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3-wheelers.com e-interviews

Richard Smith

Author of the Dale Automobile and close friend of he designer, Dale Clifft, Richard provides a personal account to the infamous saga of the Dale 3-wheeled car from the 1970s marketed as a masterpiece in automotive design to solve the fuel crisis in the mid-1970s..

Before reading this e-interview visiting the Dale page may give you a better insight as to the contents that follow.

3-wheelers.com

How did you know Dale Clifft?

Richard Smith

Dale and my wife worked for Litton Industries at the same time. Litton was involved with many military projects and was known for the Litton microwave oven. The company encouraged after hours recreational actives. One of these was a water ski club. Dale was into boats and water skiing at the time, as we were. In 1969 my wife and I joined the Litton Ski Club for an outing and this is where we met Dale Clifft. This along with motorcycles was the common thread that bound us together until Dale’s death in 1981.

3-wheelers.com

I believe that the designs for the Dale had already been submitted to the United States Marketing Institute before it was seen by Liz Carmichael who then formed Twentieth Century Motor Car Corp (20CMCC). Dale Clifft must have been delighted at this point?

Richard Smith

Little known is the fact that Dale had built a car in his residential garage. It was built with inch electrical conduit that was brazed together to form the frame/body. It was covered with naugahyde and powered by a third rear wheel that was a motorcycle with the front wheel removed. This was the only vehicle Dale was involved with that was a true functioning car that was driven many miles on the street. Both my wife and I took several rides in it.

I believe it was the sight of this car that caught the eye of Liz Carmichael. I am not aware that Dale was involved at this time with any marketing company. However, it is my understanding that Liz was working for a marketing firm headquartered only a couple of miles from Dale’s home where he built the car. This firm may or may not have gone by the name of United States Marketing Institute and may have occupied the same bank building that became the showroom for the Twentieth Century Motor Car Company. This I cannot confirm, it was many years ago.

Dale was approached by someone, as he and his wife were having dinner at a local restaurant, who indicated he knew someone who could mass produce his car. I believe this was the connection to Liz.

Dale’s car was hand made and was not built according any design drawing. Having said this, I believe that any designs for the Dale car would have been developed after Liz took over and would have been produced by the engineer and others hired by Liz with Dale looking over their shoulders and making suggestions.

I am not aware of any photos of Dale’s original car. At the time no one knew how far this would go.

Dale was not a person who showed outward emotion. If he liked or disliked something he would say so, not get all giddy. He was quick to laugh and was very pleasant to be around. There was no doubt that Dale was very pleased that his idea for a three wheeled car was coming to fruition. I believe this gratification served to forestall his recognition that Liz was running scam.

3-wheelers.com

Did Dale Clifft have any concerns about some of the alleged claims about how the vehicle would perform / be made?

Richard Smith

As mention above, I would talk to Dale about some concerns I had with what Liz was telling him and anyone who would listen. Dale, at this time, was so supportive of the project that it was difficult to approach him with the reality that some of the claims for the Dale would not stand. Dale finally put his foot down when Liz claimed 70 miles to the gallon. From this time forward, with this claim and others, Dale began to put two and two together. This fallout with Liz, who had total control of all the company function, led to Liz telling Dale to take a hike and never come back. A murder committed in the office by one of the company employee against another employee did nothing to improve Dale’s relation to Liz. It should be said that Dale spent the rest of his life relating to anyone who would listen, that he was never involved in the scam that the Dale Car became. Having known Dale for a number years I can attest to the fact that Dale would never abide the scam Liz was setting in motion.

3-wheelers.com

I believe that only three Dales were ever built, two in the hands of private collectors (one of whom I know) and the other in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Do you ever get to see any of the Dales? If so what did you think of them?

Richard Smith

I believe it is correct that only three Dale’s were built, not including the one Dale built. However, I cannot confirm the third one. The car the Petersen Museum has is the mockup that was built only for the showroom. It is only a fiberglass shell with no running gear. According to Dale the front axle was a 4x4 with the wheels screwed to it. In the showroom the viewers were keep back from it. From a distance it looked good. Other than one of the cars that was in the early stages of development in the shop, this is the only Dale I have seen, both in the showroom and at the museum.

As the scam began to unravel in California the operation was moved to Texas. It was there that an effort was made to get one of the cars running for the press. Transmission problems made a mess of that show. At this time Dale had been give his walking papers and this caused a severe cutback on any information concerning the Dale.

It is my opinion, given the history of all the evil doing that Liz was involved with and the pitiful attempt to build a viable car the Dale was a pile of junk designed to rid investors of their money.

3-wheelers.com

What did Dale Clifft think when it all came out that Liz Carmichael was actually Jerry Dean Michael (who had been on the run from the FBI since 1961) and all the counts of grand theft, corporate security fraud and one count of conspiracy were filed against Michael?

Richard Smith

When this whole mess came to a head Dale tried to stay connected to all the information concerning the Dale. With Dale now out of the loop he was an outsider looking in. I think with all the twists and turns and the slow building intrigue, Dale was not surprised with the outcome. My observation is that he shrugged it off and went on with his life. He went on to start up The Dale Development Co. and was awarded several patents for his effort. He did attend the trial in LA that brought Liz to justice and prison.

In the end it came as a surprise to many that Liz Carmichael was an alias and that Liz was someone else who was dodging a counterfeiting charge. Many who met Liz found her to be a little strange in build and voice and some including Dale came to suspect something was amiss. Suspicions were confirmed when it was found that Liz was not a female.

3-wheelers.com

I believe the Dale Clifft was set to receive $3 million in royalties once the Dale went into production though it is alleged that all he received was $1,001 plus a $2,000 cheque that bounced. I guess at one point he must have thought that things were going to turn out well?

Richard Smith

The only money that I know Dale received from Liz totaled $1,001 with the promise to provide about $200,000 as a down payment on a royalty payment of $3 million. If I remember correctly there was a check that Dale received from Liz that did bounce. By this time Dale was being fed sob stories by Liz about how expenses were higher than expected and Dale was willing to accept that for the time being. However, in time he tried to exercise his right to look at the books. This was never to happen. Only Liz had access to the books.

3-wheelers.com

The 20CMCC were also marketing a Revelle and a Vanagon in addition to the Dale. Were these also designed by Dale Clifft ?

Richard Smith

Talk of the Revelle and Vanagon were an effort by Liz to deceive investors into believing the company was set to do great things, nothing more. It was Liz’s ability to feed prospective investors all kinds of garbage in an attempt to buy as much time as possible to scam as many people as possible.

3-wheelers.com

Did Dale Clifft design any other vehicles?

Richard Smith

Dale did not design any other cars other than the first one he built. It is my belief that Dale did not do much of the design work on the Dale. He was working full time for Litton and would show up at the shop were the Dale was progressing to put in his two cents and check progress. As with everyone else who came in contact with Liz, she used Dale in name only and relied on his credibility.

3-wheelers.com

Is Dale Clifft still alive? What happend to him after 20CMCC?

Richard Smith

Dale continued on with his life. He never displayed any ill effects from his experience with Liz. Dale Leon Clifft died November 3rd 1981. He was forty-nine and rests in the Eternal Valley Cemetery In Newhall, California.

3-wheelers.com

Is there anything about Dale Clifft you would like to mention?

Richard Smith

I would caution those who would try to make the case that Dale was a willing participant in the swindle that surrounded the Dale, don’t because you would be very wrong in your assumption.

3-wheelers.com

Richard, thank you very much for taking part in this interview for 3-wheelers.com's 10th birthday. Your time is much appreciated .

For other e-interviews please click here

Richard Smith

Dale Clifft

Pages from a 1975 brochure on the Dale

One of three Dales that were built (this one a non-running prototype) at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, USA.

rsmith7

The Revelle

The Vanagen

 

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