Local Landmarks: Southfield’s Favorite Patriotic Elephant

How a life-size elephant statue made its way to one of metro Detroit’s busiest business routes.
Photograph courtesy of Tamaroff Honda

Since 1971, Tammy the elephant has been a favorite friend to kids of all ages who have spotted the 11-foot fiberglass statue on northbound Telegraph Road in Southfield. She sits outside the Tamaroff Honda dealership with her tusks pointed toward the busy traffic and her trunk raised, as if waving to the passersby.

Marvin Tamaroff, who opened the dealership as Tamaroff Buick-Opel in 1969, was introduced to the statue (it was then painted gray) at a promotional event at the Buick headquarters in Flint a few years later. Tamaroff had an itch for collecting items — he had a collection of 1,100 hood ornaments — and that may be why he decided to purchase the elephant, placing it in front of his dealership, where it became the dealership’s mascot and a city landmark.

Painted with the colors and patterns of the American flag, the statue is often mistaken as a representation of the Republican Party, when, in fact, it was painted to celebrate the country’s bicentennial in 1976.

Tammy’s name was selected through a contest, and she has become a beloved member of a community that quickly notices whenever she goes missing. In the ’90s, Tammy was kidnapped by members of a fraternity, and a young girl called the Detroit Free Press asking where the elephant had gone. (She was returned a few days later.) But these antics haven’t happened in a while: Shortly after her return, Tammy was given cement shoes to make her a more permanent fixture.

This story originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on May 6.