DETROIT – Mel Farr, the one-time Detroit Lions' running back who became a controversial auto dealer, has died. He was 70.
Farr spent his entire NFL career with Detroit, from 1967-73. He was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1967, when he ran for 860 yards in 13 games.
He ran for 717 yards in 1970, helping the Lions go 10-4 in the regular season. They reached the playoffs that season for the first time since 1957. Farr finished his pro career with 3,072 yards on 739 carries.
Following his football career, Farr opened a metro Detroit Ford dealership in 1975. During the 1980s he and Jesse Jackson joined to battle against what they deemed "racist" attitudes toward minority dealers by Ford. Farr also partnered with Donald Trump on a failed bid for one of Detroit's three casino licenses.
His dealer empire grew in the 1980s and 1990s, eventually adding a Hyundai/Kia dealership and a used car dealership in metro Detroit as well as interests in out-of-state dealerships.
However, his "superstar" image was tarnished in 1999-2000 when he was sued for allegedly violating consumer credit rules and overcharging customers. A device installed in his leased vehicles designed to prevent the car from starting was alleged to have shut off some cars while driving.
Facing outstanding liens from the automaker, Farr was forced to close his Ford franchises in 2002.
No cause of death has been determined in Farr's death.