Dale

Remembering Dale, The “Car of the Future” That Suddenly Disappeared

Elizabeth Carmichael and the Dale car

Elizabeth Carmichael and the Dale car

It was the early ‘90s in Santa Paula, California. On the auction block sat a rare car, a three-wheeled mythical beast the color of Juicy Fruit. In the audience sat Leslie Kendall, hoping to score a showpiece for the newly opened Petersen Automotive Museum. He convinced the museum’s curator that if they drove out to the sale, they may be able to score it with the little money they had for acquisitions at the time. When they arrived, they were dismayed to find others had the same idea.

“I remember the bidding got to about $6,000 and people started dropping out,” recalls Kendall, who is now chief historian at the Petersen. By the time it got to $7,000, there were only two bidding parties left, them and one other man. They started going back and forth in increments of $100 until they hit $7,500,

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“The Lady and the Dale” Is a Strange, Strange Tale

Automotive enthusiasts might know the story of the Dale three-wheeled car, the promising early-‘70s vehicle that was going to “…put Detroit out of business.” But there’s a lot more to the story than that. Oh man.

The Dale itself was a timely idea. It arrived smack in the middle of the 1973-1974 OPEC oil embargo that had every Malaise-era car owner in America lining up for blocks to get gas. That embargo eventually raised the price of a gallon of fuel by 300 percent. People were getting desperate. Right then, the three-wheeled, two-seated Dale appeared, promising 70 mpg and a sticker price of under $2000.

Give the people what they want.

The Dale concept was originally thought up and a prototype was made by a guy named Dale Clift. Then Elizabeth “Liz” Carmichael made Clift a deal, promising him $3 million in profits if she took over production and

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