‘Trans Am Totem’ And ‘Spindle’: The Art of Stacking Cars

Oct 10, 2015 2 comments

At a traffic median in the busy urban intersection of Quebec Street and Milross Avenue, near False Creek, in Vancouver, stands a 10-meters high, 11,340 kilogram sculpture of five stacked cars on top of an old tree stump. The art piece titled “Trans Am Totem” was made by Vancouver based artist Marcus Bowcott and unveiled in April 2015. The cars included in the sculpture are: a 700 series BMW, a Honda Civic, a Volkswagen Golf Mk1 Cabriolet, and a 1981 Pontiac Trans Am on the top. All the vehicles were donated by a local scrapyard. Bowcott had their engines, transmissions and drivetrains removed to reduce their weight, and then mounted them on top of a stump of an old-growth cedar tree, which was transported from southern Vancouver Island. At night, the partially crushed vehicles' headlights and tailights are illuminated by solar powered batteries.


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According to the artist, the materials and objects that make up “Trans Am Totem” refer to the 150-year-old history of the place. Before the introduction of heavy industry, this site was a shoreline of tidal flats and massive forest with old growth cedars and Douglas Firs. Later, False Creek became an industrial zone of sawmills, beehive burners and ringed with ever increasing collections of log booms. Over the years the mills got bigger, the logs got smaller and the second growth timber replaced the old growth. In the 1980s the mills where removed and the area was gradually transformed into its present incarnation of stadiums, high rise towers, entertainment centers and pedestrian side walks.

“Trans Am Totem” reflects upon this site and it’s history through references to old growth forest, logging and stacked, manufactured structures.


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“Trans Am Totem” reminds me of another similar looking car stacking sculpture called “Spindle” which stood in the city of Berwyn, in Illinois, until 2008. The sculpture consisted of eight cars impaled on a spindle, and included a Volkswagen, a BMW, a couple of Fords, a Pontiac and two Mercurys. It was commission by the Cermak Plaza shopping center, and was located in their car park.

Although it became a symbol of Berwyn for two decades, it was not universally loved in its hometown. Just a year after its construction in 1989, Berwyn residents voted overwhelmingly for it to be removed. Only the mayor of Berwyn defended the sculpture calling it an "icon in our community".

After David Bermant, the owner of the shopping mall died in 2000, the artwork lost one of its major defenders and the shopping center changed hands. That set the stage for the sculpture's eventual removal. In 2008, the sculpture was demolished and was replaced by a Walgreens store.


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Berwyn - The Spindle

Sources: Vancouver Biennale / Wikipedia / MarcusBowcott.com / Wikipedia (Spindle)

Also see

long-term-parking ron-arad


  1. I see Ford/Lincoln - Mercury, VW, GM, BMW,all represented, but no Chrysler??? :-)

    1. Apparently all the Chryslers are still running fine.


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