For half a century, Dunlap Motor Company maintained a successful auto dealership in Ames. Founder Harry B. Dunlap came here in 1918 to set up business because he considered Ames to be on the march and one of the fastest growing towns in Iowa. He purchased the local Ford dealership, Bush-Hubbard Motor Company, and eventually became the oldest car dealer in the county, where he was known as the “dean of Ames automobile dealers.” By coming to Ames Harry had passed up a venture in which he was secretary and part owner of a corporation with Ford dealerships in six Iowa cities, including Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown and Nevada.
A fascinating story is told by Harry concerning the first automobile he ever owned. It was a 1910 Metz, shipped unassembled in five crates from Waltham, Mass. The mechanics who assembled and tuned up the car were none other than Eddie Rickenbacker and Pop Duesenberg, each of whom later produced their own auto brands.
After ten years selling Fords, Harry gave up that dealership and became distributor of Star and Durant cars in an area that included 55 Iowa counties. When Durant encountered financial difficulties during the Great Depression and couldn’t deliver cars that had been sold, Harry entered politics. He was elected on the Democratic ticket to serve as Railroad Commissioner (later Iowa State Commerce Commission) from 1934 to 1939. Returning to the auto business in 1939, he bought out the Wagner & Sampson Motor Company at 222 Duff and was awarded the Oldsmobile franchise. Dunlap offered sales of new and used cars, service and a paint and body shop. Their black-topped used car lot at 201 Duff could accommodate 35 vehicles.
At one time the business employed three salesmen (plus Harry and Zac), twelve mechanics, three people in the paint and body shop, a parts man, a business manager, and receptionist/secretary. Salesmen at various times included: E.W. Bud McCaffrey, Clarence Buzz Warren, Henry Hoversten, and Kenyon Butler. Service department staff has included: Robert Pyle (office manager), Paul Peterson (parts manager), Ed Canon, Earl Hansen, Maynard Olson, Bob Hill (body shop foreman), Charlie Henry (body shop), Marion McClure (body shop), Earl Grewell, Dwight Knapp (service dept. manager), Carl Nicholson (service department manager after Dwight), Everett Bappe, Loren Hovland, Kurt Haas, Maurice Salisbury, Robert Gallahan, and Wally Caruth. Serving as receptionist and secretary was Shirley Nicholson, a recent Ames High School graduate.
Harry’s three sons completed the family involvement with cars. Zac became a partner with his father after serving in WWII. Harry functioned as general manager with Zac as sales manager. Norman owned and operated Motor Sales and Service at Lincoln Way and Kellogg (a Dodge-Plymouth dealership), and Harry, Jr., with his father and Zac, operated Dunlap Motor Sales in Iowa City.
Harry and Zac were both active in the community. Harry was a charter member of Ames Rotary Club, a strong presence in the Ames Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of the First Methodist Church. Zac was past president of both Ames Lions Club and Jaycees, active in the Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the Ames Community Chest and the Collegiate Presbyterian Church, and was named the Ames’ Outstanding Young Man by the Jr. Chamber of Commerce in 1947.