It was the year of the nuclear reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania; the year YMCA filed a libel suit against the Village People; the year Neptune became the outermost planet in the Solar System; and it was the first year a human was killed by a robot.
It was also the year Dave Ogan took ownership of the Carroll Halliday Ford-Lincoln Dealership in Washington Court House.
The robot, it turned out, worked at a Ford Motor plant in Michigan.
Ogan, it turned out, worked to sell Ford cars when people weren’t buying cars. This was because 1979 was also the year of the oil crisis.
“The second oil embargo,” Ogan recounted from his office in the dealership.
The first oil crisis was in 1974, when Ogan’s father ran the business.
“There was a lot of disruption in the economy so I came back (in 1974) to get the dealership back on track,” Ogan said. He was halfway through law school when he left Cincinnati to return to Washington Court House, helping his father with the dealership before taking ownership of the family-owned business in 1979.
With the second oil crisis in 1979, interest rates rose to 22 percent.
“I was paying 22 percent interest on new car floor plans and customers weren’t buying new cars,” said Ogan.
Today, Ogan said interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in his entire career, but car culture has changed.
Ogan, 66, first got his driver’s license in the 1960s, a time when every town still had car hops.
“You’d drive there and since there wasn’t much to do in Washington Court House, you drove around in cars,” said Ogan.
Ogan is the third-generation to run the family car dealership in Washington Court House. In his office paperwork is stacked in mounds across his desk and a computer is angled into the corner. Behind him there’s a bookshelf and the walls are framed with awards of recognition. A vintage Carroll Halliday newspaper ad that ran in an issue of the Record-Herald has turned a deep yellow with its age.
Ogan sits behind his office desk wearing a pressed collared shirt. When he props his feet up he reveals brown outdoor hiking shoes and not the traditional black Oxford dress shoes of a businessman. At one time he was active in the Washington Park Association. His grandfather, Carroll Halliday, helped to start the Chamber of Commerce in Fayette County. Like his grandfather, Ogan wears a variety of hats, working in community economic development and real estate when he’s not at the dealership.
When asked what he likes about working in Fayette County, Ogan became quiet for several minutes and then said, “There’s a lot of very brilliant and intelligent people who are doing some very innovative things in the county. You have people doing things in agriculture, environment, and you have many entrepreneurs here.”
Being an entrepreneur himself, Ogan knows a lot about car culture and how it has changed in the past four decades.
“Car culture is all about energy, it’s all about money, it’s all about everything that is or used to be great about America. Cars gave people space and freedom at one point in time,” said Ogan.
But the culture of owning and driving cars has been significantly altered since his grandfather founded the Ford dealership in 1932.
One alteration is the expense. In times past, the thing to do was to have fun while driving a nice car. In the present economy, Ogan said a lot of the younger people are not buying new cars because they see owning a car as an expense and a burden.
“It doesn’t make sense for millennials, who’s income is $20,000 a year, to buy a $30,000 car,” said Ogan.
Ogan pointed out another change in car culture: Cars are safer today, said Ogan, who recalled what it was like “back in the day” to see the sheriff’s car crash photos.
Also, said Ogan: “Part of the fun of having a car was being able to work on them.”
Today working on a car requires a dealership to hire and train people to work with more specialized tools and equipment. Still, Ogan’s Carroll Halliday Ford-Lincoln Dealership remains one of the oldest independently-owned Ford dealerships in Ohio, providing sales, parts, and a body shop for all makes and models.
Ogan is still wheeling in new cars for customers and is just as interested in trading and dealing.
“I’ll take anything in a trade,” Ogan said. That includes taking trades of gold, land, guns, grain, bicycles, boats, and RVs.
Out on the showroom floor there is a 1978 Mustang with about 107,000 miles on the odometer. The Mustang will be given away in a drawing June 10. The Mustang winner is whoever guesses the number of beach, golf, and whiffle balls that are piled up inside the car. Entry forms are in the showroom for people who want to enter the drawing for the Mustang.
The raffle for the classic Mustang begins today, marking the beginning of Carroll Halliday Ford-Lincoln Dealership’s 85th anniversary and customer appreciation celebration event.
A free lunch will begin at noon each week day between June 1 and June 10. The sales team is hosting the classic grill-out and will serve hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, and beverages to the community. Standing beside the classic Mustang in the showroom before darting back into his office, Ogan smiled and said, “We’re a classic.”
Ashley may be contacted by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by Twitter @ashbunton