Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation
|Headquarters||Burbank, California, United States|
Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael
Number of employees
The Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation was an American automobile company started by Geraldine Elizabeth "Liz" Carmichael, in 1974, incorporated in Nevada. The company's flagship vehicle was the Dale, a prototype three-wheeled two-seater automobile designed and built by Dale Clifft. It was touted as being powered by an 850 cc air-cooled engine and featuring 70 mpg‑US (3.4 L/100 km; 84 mpg‑imp) fuel economy and a $2,000 price (roughly equivalent to $10,000 in 2019), which were popular specifications during the mid 1970s US fuel crisis.
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Before meeting Geraldine Elizabeth "Liz" Carmichael, Dale Clifft hand-built a car made of tubing and covered in Red metalflake Naugahyde.It was powered by a 305 honda superhawk motorcycle that was welded into the metal frame. The Dale prototype was designed and built by Clifft, and the project was subsequently marketed by Carmichael. Much of the interest in the Dale was a result of the 1973 oil crisis: fuel-economy automobiles like the Dale were viewed as a solution to the oil crunch. Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times in November 1974, Carmichael said that she "was on the way to taking on General Motors or any other car manufacturer for that matter".> She also claimed that she had millions of dollars in backing "from private parties" and also talked of a 150,000 sq ft (14,000 m2) corporate office in Encino, California. The prototypes were built in Canoga Park, and an aircraft hangar in Burbank, was supposedly leased for the assembly plant, with more than 100 employees on the payroll.
The Dale was also marketed as being high-tech, lightweight, yet safer than any existing car at the time. "By eliminating a wheel in the rear, we saved 300 pounds and knocked more than $300 from the car's price. The Dale is 190 inches long, 51 inches high and weighs less than 1,000 pounds," Carmichael claimed. She maintained that the car's lightness did not affect its stability or safety. The low center of gravity always remained inside the triangle of the three wheels, making it nearly impossible for it to tip over. She also went on record to say that she drove it into a wall at 30 mph (48 km/h) and there was no structural damage to the car (or her). Carmichael claimed the Dale was powered by a thoroughly overhauled BMW two-cylinder motorcycle engine, which generated 40 hp (30 kW) and would allow the car to reach 85 mph (137 km/h). She expected sales of 88,000 cars in the first year and 250,000 in the second year. The vehicle's wheelbase was 114 in (2.90 m).
Two additional vehicles were proposed by Carmichael to complement the Dale: the Revelle and the Vanagen, a station wagon. Both of these featured a three-wheeled design and used the same two-cylinder engine. None of the vehicles were produced, and only three prototype vehicles of the Dale were made. Only one prototype was able to move under its own power.
The company had already encountered legal troubles when California's Corporations Department ordered it to stop offering stock for public sale because it had no permit.
Rumors of fraud began to emerge, followed by investigations by a TV reporter and some newspapers as well as the California Corporation Commission began an investigation. Although Clifft said he still believed in the project and said that he was promised $3 million in royalties once the Dale went into production, he only received $1,001, plus a $2,000 check, which bounced. Carmichael went into hiding and was featured in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, Episode 22 which aired on April 26, 1989), which detailed the fraud behind the Dale as well as the fact that Carmichael was wanted. She was eventually found working in Dale, Texas, under the alias Katherine Elizabeth Johnson, at a flower shop. She was arrested, extradited to California, tried and sent to prison for eighteen months.
Carmichael died of cancer in 2004. Clifft, who was never shown to have been involved in the fraud, later formed The Dale Development Co. and developed and received several patents before dying in 1981.
HBO premiered a four-part documentary titled The Lady and the Dale on January 31, 2021. Directors for the series are Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker. The documentary has been described as "... a lot of stories - about fraud, flight, FBI manhunts, transgender politics, selective prosecution, bias in the media, and corruption in the courts."
- People Staff (March 10, 1975). "Liz Carmichael's Dream Buggy Turns into a Nightmare". People. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- Skinner, Phil (February 17, 1994). "The Cockeyed Tale of the Three-Wheeled Dale" (PDF). Old Cars News and Marketplace. Retrieved February 4, 2020 – via 3wheelers.com.
- "Dale". 3wheelers.com.
- "Dale Sales Brochure". Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation. 1974.
- "Libertarian Ripoff of the Month Dept" (PDF). The Libertarian Forum. May 1975. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "Libertarian Ripoff of the Month Dept" (PDF). The Libertarian Forum. May 1975. Retrieved 2021-01-16.
- Smith, Richard (2010). "3wheelers.com e-interview with Richard Smith". 3wheelers.com. Interviewed by Elvis Payne. Elvis Payne. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- Torchinsky, Jason (April 1, 2013). "Murder, Transsexuals, And The Price Is Right: The Story Of The Dale Car Hoax". Jalopnik. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
- "Car Firm's Records Show Many Cash Transactions" (PDF). San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Associated Press. February 12, 1975. p. A6. Retrieved February 4, 2020 – via 3wheelers.com.
- Lerner, Preston; Stone, Matt (December 7, 2012). "History's Greatest Automotive Mysteries, Myths and Rumors Revealed". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
- Foster, Pat (August 2011). "The Right to Remain Historical". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
- "Find a Grave". Find a Grave.
- Anderson, John. "'The Lady and the Dale' Review: Running on Fumes". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 February 2021.
- Dale(USA) - More articles about the Dale