cantabrian Orocline, to the north, and the Central Iberian curve (CIC) to the south. Here, we perform a detailed structural analysis of an area within the core of the CIC. This core was intensively deformed resulting in a corrugated superimposed folding pattern. We have identified three different phases of deformation that can be linked to regional Variscan deformation phases. The main collisional event produced upright to moderately inclined cylindrical folds with an associated axial planar cleavage. These folds were subsequently folded during extensional collapse, in which a second fold system with subhorizontal axes and an intense subhorizontal cleavage formed. Finally, during the formation of the Cantabrian Orocline, a third folding event refolded the two previous fold systems. This later phase formed upright open folds with fold axis trending 100° to 130°, a crenulation cleavage and brittle–ductile transcurrent conjugated shearing. Our results show that the first and last deformation phases are close to coaxial, which does not allow the CIC to be formed as a product of vertical axis rotations, i.e. an orocline. The origin of the curvature in Central Iberia, if a single process, had to be coeval or previous to the first deformation phase.