In the 1980s, Gordon Engle spent his time scrubbing cars on dealer lots from Kansas City to Dallas. Now he focuses on cleaning off a different kind of dirt-charged-off consumer loans from bank portfolios.

Forward Properties, Mr. Engle's Dallas-based private company, has been buying up and turning around bad bank loans for six years now. Since February, Forward Properties has become top priority in Mr. Engle's life. He put his chain of car washes and an apartment rental venture on hold to work exclusively on combing bank portfolios for bad loans.

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