During the dark days of the early 1970s OPEC fuel crisis one of the most interesting scams of automotive history took place. Founded in 1974 and defunct in 1978 the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company was the brainstorm of entrepreneur Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael. Conceived as the answer to the fuel crisis..Its futuristic three wheel design claimed 70 mpg !!!.
Its three wheel design was the invention of Dale Clift (who it was named after) Powered by a rear mounted two cylinder 850cc engine. Dale claimed over 70 mpg. In the OPEC induced fuel shortage of the early 1970s this car was going to be a savior for millions of people. Designed by Clift and financed by Carmichael prototypes were going to be built. Carmichael claimed she umm he..”Was ready to take on General Motors”
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”, said Carmichael. 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 miles per hour and there was no structural damage to the car (or her). She said the Dale was powered by a thoroughly revamped BMW two-cylinder motorcycle engine, which turned out 40 horsepower and would hit 85 miles per hour. She expected sales of 88,000 cars in the first year and 250,000 in the second year.
Carmichael, 37 in 1974, claimed to be the widow of a NASA engineer and a mother of five. She was 6-foot tall, and 200 lb in weight, and also claimed to be a farm girl from Indiana In reality, she was a transsexual, born Jerry Dean Michael, and had been wanted by the police since 1961. The company wTwentieth Century Motor Car Companyould ultimately prove to be a sham, when Carmichael went into hiding with investors’ money.
Rumors of fraud began to emerge and the California Securities Commission began an investigation. Although Clift 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 which detailed the fraud behind the Dale as well as the fact Carmichael was wanted. She or He was eventually found working under an alias in a flower shop and was arrested shortly after the episode’s airing. Elizabeth Carmichael, as a result, went to prison. She died in 2004 of cancer.
The Dale was a scam but as all stories of this type the intrigue proves to be a better product than the actual invention. Can you picture our highways cluttered with three wheel Dales? Elizabeth Carmichael did but She ummm He robbed somebody else’s dream and other people’s money.