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Top 4 automotive hoaxes and scams

20th Century Motors

  1. The Dale: In the depths of the Energy Crisis, a very tall and very brash woman named Liz Carmichael emerged with the “prototype” of a three-wheeled car — the Dale — that would allegedly get more than 80 mpg and be as safe as a conventional car. Claiming to be the widow of the NASA engineer who designed the car, Carmichael solicited “investments” in 20th Century Motors, the parent company of the Dale. When investors inquired further, they found that Carmichael had disappeared, and that she was actually the former Jerry Dean Michael. Carmichael/Michael was arrested after an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” discovered working at a flower shop. You can’t make this stuff up.
  2. Portuguese Barn Find: In summer 2007, a series of photos showed up on the Internet depicting a virtual Aladdin’s cave of classic European cars in all of their dusty glory. The story went that a couple from New York had purchased a vacation home in Portugal and found a locked metal building on the property. When they opened the lock and entered the building they were met by the horde of more than 100 dusty but complete cars. In reality, the building was simply overflow storage for a Portuguese classic car dealer.

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  3. The 100-mpg Carburetor: This one seems to have been around since the dawn of the automobile. “A simple replacement carburetor that the oil companies are petrified of” is how most of the ads went — a $100 part that was supposed to be capable of increasing fuel economy by 500 percent. Claims for the carburetor violated nearly every known law of thermodynamics and the only thing it appeared to be capable of was making cars run poorly. 
  4. Lord Brockett Scam: Lord Charles Brockett was an English nobleman and as everyone who has ever watched “Downton Abbey” can attest, even British aristocracy can fall on hard times. Fortunately, the character Lord Grantham’s plan for saving his ancestral home never involved cutting up valuable vintage Ferraris, burying them and collecting insurance money. Brockett was convicted of insurance fraud and served a prison sentence. He was last seen hosting a reality show in the UK.

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