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Elizabeth Carmichael Biography

Elizabeth Carmichael Biography

Elizabeth Carmichael promised to revolutionize the automotive industry with a fuel-efficient car called the Dale, but the vehicle was never manufactured. While facing fraud charges, she was publicly revealed to be a transgender woman.

Who Was Elizabeth Carmichael?

Elizabeth Carmichael, born c. 1928 (some sources say 1937), was a transgender lady who in 1974 launched a California-based automotive firm selling the Dale, a three-wheeled car that claimed to ship unbelievable gasoline mileage. Customers and buyers, nonetheless reeling from OPEC’s current oil embargo, have been entranced by the Dale, and by Carmichael herself. However, the automotive by no means went into manufacturing, and people who‘d paid to order autos or begin dealerships discovered they’d been defrauded.

As Carmichael went on the run to flee prison prices, her transgender identification turned public information. Carmichael was discovered and convicted of conspiracy, grand theft and inventory fraud, however whereas out on bail in 1980 she ran off earlier than reporting to jail. It was solely after she was featured on a 1989 episode of Unsolved Mysteries that she served her sentence. Her story is informed within the 2021 documentary The Lady and the Dale.

The Dale Car

In 1974, Carmichael approached Dale Clifft with a plan to mass manufacture a consumer-friendly model of a three-wheeled car he’d designed and constructed himself utilizing motorbike parts. Clifft informed he may probably earn $3 million in royalties, signed on. In August 1974, Carmichael’s Twentieth Century Motor Car Company (the identify had been impressed by Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged) was included.

From her perch as president of the corporate in Encino, California, the six-foot Carmichael turned a magnet for media consideration. She mentioned she had grown up repairing tractors as a tomboy farm lady and that she was now a widow with 5 kids whose husband had labored for NASA. She additionally described herself as having an MBA, an engineering diploma and expertise in a Florida-based household enterprise, the Carmichael Research and Development Company, that constructed customized automobiles.

The Dale, which had two wheels within the entrance, one within the again, and will seat two individuals, claimed it provided a fuel-efficient 70 miles per gallon. This was engaging to a rustic that had lately suffered gasoline shortages through the OPEC oil embargo. The automotive additionally promised security options like impact-resistant home windows and “a body of rocket structural resin that won’t dent or shatter.” The worth was simply $1,969, and a deposit of $500 may reserve one for the long run. The brochure, which displayed a vivid yellow Dale, exclaimed, “Dollar for dollar, the best car ever built!”

Carmichael touted her willpower to “revolutionize personal transportation” and declared, “We’re going to shock General Motors, Ford and the rest of them right out of their big, overstuffed seats.” A Dale prototype appeared on the Los Angeles Auto Show, and a Dale confirmed up on The Price Is Right as a possible prize.

Would-be Dale drivers bought or reserved automobiles, buyers supplied funds and aspiring sellers paid to be appointed dealerships. However, this cash turned out to have been fraudulently obtained. Carmichael made three Dale prototypes (one in all which ended up on its aspect throughout a check run), however no different autos. The mannequin on show on the firm‘s Encino showroom did not work in any respect.

Arrest and Trial

In the autumn of 1974, a stop and desist order from the California Corporation Commission demanded the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company cease promoting inventory. Carmichael moved her agency from California to Dallas in January 1975, however this relocation did not cease ongoing investigations. Some firm officers have been arrested in February 1975, whereas Carmichael went on the run.

Carmichael fled her residence just some minutes earlier than a raid, forsaking gadgets comparable to wigs and padded bras. This led to authorities discovering that Carmichael was a transgender lady who’d initially been referred to as Jerry Dean Michael. Michael was wished on counterfeiting prices from 1961.

In April, Carmichael was discovered and arrested in Miami as she tried to flee by climbing out a window. She was despatched to California to face prices of grand theft, company securities fraud and conspiracy. At her trial she opted to symbolize herself, declaring she was a pioneer who’d struck out at overbearing automotive corporations (she’d as soon as mentioned her authorized difficulties stemmed from “the fact that we had the audacity to challenge Detroit”). Per Carmichael, the Dale would have finally succeeded.

However, an automotive engineer and prosecution witness mentioned of the Dale, “It was literally held together with baling wire and coat hangers.” Though the jury deliberated for a prolonged 16 days, in 1977 Carmichael was discovered responsible on 26 counts. Her clients and buyers had been defrauded of an estimated $1 to $3 million.

Carmichael was sentenced to 2 to twenty years in jail. After her appeals led to 1980, she escaped whereas out on bail.

‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Carmichael efficiently eluded authorities till April 1989, when an episode of the tv present Unsolved Mysteries featured her case. Tips helped authorities find Carmichael, who’d been residing below the identify Katherine Elizabeth Johnson in Dale, Texas. She’d been promoting flowers for earnings.

Carmichael was subsequently remanded to California. In June 1989, she was despatched to state jail (regardless of her gender identification, she was despatched to a males‘s jail). She was paroled by 1993 and returned to Texas.

Gender Identity

Though it had nothing to do with the costs Carmichael confronted, information protection mentioned the standing of her gender reassignment surgical procedure (then known as a sex-change operation). She needed to petition the courtroom for the proper to be addressed as a lady at her trial, which she was granted. Carmichael wished to serve her sentence in a girls‘s jail, noting, “I am a woman,” however was as a substitute despatched to a males‘s facility.

Dick Carlson, a KABC reporter, had helped examine and expose Carmichael’s fraud. Yet in follow-up tales he targeted on her gender identification, speculating that she’d been residing as a lady as a way to each escape the legislation and get publicity. He additionally constantly used male pronouns for Carmichael.

Other Names

In addition to the identify Elizabeth Carmichael, she was known as Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael, G. Elizabeth Carmichael, and Liz Carmichael. While on the lam and residing in Texas, Carmichael glided by the identify Katherine Elizabeth Johnson. Before her transition, she was referred to as Jerry Dean Michael.

Personal Life

As a person, Carmichael had married after which left two girls, together with the kids from these relationships, earlier than turning into concerned with Vivian Barrett Michael. With Vivian, Carmichael turned the organic father of 5 kids. As Carmichael transitioned, these kids known as her “Mother Liz.”


Carmichael reportedly died in 2004.


A four-part documentary about Carmichael known as The Lady and the Dale aired in January 2021. Another documentary, Welcome to Dale: The Elizabeth Carmichael Story, can also be slated to return out in 2021.

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