Concrete Ape in Vermont

vermont_gorilla_leadDriving along Vermont state highways one is likely to witness the majesty of the Green Mountains while curving down around rivers and creeks into bucolic small towns. Either that or a giant gorilla holding up a Volkswagen beetle. This particular Gorilla guards the used car lot at Pioneer Auto Sales on State Route 7 in Brandon, Vermont. While inflatable gorillas are a common site at automobile and mattress dealers alike, this ape is made of reinforced concrete. The primate has been standing at this very spot since being sculpted from an idea into bug-hoisting existence by T.J. Neil in 1987.

According to Neil, the gorilla went up in about three months, and was built by hand on location. The Volkswagen was hoisted up onto the outstretched arm of the reinforced concrete sculpture by way of a cherry picker and some fiberglass straps. The Bug only weighed about 1300 pounds with the engine and transaxle removed. That didn’t stop the cherry picker from blowing a hydraulic line and hosing Neil with fluid while he was inside the VW Bug trying to tighten nuts onto the bolts of the ape.

“Building that funny looking concrete gorilla was a heckuva challenge”, said Neil of the enduring ape.

Neil built the sculpture as a gorilla in part because he’s a big fan of the King Kong movies, and at the behest of Pioneer Auto Sales. The Volkswagen? The iconic German compact came by way of Pioneer Auto Sales. Neil said they would have put an army tank up there if they were selling army tanks. A rusty gold Volkswagen appeared at the time, so up it went. As far as what sort of a gorilla it is standing in front of Pioneer Auto Sales – the answer is neither.

“It’s a reinforced concrete gorilla”, said Neil when asked about the primate’s gender status.

An added feature of the gorilla is an outstretched arm and hand. A spot to sit for those who desire. Local tales of tribes of these concrete gorillas scattered about the globe holding up other cars or giant bananas may or may not be true.

More on T.J. Neil and son at T.J. Neil’s WORLD OF CONCRETE SCULPTURE. The gorilla and Volkswagen can be seen on at Pioneer Auto Sales in Brandon, Vermont.


  1. Pfepher says

    Thanks for the post. I remember seeing this as a teenager and then in my twenties while living in Burlington and taking frequent trips down route 7. Glad to know it still stands.

  2. D.ThrottleMonkey says

    Of all the VW performance parts, In my opinion, the Empi Gorilla (TM) adds the most power. Tata Motors has a production version of this called the Tata Howler Monkey(TM). Man, that thing really screams!!!

  3. says

    I cap the amount of times that I let my brain use the “2001” theme to narrate things I see in a given year..glad I found this before I met my quota!

    Found the site via Jalop, duct tape still THE favorite tool of the week to date!