An interview with the owner of a Roberto Luongo-themed Trans Am

Michelle Vonk just wanted a nice-looking car. She ended up buying a tribute to the last great Vancouver Canucks team.

By Tyler Olsen | December 21, 2022 |11:59 am

The Canucks ain’t what they used to be. Neither, alas, is Michelle Vonk’s 1994 Trans Am.

A decade ago, the Canucks were the toast of the Lower Mainland. Huge crowds gathered on South Fraser Way to celebrate victories. Restaurants were packed. And as the team competed for the Stanley Cup, a local artist raced against the clock to paint Roberto Luongo, the Sedin Twins, Ryan Kesler, and the Green Men onto a 1994 Pontac Trans AM Sport.

Like the Canucks, the car has gone through some stuff since then.

Today, it’s sitting in a Chilliwack car port in search of its next owner and a brighter future. This fall, the car, which has just 60,000 km on the odomoter, was listed on Facebook Marketplace for $8,500. And this week, it attracted attention across the Lower Mainland. By Thursday, Roberto Luongo himself was tweeting about the car.

We called Vonk on Wednesday (before the attention hit the media) to learn more about the car’s incredible paint job, and what it’s like owning a vehicle memorializing one of BC’s most beloved (and tragic) sports teams.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

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Michelle Vonk’s Trans Am has both a painting of Luongo and a button that puts the car into ‘perform’ mode. 📷 Facebook Marketplace
Michelle Vonk’s Trans Am has both a painting of Luongo and a button that puts the car into ‘perform’ mode. 📷 Facebook Marketplace

The paint job

FVC: I got interested in the car because it’s a very interesting paint job, and the Canucks are a long ways from where they were 10 years ago. Can you tell me about the paint job? How long have you have owned the car?

MV: I’ve owned the car for about five years. I bought it off a guy in Mission and drove it for a little while. Then I started going to Celebrate Recovery, and I met this guy named Steve* and he comes out and sees my car and goes ‘Oh, my brother painted that car!’

I’m like, ‘No way, really?”

I became really good friends with Steve and I met his brother because he was living with this brother. So his brother airbrushed it in 2011, when the games were on, when they were playing Boston. He only had two days to do it, so he has a lot better work than what is done on that car, because he had to just do it as quick as he could over the two days.

So that’s all I know about the car. Also, we found out that it’s a very rare car.

Michelle handed the phone to another person. (We aren’t sure whom.)

The other person: It’s a Trans American. It’s got the racing transmission on the column.

There’s a button under the hood—we have to go back to her mechanic to find it—that you press a button and it does something the electronics and it gives it more horsepower. It puts it in a racing mode. I don’t understand but a buddy of mine was telling us about it. There were about 13,00 made and he figures there’s probably about 4,000 left.

He is referring to the car’s ‘Perform’ button, which apparently was a feature installed on certain Trans Ams manufactured in the mid-90s.

FVC: When you bought the car, did you buy it mostly for the car or the paint job?

MV: My ex-husband is a hockey fan and he came across it, and I was looking to buy a car, and he goes: ‘Buy this!’”

And I’m like, whaat? I like the body. I like the muscle, but I’m not much of a hockey fan. So I like our team and hope they do good and hope they win, but I don’t sit there and watch it. I’ll go to a live game. I’ve been to a VIP suite.

So I bought it more for [the fact] it’s a muscle car.

FVC: Has anybody come up to you with interesting stories or to chat about the car?

MV: They always come up to ask if they can take pictures of it. Or if we come out of the grocery store, somebody’s always taking a picture.

FVC: Why are you selling it?

MV: I haven’t driven it in a really long time. I have two herniated discs and it’s very low to the ground—it’s hard to get in and out of. It’s really costly on gas. It’s a car that somebody needs to buy to restore. Like, it’s driveable and everything but it’s got a crack in the windshield—a pellet gun cracked it. And it’s got a little bit of a leak. It’s a little bit moldy on the inside.

But that can all be cleaned up. And if the seals around the windows get fixed, that problem would be gone.

FVC: Do you have any thoughts about the Canucks these days? They’re not quite what they used to be.

MV: I haven’t heard much. I don’t watch the news or TV so I haven’t heard much other than they’re not doing good.

*We have used a pseudonym given the location of the meeting.

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Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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