$3 million dollars is raised for a space age car that’s never built.

Smiling Elizabeth Carmichael

Elizabeth Carmichael

An advertisment for a space age car called the DALE

The Dale was the answer to the gas crisis


A large empty factory warehouse

The factory was empty, no cars were being made

In 1973, America was faced with an oil crisis that nearly crippled the country. Consumers wanted a solution—cheaper gas or more fuel-efficient cars. One visionary claimed she had the perfect solution … a revolutionary, three-wheeled vehicle called “The Dale.”

This car supposedly cost less than two thousand dollars and would get 60 miles to the gallon. Made of a special aerospace plastic, its creator claimed it could withstand an impact against a brick wall at 50 miles per hour. According to car dealer Frank Gavrich, the Dale seemed like the perfect answer to the gas crunch:

“We all heard of the gas guzzlers coming from Detroit. And here’s somebody who could put out an automobile that could get 60 miles to a gallon of gas and travel all over the city without a problem. It would’ve been the ideal automobile.”

The entrepreneur who unveiled the Dale was a remarkable and forceful woman named Liz Carmichael, who saw herself as a cross between Howard Hughes and Henry Ford.
A low cost, high mileage car was the right idea at the right time and Carmichael racked up more than $3 million dollars worth of advance sales before a single car rolled off the production line.

Side and front profile mug shot of Jerry Dean Michael

Elizabeth was a man: Jerry Dean Michael

In 1973, Liz was a housewife living in Los Angeles with her five children. She claimed she had a degree in mechanical engineering, and in 1974, formed 20th Century Motor Car Corporation to produce her three-wheeled car, the Dale. Liz told investors and the press that her company was renting three huge aircraft hangars where they would soon start production. News of Carmichael and her car spread across the country. Soon she was being interviewed by Newsweek and People Magazine. But back at Carmichael’s headquarters in Encino, California, the authorities began to question her claims. The California Department of Corporations accused her of illegally selling both dealer franchises and cars that did not yet exist. Then, the Department of Motor Vehicles discovered the company had no state permit to manufacture cars. Bill Hall, an Investigator for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, questioned whether the lab was even developing a vehicle:

“We went to the research and development lab… people appeared to be busy. But in wandering through the lab I saw no evidence that they were designing a vehicle or in the process of making a vehicle.”

Bill Hall went to check out the three hangars where Carmichael claimed the cars would be manufactured:

“I went to this airport. Upon entering I discovered… the hangars were absolutely empty. No tools. No machinery. Nothing but a little dirt on the floor. They had rented this for only one month. And the rent had now expired. So they actually did not have a factory that they were representing they had.”

Jerry in a wig dressed up like Elizabeth

Elizabeth was convicted of fraud

With the authorities closing in, Carmichael decided it was time to move her headquarters to Dallas. But two and a half weeks later, the district attorney filed criminal grand theft charges against Liz Carmichael. Back in California, Bill Hall went to the research and development lab with a search warrant:

“On inspection of this vehicle it was not a viable vehicle at all. It had no engine. Two-by-fours were holding up the rear wheel. The accelerator was just sitting on the floor. It wasn’t even attached. The windows were not safety glass. They would bend back and forth. The doors were put on by regular door hinges, like one might find on a house door. The vehicle just absolutely did not exist.”

The Dallas Police also searched Carmichael’s house. Apparently, she and her five children had moved out in a hurry. Liz Carmichael was gone. But nine weeks later, she was discovered living in Miami with her five children. A neighbor recognized her from a news photo and called the authorities. She was working for a dating service and going by the name of Susan Raines. They also learned that Liz Carmichael had a prior identity — Jerry Dean Michael.

Carmichael claimed she had begun hormone treatments in preparation for a sex change operation. It was later learned that Carmichael was wanted by the Federal authorities for counterfeiting in 1961 and for jumping bail in 1962. Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was arrested on April 12, 1975. She was extradited to Los Angeles and put on trial for conspiracy, grand theft, and fraud. Robert Youngblood was the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney at the time of his trial:

“Liz arrived in court everyday in mini-skirts. Now here’s somebody who’s over 200 pounds and over six feet tall, and has a demeanor of ‘ I am a new Henry Ford’. It was rather bizarre. Liz did not give one quarter in the course of the trial. There was never once when Liz gave up her position that the people who supported her would vindicate her.”

Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was convicted of conspiracy, grand theft, and fraud. She was released on $50,000 bail. For the next four years, she appealed his conviction and lost each time. Finally, in 1980, Carmichael failed to show up in court for sentencing and wasn’t seen again for eight years.


Within just minutes of our broadcast, we received a tip from a viewer who recognized Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael as a flower vender named Kathryn Elizabeth Johnson. Carmichael had chosen to live in the small community of Dale, Texas, and was arrested at her home. Eight years after she jumped bail, Carmichael was returned to California. There, she was sentenced to 32 months on several counts arising from her auto scam. She was sent to an all-male facility. After serving just over two years, Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was discharged with three years of parole. A prototype of the Dale is in the permanent collection of the Petersen Automobile Museum in Los Angeles.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack and season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Patrick

    HBO has a documentary series on her, it’s highly informative and very good. They go into details on the crazy car.


  2. Kim

    What season and episode is this?


  3. Mh

    so many Howard Hughes esque twists in this story .some people are still talking about trying to make the Dale car.dis she he ever make a newer interview after.


  4. Chris L.

    Anyone else find it crazy that he created a car called The Dale, and hid out for 8 years in Dale, Tx?


  5. Queenie

    This was re-aired today and one of the things that baffled me is how easily she seemed to find jobs despite being on the run and also a big and tall transgender woman. I knew a transwoman that was about her size and lived in a major U.S. city and it took her over a year to get a job despite having two college degrees. I think it was because so many potential employers strongly suspected she was genetically a male. She eventually found one but I believe someone she knew helped her get it.


  6. joe

    I met this woman/man at the Los Angeles Convention Center at the southern california automobile show. She had these gaudy rings on, and she didn’t have a very convincing female voice and someone had pissed her off shortly before I met her. She was rambling on and on about “…I don’t like it when people say I look like a man. I don’t look like a man do I?” and directed the question at me. and I looked at her and didn’t see her at all. I saw big fat and fake hair (obviously a huge wig) fake face (makeup) fake smell (perfume) and gaudy rings. But I thought what she said was done to mask things and I told my dad that lady is a man on our way home. I asked her if I could buy a car today and she said something about needing more investment money to be able to go against the big automobile manufacturers. I was very interested in this car from the onset. I remember the gas crisis then, and how difficult it was to ration gasoline, and I saw this as a great idea. I was only 10 or 11 at the time.


  7. Anonymous

    Well, let me hurriedly get this out of the way here by saying that I am a trans person. And sure, genetics will say I’m a guy, biology and presentation will say woman. Whether or not you like or support it is up to you. However I do ask not to treat a trans person negatively, regardless of what you think of them.

    Now, to the subject at hand. I do think Liz is/was trans. However, based on the evidence and their past, it almost seems like the gender switch was deception to separate themselves from their criminal past rather than anything actually legit. Even today, you can sort of erase your past with transition (my history basically was erased save for credit rating), thus in this case, lending some credibility to the scam because their sketchy history. Or it may have been legit, just crazy convenient for the scams.

    Likewise, it’s actually common for trans people to stop transitioning in prison for safety reasons and because it’s just too darned hard.

    So I can’t say for sure what Liz is because of all the crazy gymnastics in the case…so I can’t fault the site for whatever word usage they want to use.

    Not like it matters though, a crime is a crime no matter what gender you are. Just makes the case more fun!


    • Eric Burow

      In researching this over the past two years, I think this has less to do with gender and more to do with the law being broken in a scam that came as many do — in a time of desperation. In this case, the desperation being the 1970’s energy crisis. As I further my research, I find the information and history on Carmichael fragmentary, especially with one source saying she died in 2004, and others saying she may still be alive. Transphobic? I think not.


  8. Anonymous

    In 1975, I was a waiter at Red Lobster in Farmers Branch, Texas. A large party was sat at tables in my section. At the head of the table was a large lady. A small child was sitting in a high chair next to her and called the lady, “Mom.” I started a discussion with some of the waitresses and told them I thought the lady was actually a man. They said no way because of the children with her. The next day I saw a story on the news with the lady I had waited on talking about a three-wheeled car she created that got 70 MPG and could crash into a wall at up to 30 MPH with no damage. I saw the car on a trailer behind a truck in a shopping center parking lot. Soon afterwards, it was being reported that Liz Carmichael was indicted on fraud and they showed two California drivers licenses on the news, one of John Dean Michael and the other of Elizabeth Carmichael. It was all bazaar but I won my bet with the waitresses that the customer was actually a man.


    • Jojobean

      I knew a transsexual who was 6’3″ and rather ‘built’, but if she noticed people staring at her or heard them make a rude comment, she would march right up to them and say, “What did you say? You care to repeat that?” or “What are you gawking at?”


  9. Anonymous

    Beyond the male/female issue, this article is one of history. But, there are some unanswered questions. Was the transition completed? What was Jerry Michael/Elizabeth Carmichael’s life after prison like? Did Carmichael die in 2004, as some sources claim? This history has nothing to do with LGBT activism! It’s about a scam done, as many scams are, during a time of great desperation — the 1970’s gasoline crisis.


    • Mike

      The other curiousity is “what was his prison life like? How did the other inmates deal with him? We have all heard the stories of being the “date” if you put it in civil terms.


  10. Dale Eugene

    I was a junior in a Dallas high school in 1975 and worked as a waiter at Red Lobster in the evenings. One night, a large party was seated at three of my tables that were pushed together to accommodate them. At the head of the table was a lady who was in charge of the group. There were other adults at the table and some children, one of whom was a small toddler in a high chair sitting next to the lady and calling her mom. I noticed rather large feet and what appeared to be an Adam’s apple in her throat. That, and her mannerisms caused me to tell some of the waitresses that I believed she was actually a man. They told me I was wrong and one of them even made a small wager with me. After they finished their meal, the lady left me a generous tip for which I was pleased. The next day, there was a story on the news with her picture and talking about the car she was marketing. I even saw the car sitting on a trailer in the Northtown shopping center in NW Dallas. A few days later, another story aired that said she was missing and wanted for fraud and they showed two California drivers licenses, one for Elizabeth Carmichael and another for Jerry Dean Michael. I won my bet with the waitress.


    • umfan

      Oh honey! That’s so cool! hehe! Yeah Liz Carmicheal, she was a very interesting person. I think stealing was wrong of her but…her, like whole persona fascinated me! I also wondered if in face she was really a hermaphrodite and was raised male but felt more like a female?


      • Jeri

        Some of what I see on here is ridiculous. But since you are curious, she was raised and lived as a man who served her country during the end of WW2, married and had five children before becoming transgender. She passed away in 2004 in Austin, TX.


        • Jojobean

          I agree, Jeri, especially the commenter Joe who posted on January of 2018. There is no way at 10 or 11 years old did he walked up to Liz and say he wanted to buy her car, and she took him seriously, as he claimed. Oh, Puleeze! People lie.


  11. Scooter

  12. I Like Words

    I like words. Many words here.


  13. rjm

    Shades of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos?


  14. Ginger

    I love trans gurls!!


  15. mysticwindow

    tell me how you really feel.


  16. Mildly Amusing

    GREAT comment. We think alike. I, too, am afraid of spiders.


  17. Littleblondearrow

    Haha Mulder. Well said. Btw I’m little and blonde so I expect special treatment too. I’m tired turning up at the cop shop for the dum line-up standing next to the other Marilyn lookalikes. Btw she read Ulysses by James Joyce. No mean feat there. Anyway must dash, last train leaves in half an hour and I got to find a grate to help me cool off. Being August and all


  18. Mulder

    meant to say “Objective”


  19. Unimpressed

    This article is transphobic. Just because she was born biologically male doesn’t mean she’s not a woman. Saying she’s actually a he for shock value is just disrespectful. Thank you Dahlia for using the proper pronouns in your comment, I wish UM had done the same.


  20. thomas davis

    depends . . perhaps the ‘jerry dean michael’ is no more . . and liz is in Austin . 🙂


  21. Dahlia

    The “Museum of Hoaxes” website claims Liz died of cancer in 2004, but Wikipedia says she’s alive and living with her daughter in Austin, Texas. Which is correct?


    • j

      Dont cite wikipedia remeber it is all user input and not all is verified.. just fyi


    • Jojobean

      Yeah, I remember reading that on the Museum of the Hoax site. It was her granddaughter that said she died back in 2004 and her body was donated to science. I believe her.


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