Trans Am Totem (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Trans Am Totem
Photo by Robert Ashworth

Trans Am Totem in Vancouver, British Columbia, was created by sculptor Marcus Bowcott in 2015 as part of the celebrations around the Vancouver Biennale. Located at the intersection of Milross Avenue and Quebec Street, Trans Am Totem features stacked cars on top of a giant tree stump. Bowcott’s inspiration for the artwork was something of a combination of the good and bad elements of modern culture. He wanted to celebrate what the car has given us in terms of mobility and technology, but also criticize what he sees as “throwaway consumer culture”.

All of the cars were generously donated by a local scrapyard after their engines, transmissions, and drivetrains were removed. The wooden base is an old-growth cedar transported from southern Vancouver Island. In order to support the cars weight, the tree was split in two lengthwise and fitted with a steel column. The Vancouver Biennale proviced $10,000 CAD to help with construction and installation costs, but Bowcott still put up $6,500 of his own to finish the work. He was later able to recoup his loss through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Bowcott studied at the Royal College of Art in London, and completed his M.A. in the RCA School of Painting in 1984. Upon his return to Canada, he taught at several Vancouver colleges and art schools, including: Emily Carr, Vancouver Community College, Kwantlen College and Capilano University (where he taught for 22 years).

Trans Am Totem Facts

  • Trans Am Totem is 10 metres (33 ft) tall and weighs 11,340 kilograms (25,000 lb).
  • Construction of the artwork took two years and required a team of people to complete.
  • The cars from top to bottom are, a Pontiac Trans Am, a BMW 7 Series, a Honda Civic, a Volkswagen Golf, and some sort of unidentifiable Mercedes-Benz (sorry).
  • The headlights and taillights of Trans-Am Totem are operational and powered by solar energy.
  • Trans Am Totem is located at Quebec Street and Milross Avenue in Vancouver
  • The overall dimensions are  10 x 5.2 x 2 m (33 feet x 17 feet x 6 feet 7 inches)