Chuck Doswell's

White Elephant

White Elephant


This vehicle, a 1967 Pontiac Tempest sedan with an overhead cam straight 6-cylinder engine (with a Rochester Quadrajet carburetor!), was my first after returning to graduate school in 1972. I bought it from one of the fine Norman dealers ... I forget which one, sadly, since I'd love to give credit where it is due. I had to buy it in a hurry, because I was headed home to the Chicago area and I had no wheels. It performed acceptably on a local test drive so I bought it. A day or so thereafter, I headed up I-35 to Chicago ... once I got it up to freeway speeds, it began to backfire! It backfired every time the engine was put under a serious load (like going uphill). If you've ever driven across southern Missouri on I-44, you know there are some hills, called the Ozarks! When I got to Chicago (800 miles of backfiring), I had the engine looked at, and was informed that it needed a valve job ... costing far more than I had on hand. Hence, it backfired the 800 miles back to Norman, too, and I began to use a bicycle for much of my local transportation. This is the only vehicle I ever owned that I gave a name to, and I believe the name fits the car's character rather well.

Eventually, I saved enough to get the valve job done, and I began to use the vehicle on chases.

1972 storm chase

The "White Elephant" never was a very acceptable chase vehicle, although it was roomy inside and had a spacious trunk ... it just had too many annoying problems. For instance, on a trip to Colorado for a conference, the U-joints began to go out, so I had to go home early. I still had the car when I got married, and we eventually traded it to my wife's grandfather (along with my wife's old car) in the spring of 1975 for one relatively new Dodge sedan. He made money on the deal ... he always made money on car deals! ... and I have no idea what poor soul ended up with the White Elephant after that