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The Dale Car Scam

The Dale Car was a revolutionary vehicle that intrigued the world in the 1970s amid an intense recession and oil crisis. The three-wheeled concept car raised $30 million dollars in investments and was promised to consumers for just under $2000. The creator and company of the Dale car would later be exposed for running an elaborate scam with only one of these cars ever produced.

Amie-Lynn Mitchell

Content Creator

The Dale Scam

All over Europe, America, and elsewhere in the 1970s, gas stations had run out of gas, and those with access to fuel sold it at an astronomical price. The Arab-dominated OPEC (Petroleum exporting Countries) was furious with countries that backed Israel during the 1948 Arab - Israeli war. As a result, the OPEC group halted oil shipments to the West. The 1973 oil crisis sparked interest in the low fuel-consuming cars because fuel-efficient vehicles, for example, The Dale, were seen as a potential solution to the oil shortage. That's how “The Dale” was born. The 20th Century Motor Car Company's president Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael created the initial idea for The Dale. Clift, her ex-husband, designed and built the prototype, and Carmichael promoted the concept.

The Dale was an odd-looking car, unlike any other car on the road. Rigidex, a fibreglass material, was used to cover the aluminum tubing that served as the frame. It was powered by a two-cylinder BMW motorcycle engine, which was claimed to have a maximum speed of 85 mph. It had space for only two people, and the cost was just under $2,000. The fact that it had three wheels—two up front and one at the back—might have been its most intriguing aspect. According to the maker, the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation (TCMCC), the vehicle was stable. In contrast to its notoriously unsteady three-wheeled relative like the Reliant Robin, the Dale had a low center of gravity, making it nearly impossible to flip over.

The Creator

Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was a woman with an interesting past; she had a criminal record and had spent years evading capture while travelling across the country with her five children. Carmichael, born in Indiana in 1927, was known for being cheeky, adventurous, and a rebel. Carmichael had been married three times for a short period and had served in the American Army abroad in Germany. Liz Carmichael said her quest to reinvent the typical American automobile started in a little Indiana town. She graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in engineering. Later she wed a NASA scientist who unfortunately passed away after they were wedded. Later, she met with Dale Leon Clift, an inventive and gifted engineer. Clift had fashioned a frugal, three-wheeled roadster out of motorcycle parts in his garage.

Dale used it to run errands about town, frightening some and delighting everyone else. Carmichael persuaded Clift to give her his car, along with the rights to the designs, for $1,000 cash and the prospect of $3 million once it was in production. Although she never paid the money, she named the car after Dale.

According to reports, Carmichael was a very active entrepreneur. Thanks to her enthusiasm, she sold everything from vacuum cleaners to knitting machines and other comparable items. On the other hand, Carmichael might have chosen to advance her marketing expertise. She eventually mastered skills such as counterfeiting techniques, swindling down payments, and eventually fleecing her customers. It is speculated that Carmichael used the funds to provide for her five children. People told stories about moving from town to town to avoid the police. Carmichael worked for a Dale Clift-owned automotive company after switching her identity in the late 1960s. They designed and built the car that became known as Dale.

The Scam

Liz Carmichael promoted the futuristic-looking three-wheeled sedan called the Dale at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in late 1973. She made waves in the American media when she unveiled the Dale thanks to her flair for publicity. Liz Carmichael was as authoritarian as her conduct would suggest. She stood over six feet tall and weighed about 200 pounds. Carmichael claimed that despite having three wheels, the design was stable because its center of gravity was located within the three wheels. Compared to a car of similar size with 4 wheels, the design eliminated 300lbs of fuel-consuming weight. She asserted that the vehicle couldn't be compared to those produced by General Motors. This rocket-shaped car was designed to resist a 50mph impulse with a brick wall! The greatest accomplishment of this high-tech futuristic Twentieth-century design was the claim of 70mpg economy and 85mph performance for a mere $2000! These figures were an absolute joy to the poor customers who had suffered from the recession and fuel shortage of the 1970s. Furthermore, the car's dashboard appeared to be a printed-circuit design, making it appear like there were no wires. It made absolutely no sense logically. Automobile enthusiasts hailed the Dale as a revolution.

Liz convinced investors and raised $30 million in funding by producing a few prototypes. As a result, a barely functional prototype was displayed at the 1975 Los Angeles Motor Show. They made the absurd claims that high-volume production would begin by June that year, along with the vehicle passing EPA and crash tests. Strangely, despite lacking the necessary authorization, time was now being spent trading stocks and shares rather than working on the car itself. Liz even started selling to dealerships despite not having a permit.

California regulators started investigating the financial transactions of 20th Century Motors. There were reports that several 20th Century employees, including William Miller, PR director, had connections to the Mafia. The rumours became much clearer when Mr. Miller was brutally murdered in his office. The neglected Lockheed aerospace hangers the business claimed to be its factory were unexpectedly visited by television news investigative journalists. They discovered no people, no equipment, and no vehicles.

Authorities later learned that Carmichael had run away twice. Her life tale was as fictitious as the Dale car she was marketing.