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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Liz Carmichael and the econo-car con of the 1970s | Hagerty Media

Liz Carmichael is having a moment. Again. Glib, charismatic and larger than life, Carmichael enjoyed her first 15 minutes of fame during the fuel crisis of 1974.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/liz-carmichael-and-the-econo-car-con-of-the-1970s/
29 REPLIES 29
spoom
Technician

Yeah, her transgender identity was the problem here, riiiiight. Good article, may I gently ask in the future that photos be labeled as to who/what is in them? Thanks!
CJinSD
Advanced Driver

The best laugh I had all day was reading that Cammilleri said, "I identify as a car person," in an article on this revisionist documentary published on the Hemmings website.

Perhaps some day soon, there will be a biography of Joseph Stalin written by other mass-murdering communist dictators. They'll make a point of touching on elements of his humanity that previous histories have neglected to explore.

geozinger
Detailer

I remember reading about the Dale and it's unveiling as a fraud in the pages of Motor Trend back in the day. It was one of the strangest things I'd read about in my young life at that time. I grew up in a small town in Ohio, I didn't know any fraudsters, much less transgender people, either. As for the Dale itself, I was too young to know that it was essentially a re-boot of the Isetta or any number of bubble cars of the 1950's. I guess the sheer audacity of the fraud is the most fascinating thing about this whole tale.
TonyT
Instructor

The lead should be played by Bruce I mean Caitlyn...
spoom
Technician

...and the Dale vehicle would be a FIAT 500 badged as a Jeep. 

TRAGAR
Pit Crew

Fascinating story, but I'm having a hard time reconciling the concept of Carmichael being an "imperfect trans trailblazer", "heroic" and "a loving mother" with the millions that were stolen through fraud. Stealing is not a victimless crime. Is that the trail that Carmichael was blazing? Very heroic indeed and exactly how much did she love her children that she chose to subject them to the consequences of her crime? Great role model.
Punk
Detailer

I'm afraid I must agree. Much as I'd like to think this is another Tucker or DeLorean story of the little guy getting squashed by big car companies, particularly with the trans-angle, which makes the lead character more sympathetic, I think, in the end this was nothing but a con. If there are former execs who thought it was legit, then they had simply been taken in by the con. Or they are still covering their asses to avoid humulation. Whatever the case, there is nothing heroic to see here. Just true crime.
CitationMan
Instructor

Fraud is genderless, I love the fake psychoanalysis by the filmmakers. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

OldBryan
Intermediate Driver

Just ask Ms. Lewinsky.
427sc
Intermediate Driver

I vaguely remember that car.
Looking at it again, the front end of it reminds me of a cross between a 1973 AMC Javelin and the James Bond Lotus Esprit turbo from "The Spy Who Loved Me" when he converted it to "submarine mode" (the tires all tucked in/disappeared when it was a sub so it had a longer looking snout than normal, just like the Dale). LoL...
RE: the transgender thief. First, think about it; he was wanted for counterfeiting, so changing ones gender back when that was considering highly abnormal/"circus side show" stuff would be a GREAT way of avoiding arrest, and It obviously worked because he was on the lamb for 10 years before doing the Dale scam. Second, nowadays it would be smarter for him to make his transgender status well known, and HE'D PROBABLY BE ABLE TO SCAM A TON MORE PEOPLE THAN HE DID BACK IN THE DAY as the modern/PC crowd would flock to him and throw him their money! LoL...
spoom
Technician

heck, all he'd have to do would be refuse to get in the squad and there'd be a parade and riots in his honor.

MrKnowItAll
Detailer

As a fairly well-read young car “enthusiast”, to put it mildly, I always figured the Dale was pure hokum from day one... just another in a line of “revolutionary” three wheeled vehicles. The 1948 Davis was made just a few miles away, at Van Nuys Airport. At least it was a serious try, unlike the Dale. The media circus that fawned over the story, and subsequent letdown was an early learning experience to me that the “news” was, pretty much, BS.
Still is.
I knew where the shop in Canoga Park was that the Dale was “created”. One of the three prototypes (this one was just a buck, not even a roller) sat in that parking lot for a long time, well after the media flurry has died down. I thought, at the time, that the prototype should be saved as a historical curiosity. I’m happy it did.
JohninNC
Advanced Driver

Would be cool to see this car with a v-tech honda 4 and 6 speed manual in it... and 2 back wheels/ tires. I dig it.
Or put a geo metro drivetrain in it and see what kind of MPG you can get. Speaking of MPG I saw a Honda Insight the other day, that design has held up well!
ACE_Sonoma
Detailer

I read this article with great interest, not only from the Automotive perspective, but the subtext of a trans-gender shepherd.  Most responders here are leaning toward excusing trans-bashing, xenophobic, misogynistic as contributing factors, and certainly in this context, I must concur.  The Dale did not fail because it was promoted by a Social Minority, it failed because It Didn't Exist, neither literally nor figuratively.  Add the precursor of a years' long fugitive from fraud, etc, and it becomes clearer this was indeed the case.

 

Now, if we're talking about well-intentioned 'fraud', let's talk about icons like Bill Gates with DOS, or Carroll Shelby with the "Cobra of Many Colors' who history not only remembers fondly and lovingly, but as True Heroes of Yankee Ingenuity and Patriotic Entrepreneurial Adventurism...

 

Less revered generally, but certainly by those who hold Pirates and Roaring 20's Gangsters in high esteem as more 'Bad Boy' heroes, are John Z and Preston Tucker. Flash forward to Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Malcolm Forbes, and countless others who have, or still are, dabbling in the Transportation Sector with mixed results.  Only recorded history (set your Google and Wiki searches for sometime in the 2050 range...) will tell us.

wdb
Intermediate Driver

What is it with 3-wheel vehicles and con artists anyway.
spoom
Technician

By their nature and reason for being, 3-wheelers are the epitome of cheating. Whether it be taxes, tax rates, escaping prohibitive automobile regulations, etc. The Morgan is an example. Likewise, the Polaris Slingshot and others.  

Dave404
Detailer

Seems he is morally bankrupt on all fronts.
spoom
Technician

I see what you did here 🙄

 

Dave404
Detailer

.

Dave404
Detailer

.

wentwest
Intermediate Driver

A scam is a scam. What someone has in their pants has nothing to do with it, unless that's what they are selling.
Dave404
Detailer

.

farna
Detailer

I don't think transgender had a thing to do with anything about the car -- until the end. No one apparently knew, at least it wasn't common knowledge, that he/she was transgender until the L.A. Police went to make an arrest and found everything. I'm sure some may have suspected when they met "her", but it wasn't common knowledge. So throw that out of the story while the scam was going on. It's possible that there was intent on making something viable -- but they went about it the wrong way. Taking orders instead of trying to get investors doesn't work on something of this scale. The Dale story has been compared to "vaporware" in the computer community (common in the 70s and early 80s), but you can have a working prototype electronic board, show it, take orders, and have it produced and shipped within 3-6 months (provided the prototype is actually a working example). A longer wait than you'd expect when ordering most of the time, but many times buyers were told they were making pre-production orders and knew there would be a reasonable wait. When they weren't told, they mostly knew since it had been the nature of experimental electronics for some time. It's a totally different story when you have a large item to be manufactured! Even if I had several million on hand and a site to start, and suppliers already lined up with some inventory to ship, it would likely take a couple years before a viable product could roll out... and that's in this day and age! In the 70s? 3-5 years would be a good guess...
jaysalserVW
Detailer

The question--"Was Liz Carmichael a victim of a particularly cruel and vicious form of discrimination? No question. " is asked--then answered. I have to shake my head when people want to defend a criminal. Sure--all criminals have some reason for doing what they do criminally. Victimizing criminals certainly doesn't protect the Real Victims here--t he investors. Maybe the Real Victims failed to do t heir homework? Probably. But I rebel at victimizing criminals. This Criminal carefully plotted a course of deception.
brb
Advanced Driver

Great article and interesting history. As far as the con, past performance is indicative of future results.

The Dale reminds me of the '83 Tri-Magnum: Home Built Excitement, featured in the February, 1983 issue of Mechanics illustrated. I enjoyed the lines of the car (cycle?) enough to still have the magazine issue.

Out of curiosity, what is Hagerty's position on insuring home-built vehicles?

My apologies if this post appears more than once. The Post button is misbehaving today.
Darold
Hagerty Employee

Hey there @brb ! A lot of it depends on what you mean by "home built" We are fully capable of offering coverage on home built kit cars and replicas. If you have a specific vehicle in question, it may be best to give us a call and talk to one of our licensed sales agents to determine eligibility. Also feel free to send me a DM if you have more specific questions!

brb
Advanced Driver

Thanks for the response.  I was just curious.  I fly a home built airplane and it is insured.  However, the FAA has an inspection and approval process for home built aircraft, also know as experimental category aircraft.  Hence, the insurance company is not operating on faith.

Blackpanthers81
Pit Crew

I think she was framed
61Rampy
Detailer

Maybe I'm an idiot, but "Liz" wasn't "transgender" by my definition. "Drag Queen" is more like it. At least from what I remember from the C/D article, when the cops found the well padded bras, they also found devices used by female impersonators- which I take to mean hiding the man parts. He was fully male, and only used the female disguise to fool the would-be investors. It was all one massive hoax.