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Previously Northland Ford
I grew up in Southfield in the 50's-70's and I remember Mel Farr and his dealerships very well. His zany TV ads were hilarious. By the time I had taken photos of the dealership in Oak Park, it had closed. Mel Farr and many other dealers were entangled in accusations of price-fixing and restricting hours when dealers were open.
I remember this as I worked at a couple of car dealers (Art Moran Pontiac in Southfield being one). A few dealers tried to break ranks and open on Saturdays and they were vandalized. The attorney general and others believed there was collusion among dealers to control the market and prices. I think mainly dealer employees wanted weekends off like everyone else. I am not sure about the price-fixing.
There was a bill signed by the governor in 2021 to allow dealers to reduce their hours within certain guidelines. From the WMMT: "Senate Bill 128 reduces the requirement from 52 weeks to 48 weeks and removes the hours of operation restrictions for the remaining four weeks of the year for Class A, new vehicle dealers, and Class B, used vehicle dealers." This will help some of the smaller dealers who have limited staffs and need to watch their expenses.
I found an ad for a Mel Farr dealership in Fairfield Ohio (5221 Dixie Hwy) so I added a photo of that dealer also. It is now gone.
From Wikipedia (condensed by me):
Farr was born in Beaumont, Texas, in 1944, the son of a truck driver and a domestic worker. He graduated from Hebert High School, a segregated school in Beaumont, Texas, in 1963, where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He was named all-state in football and track and all-district in basketball. His older brother, Miller Farr, played nine seasons as a defensive back in the NFL from 1965 to 1973.
Farr began his college football career at Santa Monica City College before transferring to UCLA in 1964. He then sustained a hairline fracture in his left arm at the end of August 1964. After returning from the injury, Farr appeared in 10 games in 1964 and gained 86 rushing yards on 27 carries. He was an outstanding player in college and made the College Football All-American team in 1966. Farr was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1967. He had a great career with the Lions and was loved by Detroit football fans. He even sang backup vocals on on "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, with fellow player Lem Barney.
Mel had experience in the auto sales business by working with his dad, Miller Farr, while growing up. So, he bought a closed Ford Dealer in 1975 in Oak Park Michigan and re-opened it. He specialized in the sub-prime market, allowing folks who wouldn't normally qualify for an auto loan to buy a car. He attracted some controversy when he came up with a device that disabled the vehicle if the customer was late on their payments.
By 2002, Farr had run into financial trouble. He owed Ford Motor Company alot of money. He had multiple dealers by that time and was trying to make a deal to sell the dealerships on Oak Park and Waterford. Subsequently Farr defaulted on a $36.5 million bond package and had to sell his final dealership in 2003.
Farr was married to his first wife, Mae Rutha (Forbes) Farr, in the mid-1960s. They had two sons, Mel Farr Jr., born in 1966, and Mike Farr, born in 1967, and one daughter, Monet. Both sons went on to play football at UCLA, and then professional football in the NFL.
Farr was married three times. He was divorced from his first wife, Mae, in 2002 after more than 35 years of marriage. From 2004 to 2009, Farr was married to Linda Johnson Rice, president and CEO of Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. His third wife was Jasmine Rozier, with whom he had a daughter, Melia (b. November 3, 2015), born shortly after Farr died.
Farr died at his home in Detroit on August 3, 2015 at age 70 of a massive heart attack. Farr also suffered from stage 3 CTE.