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Man has purchased 309 vehicles

BY MARLEEN LINARES | MARCH 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Harlan Nost has owned more than 300 vehicles.

The Iowa City resident, who describes himself as “car crazy,” said he became interested in cars at 13, when he sat “real close” to his father and steered from the passenger seat.

“I remember being inside the car, just wishing I could drive it,” he said.

But the occasional steering was not enough to satisfy his enthrallment. Nost started working on his parents’ cars shortly thereafter, then his neighbors started dropping off their own cars for him to “fix up.”

“I like to take something that doesn’t look good and make it look real nice,” the 76-year-old Iowa City native said, gesturing to photographs of cars that covered every inch of counter space in his kitchen.

When he turned 16, Nost purchased his first vehicle: a 1935 Dodge for $15.

The crankshaft on the Dodge was faulty, so Nost tended to that, as well as the engine. But once he got the car the way he wanted, he lost interest.



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Nost began visiting car dealerships every Sunday afternoon, scoping out the new collection in the parking lots. If he found one he liked —which he often did — he’d come in on Monday mornings to trade his car for the new project.

“Every car is a new experience,” the self-taught driver said. “I get just as excited when I buy cars as when I bought my first one.”

Nost has every car he has ever owned written down. He’s in the process of transferring them to new sheets, but some records are still written on browning, fragile paper.

Debra Griffis, Nost’s daughter, said it makes her happy that her father found something he truly enjoys.

“It’s nice to see the enjoyment that he gets out of fixing up all of these cars,” Griffis, 53, said. “And then, when he’s done with them, he just passes along the joy to its next owner.”

Most of the 309 cars Nost has owned have been Fords. He recently purchased a 2010 Ford Focus SCL, which he plans to keep at least a year. He’s only had it for a couple weeks, but Nost is eager to work on the car. Once the weather warms, he hopes to add body side moldings and chrome on the front fender, grill, and back bumper.

“I’ve never liked anybody who has a duplicate of what I have,” Nost said. “So I have to detail the car so it’s my own.”

Nost isn’t the only American who prefers Ford. According to February’s monthly sales report, Ford has claimed the top spot in automobile sales with more than 142,000 sales — a 43 percent jump in sales since February 2009.

Nost purchased his current Ford from Brad Larson, the owner of West Branch Ford Inc. Larson has known Nost since 1984 and has sold him at least 20 cars.

“He knows just as much about cars and their makes and models as [the sales staff] do,” Larson said.

“He just has such a passion for cars, and his trade-ins are always as clean if not cleaner than when we sold it to him.”

Nost has a special connection to all of his cars but said his favorite was a 1950 Buick convertible with a new top and a new paint job.

“Convertibles have always been my favorite,” Larson said with a sly smile. “It was always easy to pick up a lady friend with a convertible.”


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