By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—In the Vasquez family a few things have been passed down—the name of Joe Vasquez, as there are now five of them, the skill of auto mechanics, and the love of family.
The family has combined all of this into their business, Vasquez Auto Repair, 617 N. Walnut, since Joe Vasquez III and his wife Stefana Vasquez, and their son and daughter-in-law Joe Vasquez IV and his wife Sasha Cook own it. They reside in Newton and have lived there for 15 years.
The business hasn’t been open for a year yet, having officially started in October 2021.
“It used to be an old Texico station, that’s what I hear,” Joe IV said of the building.
Joe IV and Cook have four children, Jose V, Izabella, Sebastian and Lexii, who hang out at the store after school with 16-year-old Jose V, who also has a knack for auto mechanics. He built an engine on his car from Japan and is taking a Hutchinson Community College Auto I course at Newton High School.
“I’m just a sophomore,” he said. “I plan to take Auto 2 and 3 my junior and senior years.”
As for the engine of the Japanese vehicle, it has the shape of a triangle.
“The nickname on this one is like a Dorito,” said Jose V.
The talent of auto mechanics goes back at least four generations since Joe III learned it from his father.
“I would see my dad on top of a car, and he’d take the distributor out and put it back in and he’d start,” Joe III said. “How he did that, I have no idea. I helped him pull cars and change engines and transmissions. At the age of 10, I already knew how to pull an engine and a transmission.
Back then, cars were simpler, he says.
As he got older, Joe III decided to go to school and learn more about auto mechanics.
“I liked it and started my own business,” he said.
Stefana said Joe III opened his business in Texas and it was also called Vasquez Auto Repair. Then in 1992, they moved to Kansas, to Lyon.
“He had his own shop there,” Stefana said, adding that Joe III and IV opened their shop there.
Joe IV also started his repair journey at a young age.
“I was 9 years old when I released my first engine,” he said, adding that it was on a 1965 Cutlass Supreme.
His father started him into electrical work, and once he mastered that, he went on to do the main mechanics, like cutting brakes, motors, and transmissions. When he was a high school student, Joe IV restored a 1969 Camaro.
“I restored this one completely from scratch,” Joe IV said. “Everyone in high school knew me because all I talked about was cars.”
Teachers remember Joe IV being late to class because he was working on a car or fixing his car because it broke down.
Their Newton business is open from 10 a.m. until they finish work on weekdays. Joe III said they worked late to fix vehicles and other mechanical items and sometimes worked weekends. Cook said they were usually there until 6 or 7 p.m.
At least four times they helped people push broken down vehicles near their store, two of which they repaired.
They have loyal customers, like Rock Construction in Wichita, for whom they repair employee and company vehicles. They worked on Rock vehicles for five or six years, Joe IV said.
“We had up to 15 cars at a time,” Joe III said.
Dedicated customers also include the employees of Tortilla King in Moundridge. Sometimes these customers say they need their vehicles on Monday to get to work, so the Vasquezes work weekends to get them fixed.
In addition to vehicles, the company can also repair lawn mowers and other mechanical items.
“They practiced a lot fixing the cars,” Cook said.
The three Joes laughed as they remembered some stories.
“I was holding the tarp for you and grandpa,” Jose told his dad, adding that it was raining at the time when he, his dad and grandpa were working outside on a vehicle in Wichita. .
They also drove to Denver to pick up a rear end of a Ford F150 because a guy wrecked his vehicle and needed it fixed by Monday at all costs.
They picked it up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday in Denver, brought it back, and set it up. They received a generous tip.
They also drove to Jackson, Missouri once to retrieve a $2,500 engine, and their truck blew up a gas pump.
“We have stories you wouldn’t believe,” Joe III said.
“We got calls at 3 or 4 in the morning,” Stefana said. “They picked it up off the highway.”
“You make a lot of friends that way,” Cook said.
Some of the memorable things they have worked on include Porsches, Jaguars, boats, cars and a Lamborghini.
“It was kind of the pinnacle,” Joe IV said. “I never thought I would be able to work on something like this. I put it back on the road.
Joe III said he had a daughter who also had an inclination for auto mechanics. He taught his kids the basics of auto mechanics and this girl replaced his transmission.
Auto mechanics also rubbed off on Stefana.
“In forty-five years together, I’ve learned just about everything he knows,” she says.
This summer, Joe IV said there will be a lot of changes in the building. The building will be grey, but the pillars will be black and gold to show Railer’s pride in having at least one child involved in local sports. Jose V is on the Newton High School varsity track team. They will also install an illuminated sign.
“We got pretty good at it,” Joe IV said of auto mechanics. “It’s something new every day.”