Perusing Craigslist as I am wont to do, I was stopped in my virtual tracks by this offering and figured it had to be shared. This is a Great Dale House Car. I had never heard of this before but it is an interesting story made even more so by my immediate recollection of a comment that Mr. J.P. Cavanaugh made at the Midwest Meetup last month where he pondered the most interesting or significant vehicle made in every state. I didn’t immediately have an answer for my home state Colorado but perhaps now I do!
At first I thought this was some sort of a one-off home built job, it turns out that is not the case at all…
While in this case the donor car appears to be a 1966 Buick Wildcat, Great Dale House Cars were actually built using a wide variety of vehicles as donors for a very good reason. The company was owned by Dale Wasinger in Denver, Colorado. Dale had been (among various professions) a used car dealer as well as in the auto body repair business and had developed something of a specialty in finding two damaged vehicles and making one good one out of the pair.
At one point he apparently acquired a 1961 Cadillac that had been rear-ended and decided he wanted a camper for himself and his wife. After approaching a local camper manufacturing company and leaving the car with them, he became disenchanted at their lack of progress (i.e. they weren’t getting started on the build due to being busy with other work) and decided he could do it faster himself. So he did and the first Great Dale was born.
It is believed that between 52 and 56 Great Dales were built in total. Apparently the first two were built as sort of a side project without any plans or patterns, however the rest of them (i.e. almost all) are virtually identical in regard to the camper portion, at least the exterior. Supposedly the first cars were built in 1962 and production ended about five years later, which would likely make this one of the later ones, the donor being a 1966 model.
Apparently he never advertised them and sold them all via word of mouth, producing about one a month. Prices were between $4800 and $7200 depending on the build date and options such as a shower, refrigerator etc. He estimated his actual cost to build at around $2200, but I have no idea if that includes the donor (wreck). He and his wife handled the production and never looked into increasing the volume or scale of the operation. Eventually his costs increased more than his sales prices could and he ended it.
Legend has it that Dale preferred Oldsmobiles but has built them using Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns, and Dodges. None used AMC donors. At one point Dale even approached GM to ask if he could purchase front clips and chassis but GM demurred due to the low volumes.
The cars themselves were cut behind the driver’s seat and then were mated to a 3/4 ton Chevy pickup chassis. Apparently the camper modification ended up not weighing significantly more than the original vehicles, and as such no further chassis modifications were needed. The first few were built and titled using the original VINs but then the Colorado Motor Vehicle Department insisted that all further builds be issued new VINs through the state (which is what happened henceforth).
The Wildcat 465 engine installed in this one would have been good for 340hp and 465 lb-ft of torque (i.e. plenty) from its 425 cubic inch displacement paired to a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission. Here’s the ad for this particular one, it appears that the seller is mainly trying to sell the drive train but will happily toss in the rest of the House Car if you prefer:
“1966 Buick Great Dale Housecar with 425 C.I. Motor. – $4000
I have a rebuilt 1966 Buick nail head engine in a Great Dale house car. It is in front of a turbo 400 transmission. These were called switch pitch with a 2 speed torque converter. I can sell you the entire vehicle or pull the power plant for you. The price shall be the same. The front end of this great dale house car is a 1966 Buick. Any questions, give me a call. Wish to drive the House Car? I can replace the tires and get it roadworthy for a price of $4,500.”
So I guess getting the whole thing roadworthy is an extra $500. Of course it’s likely negotiable…
See the original ad at https://denver.craigslist.org/cto/d/1966-buick-great-dale/6721611416.html
Sadly those above are the only pictures included in the ad. However scouring the internet turned up a few other examples of Great Dales.
Here’s a Coronet.
A Cadillac. I especially like that Dale would coordinate the camper trim color to the car color.
Another Buick. There are various sources of information about these but it’s a charming story about an entrepreneur in Denver that I knew nothing about prior to seeing the ad on Craigslist. It’s almost tempting me to go and check it out, thankfully it’s down in Denver and not closer to me. If you end up buying it drop us a line, we want more pictures!