1974 Dale: Dollar For Dollar, The Best Car Never Built!

Note: Another post by Tony LaHood. Enjoy. -TK

Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1974—to the wonderful days of seat belt-ignition interlocks, presidential resignations, 55 mph speed limits, and soaring fuel prices.

The OPEC oil embargo in 1973 had a long-term impact on the everyday lives of everyday Americans in a way few other events have. With the specter of gasoline selling for–God forbid–$1.00 per gallon, Americans’ interest in small, economical cars surged, and many Honda and Toyota dealers displayed their characteristic altruism by dressing up new Civics, Coronas and Starlets in $1,000 mud flaps and $2,500 pinstripes in response.

The time was ripe for a new means of personal transport that was cheap to buy, cheap to drive, and cheap to maintain. This is the story of a vehicle that was none of these things, because it existed only in the mind of its creator.

Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was 37 years old in 1974. A self-described “Indiana farm girl with five children and widow of a NASA engineer”, she formed the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation that year, in Encino, CA, and publicly announced its first product, the Dale.

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1974 Thunderbird Burgundy Luxury Group: Big Bird

Today, we will be discussing Maximum Thunderbird. The extra value T-Bird, AKA the Thunderbrougham. Long, low and wide-and proud if it. Yes, that’s correct, the 1972-76 Thunderbird, which shared its ample figure with its FoMoCo sibling, the Continental Mark IV.

59 Thunderbird

1959 Thunderbird

This was not the Thunderbird’s first drastic change, of course. Throughout the iconic premium Ford model’s life, it reinvented itself many times. The 1958 Thunderbird, nicknamed the Squarebird for obvious reasons, was totally redone. The trim two-seat luxury sportster was no more. The big news, of course, was the addition of a back seat. Although fans of the ‘Little Bird’ moaned and gnashed their teeth, sales improved drastically. And with its “cow belly” frame it was still substantially lower than contemporary Fairlanes. It ushered in a new type of car, a luxury Ford.

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1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic: Queen of the Bs

The biggest Chevrolet Caprice was the 1971-76 version. They were the ultimate expression of long, low and wide, that first appeared on U.S. cars in the late Fifties. The last hurrah before fuel economy standards, changing tastes and increasing safety regulations changed cars forever.

1971 Caprice

I’ve always liked them. When I was a kid, caddy-corner to our house, one of the neighbors had a metallic kiwi green 1971 Caprice four-door hardtop. It still retained one of its deluxe ‘electric range’ wheel covers; the other three were off of a 1971-72 Olds Delta 88. This was in about 1990, and it seemed so old at the time to me, with my parents’ Volvo 740s sitting in the driveway. Of course I loved that car. It was still there when we moved in 1995.

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