The Dale Car Scam

This is the strange story of a scammer named Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael.  In 1974, there was an oil crisis and people looked for cars that were cheaper to run than the typical American gas guzzler.

She came up with The Dale. A three wheeler two seater sports car powered by an 850 cc air cooled engine and claimed to manage 70 miles per gallon and to cost only $2000 (cheap even in 1974).

Two additional vehicles were planned by Carmichael, the Revelle and the Vanagen. Both of these had  a three-wheeled design and used the same 2-cylinder engine. None of the vehicles ever saw production and only two prototype vehicles of the Dale were made; only one prototype was able to run under its own power.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times in November 1974, Carmichael said she was on the way to taking on General Motors or any other car manufacturer for that matter. She said she had millions of dollars in backing “from private parties” and also talked of a 150,000 sq ft  assembly plant in Burbank, California and over 100 employees on the rolls.

She claimed to be the widow of a NASA structural engineer but in fact she had been wanted by the police since 1961 for alleged involvement in counterfeiting. She scammed $33 million from investors before running off with the money.

The Dale was 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  weighs less than 1,000 pounds”, said Carmichael. She claimed that the car’s lightness did not affect its stability or safety. The low centre 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 expected sales of 88,000 cars in the first year and 250,000 in the second year.

When Car & Driver magazine went to investigate the Dale, the prototype lacked a steering wheel, had no accelerator pedal, and had a lawnmower engine in the engine compartment not connected to the wheels..

The clever scammer was caught and jailed but only some of the money was ever recovered.

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