Cars

Car collector or hoarder? A man’s field of vehicles must go

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Kirthmon F Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Ron Dauzet among the 200 cars he must sell.

Ron Dauzet isn’t sure what he’s going to do with his six acres of land after he sells off the roughly 160 vehicles parked in his yard.

Dauzet, 74, has been ordered – per a consent judgment in a Michigan county court in the US in June – to sell, remove or store the vehicles on his property at a rate of 20 vehicles per month.

Or as Dauzet calls it: “a hell of a lot of cars”.

Ron Dauzet among the 200 cars he must sell.

Kirthmon F. Dozier

Ron Dauzet among the 200 cars he must sell.

At first glance, Dauzet’s property, nestled in the rolling countryside outside Ann Arbor, looks like a car cemetery to an untrained eye, a place where old diesel-fuelled Mercedes, classic Volkswagens, circa 1980s Porsches, and many other mostly European cars are laid to rest.

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Ron Dauzet signs a title for a 1993 Mazda Miata (MX-3) over to David Copher from Indianapolis.

Kirthmon F Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Ron Dauzet signs a title for a 1993 Mazda Miata (MX-3) over to David Copher from Indianapolis.

But to Dauzet, the lot, which he said is filled with mostly working cars, is anything but that – and certainly not a junkyard.

To the retired technician and researcher at Ford, these cars are his life, something he described as an addiction. And he finds it hard to part with them.

“I hate to scrap a perfectly good car – which I’ve been doing,” Dauzet said before describing how he let go of a 2001 Saab Aero with 114,000 kilometres. “I felt really bad because the car didn’t deserve it.”

Ron Dauzet on the phone with a customer.

Kirthmon F Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Ron Dauzet on the phone with a customer.

According to court documents provided by Dauzet, the quota was initially set at 25 cars per month. He appealed to bring the number down to 15 per month, but they finally settled on 20 vehicles removed per month.

At the time of the consent ruling, Dauzet had 218 vehicles on his property, which means he has been given a little under a year to clear the vehicles from his land.

“It’s just asinine,” he said of the ruling. “No common sense involved in it, whatsoever. No realistic expectations, I guess. Give me a break. That’s all I want is time. Give me some time, I’ll get the stuff out of here. But it’s not gonna be overnight. I do whatever I can do.”

A BMW and two Mercedes-Benz are part of the many cars on the property of Ron Dauzet Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in ...

Kirthmon F Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

A BMW and two Mercedes-Benz are part of the many cars on the property of Ron Dauzet Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 in Northfield Township. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Dauzet isn’t sure how the township found out about all the cars stored on his property and said that they never told him.

Northfield Township Manager Steven Aynes said that township attorneys have advised them not to comment because it’s still an active case in the court system.

Dauzet said that he was not represented by an attorney.

Ron Dauzet loads up a1993 Mazda Miata (MX-3) for a customer.

Kirthmon F Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS

Ron Dauzet loads up a1993 Mazda Miata (MX-3) for a customer.

THE QUOTA

Dauzet said he met his quota in June and July but missed it in August.

An inspector visits his property every month to take count, Dauzet said.

As well as having to rid his property of the vehicles – excluding two personal vehicles – Dauzet cannot “bring, or cause to be brought, any additional vehicles” onto the property.

There is no language in the consent judgment about punitive measures if he doesn’t comply or meet the number.

Dauzet was found in violation of the Anti-Blight and Inoperable Motor Vehicles article in the Northfield Township Code of Ordinances. That section states that places where “abandoned, scrapped or discarded” motor vehicles are stored may become overgrown with weeds, littered, or infested, and that such conditions could be hazardous or create blight.

The consent ruling also spells out that Dauzet cannot use the following reasons for “relief” from the judgment: difficulty in obtaining buyers for the vehicles, failure of buyers to pick up vehicles, any other problems in selling the vehicles, weather, difficulty in accessing the vehicles, or difficulty in obtaining title for the vehicles.

“I can’t fight it,” Dauzet said. “I can’t fight city hall. You ain’t gonna win. I tried to talk to them and explain my situation and what I can do and what I can’t do, and they neglected me basically.”

SELLING VEHICLES

Since news broke about Dauzet’s hidden treasure trove of classic cars in a Jalopnik article on mid-September, Dauzet said he’s received dozens of phone calls – more than he’s used to. But sales haven’t exactly been rapid. He said he recently sold a 1978 MGB but wouldn’t share the sale price of the British roadster, only saying that he sold it cheap.

Besides selling cars as way to meet the quota, Dauzet can also move them.

He said already moved three to a property across the street, in Salem Township, where he said most of the cars originally were over the past 30 years. He said the property is zoned as commercial and that he’d like to take more cars there, but the barn’s roof needs work and the land needs to be cleared of brush.

Dauzet has lived at his property for 15 years, but his car-collecting hobby began around 1963, when he held onto a 1928 Ford Model A, the first car he bought. He said it is still in a barn on his property across the street.

“I like taking them apart, making them better, and putting them back together – hopefully come out better,” Dauzet said. “I’m not too crazy about the new cars. They’re just too complicated. Too many things will go wrong. And they’re almost impossible to work out without a lot of equipment.”

Dauzet’s collection has attracted a steady stream of visitors from metro Detroit to his property, like Don Kaminsky, 62, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., who was looking for the next father-son project to work on with his son, Mike Kaminsky, 29.

Kaminsky was interested in a Chevrolet C10 from the 1960s, which he said would take a couple of years to fix.

“I haven’t even cleared it with my wife yet,” he said.

Quintin Knox, 20, of Wixom, Michigan, said that he came to Dauzet’s property wanting to buy but ended up helping Dauzet instead, by finding vehicles that will be “quick sells.” He said that he plans to help by pulling the cars out with a fork truck, cleaning them up, and taking pictures of them to try to get them sold.

But part of the reason Knox, a community college student, stopped by was to hear Dauzet’s story.

“What he has going on here is one of my dreams,” Knox said. “Like just live on a giant chunk of property with a million cars around me, with no one to bother me.”

Knox described Dauzet as welcoming and cheery.

When asked how he’s kept up a sense of humour, Dauzet said, “What else can I do?”

“I’ve been a bit depressed a few times. But this helps a lot, the people showing up.”

-Detroit Free Press/TNS

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