RICHMOND, VA. - As a highly regarded former NADA president, Dick Strauss was in a ticklish spot.

The national dealer association, which he headed in 1991 and had served as Virginia's director, was locking horns with Ford and GM late last year on the issue of factory ownership of their retail stores.

At the same time, the Virginia Automobile Dealers Assn. had ardently joined a nationwide campaign to prohibit factory ownership through amendments to state franchise laws.

In Richmond, where Mr. Strauss, 68, has been a Ford dealer since 1971 and had entered the business at age 22 with Commonwealth Ford, the legislature unanimously adopted the factory-ownership ban after a bitter fight with factory lobbyists.

But the automaker, seeking to create a sixth "Collection" of Ford and Lincoln Mercury dealers in an urban market, had made a "generous" offer for the Dick Strauss Ford dealership.

Mr. Strauss was not as opposed to the Collection concept as other dealers in the Commonwealth state, or as present leaders of NADA.

So, he agreed to sell Dick Strauss Ford to the No. 2 automaker, becoming the first in Richmond to do so. Then, in February, Ford switched gears and dropped its Richmond Collection plan, after sounding out Ashland Ford north of the capital as a second purchase.

Then, on April 5, as his fellow Richmond area dealers honored Mr. Strauss on his 40th anniversary as a dealer, the northern Virginia-Maryland Sheehy Automotive Group agreed to buy the Strauss dealership for an undisclosed amount reportedly matching that of the automaker.

Headed by Vincent Sheehy, 41, and based at Sheehy Ford, Springfield, VA, the Sheehy network of 10 dealerships made its first expansion south of its Washington, DC, market base with the Strauss acquisition.