Twentieth Century Motor Car Company; a company that went on to pull off one of the most bizarre automotive heist of the 20th century
The finest trick of the devil is to persuade the world that he does not exist. In a rather ghoulish irony, the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company did exactly the opposite. In concept, the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company had all the right components to compete against the titans, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, in their territory. Their signature prototype, The Dale, was their primary weapon to take out the big three.The 1970’s oil crisis had hit the American economy hard and the Dale was the beacon of light, which was to hit the marketplace in 1974, to lead the general people away from the darkness and depression. It was around the same time the Ford Mustang II was set to hit the market. However, the Dale seemed like the winner of the two, it was the ground breaking answer to the exuberant fuel costs at the time.The dale in fact was unlike anything they have ever seen.
The Dale was an off looking thing by any standards, two wheels in the front, one in the back, kind of a reverse Reliant Robin. In spite of the peculiar design, the Dale was supposedly very stable because of its extremely low center of gravity. TCMCC claimed the Dale would be powered by an 850CC boxer engine and it would do 70 miles to the gallon and reach a top speed of 85 miles an hour. Weighing at only one thousand pound, the body of the Dale was made of a superlight composite material called Rigidex and they claimed the material to be 70 times stronger than steel! Regardless of the state-of-the-art and revolutionary technology, the Dale was priced at $2000.
Surely this awe-inspiring innovation would require a face to go with it, enter Elizabeth Carmichael, the domineering California girl set to take the Dale to lime light. She had a mechanical engineering degree, a passion for cars and to top it off, she also possessed a degree in marketing. Her high intelligence, beguiling charms and endearing personality was what secured the Dales “future,” a future beginning with 3 million USD in advanced sales. According to reports, the TCMCC production line would manufacture over two hundred thousand Dales a year and she had already sold over half a year’s production lineup. Her unassuming yet confident manner was largely responsible for the hype of the Dale to spread across the country.
While on one front the Dale was making waves on the popularity and publicity scale, on the other it was generating suspicion and naturally so, everything the Dale had to offer was too good to be true. The California department of motor vehicles took a keen interest on TCMCC and discovered that the company was not going into large scale production, quite far from it, their production line was better suited to produce fictitious Dales than any real ones. Even with 3 million USD is advanced sales, their production facilities were nonexistent. The DMV shutdown TCMCC’s car selling operations and dealership franchises and the California authorities turned up the heat on her. It was quite clear the entire operation was a sham but Elizabeth was ahead of the game, she moved herself and the company’s head office to Texas but that didn’t last too long.
The California authorities were investigating and unravelling the fragments of treachery that was the Twentieth Century Motor Company. The factories were completely empty, not a single piece of evidence suggested that there were any cars being produced in spite of the company having acquired millions of dollars in capital. A prototype of the Dale was eventually found in the research and development lab of TCMCC and what they discovered was a far cry from what was initially promised.
To begin with, the vehicle had no engine, upon closer inspection the rear wheel was found to have been held on by two-by-four lengths of wood. the accelerator wasn’t attached to anything, the windows were made of god knows what glass, they would bend to and fro. The doors were put on by regular door hinges, ones you’d expect to see on the doors in a house. To their credit, the vehicle did have a body but that’s all there was to it, the Dale was nonexistent!
The Dallas police couldn’t get their hands on Liz Carmichael, she proved too smart for that, but they did make an interesting discovery. They found out that Liz wasn’t the woman she said she was; in fact, she wasn’t a woman at all! She was formerly known as Jerry Dean Michael, a wanted man by the FBI since 1961 on several accounts ofcounterfeiting and jumping bail. “Her” credentials were completely falsified, and she managed to evade capture for a while. When finally, she was caught, she got extradited back to California. After serving over two years in prison she was released in parole. She died in 2004 of cancer.
The Twentieth Century Motor Car Company was a house of cards, stacks sitting on top of others ready to tumble over at the slightest draft of air. A web of lies that cost investors millions of dollars. Truth is often stranger than fiction and to be fair to the investors, even the greatest of story tellers would be hard put to match the elaborate scheme of Elizabeth Carmichael.