By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—In the Vasquez family, a few things have been passed down—the name Joe Vasquez, as there are five now, the skill of auto mechanics and love of family.
The family combined all of that into their business, Vasquez Auto Repair, 617 N. Walnut, since Joe Vasquez III and wife Stefana Vasquez, and their son and daughter-in-law Joe Vasquez IV and wife Sasha Cook own it. They reside in Newton and have lived here 15 years.
The business hasn’t been open even a year yet, having officially started in October 2021.
“It used to be an old Texico station is what I hear,” Joe IV said about the building.
Joe IV and Cook have four kids, Jose V, Izabella, Sebastian and Lexii, who hang out at the shop after school with 16-year-old Jose V also having a gift for auto mechanics. He’s built an engine on his car from Japan and taking a Hutchinson Community College Auto I class at Newton High School.
“I’m only a sophomore,” he said. “I plan on taking Auto 2 and 3 my junior and senior year.”
Regarding the engine in the Japanese vehicle, it’s shaped like a triangle.
“The nickname of it is like a Dorito,” Jose V said.
Auto mechanics talent goes back at least four generations since Joe III learned it from his father.
“I’d see my dad on top of a car, and he’d pull the distributor out and put it back in and it would start,” Joe III said. “How he did that, I have no idea. I would help him pull cars and change motors and transmissions. By the time I was 10 years old, I already knew how to pull an engine and a transmission.”
Back then, cars were simpler, he said.
As he grew 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 also was called Vasquez Auto Repair. Then in 1992, they moved to Kansas, in Lyons.
“He had his own shop there,” Stefana said, adding Joe III and IV started their shop there.
Joe IV began his repair journey at a young age, as well.
“I was 9 years old when I pulled my first motor,” he said, adding that was on a 1965 Cutlass Supreme.
His dad started him on electrical work, and once he mastered that, he went on to doing the main mechanics, like switching out the brakes, to motors and transmissions. When he was a high school senior, Joe IV restored a ’69 Camaro.
“I restored that one completely from the ground up,” Joe IV said. “Everyone in high school knew me because all I ever talked about was cars.”
Teachers remember Joe IV for being late to class because he was either working on a car or fixing up his car because it broke down.
Their Newton business is open from 10 a.m. until they get done with work on weekdays. Joe III said they work late getting vehicles and other mechanical items fixed and sometimes they work on weekends. Cook said they usually are there until 6 or 7 p.m.
At least four times, they’ve helped people push vehicles that have broken down near their shop, two of which they fixed.
They have return customers, like Rock Construction in Wichita, for which they repair employee and business vehicles. They’ve worked on Rock vehicles for five or six years, Joe IV said.
“We had up to 15 cars at one time,” Joe III said.
Dedicated customers also include employees at Tortilla King in Moundridge. Sometimes, those customers say they need their vehicles by Monday to get to work, so the Vasquezes work on the weekend to get them repaired.
In addition to vehicles, the business also can fix lawnmowers and other mechanical things.
“They trained a lot to fix cars,” Cook said.
The three Joes laughed while recalling some stories.
“I was holding the tarp for you and Grandpa,” Jose said to his dad, adding it was raining at the time, when he, his dad and grandfather were working outside on a vehicle in Wichita.
They also traveled to Denver to pick up a Ford F150 rear end, since 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 installed it. They received a generous tip.
They also drove to Jackson, Mo., one time to pick up a $2,500 motor, and their truck blew a fuel pump.
“We’ve got stories you wouldn’t believe,” Joe III said.
“We’ve gotten calls at like 3 or 4 in the morning,” Stefana said. “They picked it up on the highway.”
“You make a lot of friends that way,” Cook said.
Some of the memorable things they’ve worked on include Porsches, Jaguars, boats, cars and a Lamborghini.
“That was kind of the pinnacle,” Joe IV said. “I never thought I’d be able to work on something like that. Got it back on the road again.”
Joe III said he has a daughter who also has auto mechanic inclinations. He taught his children the basics of auto mechanics, and that one daughter replaced her transmission.
Auto mechanics also has rubbed off on Stefana.
“Forty-five years together, I’ve learned just about everything he knows,” she said.
This summer, Joe IV said there will be a lot of changes to the building. The building will be gray, but the pillars will be black and gold to show Railer pride since they have at least one kid involved in local sports. Jose V is on the Newton High School varsity track team. They also will put up a lighted sign.
“We’ve gotten pretty good at it,” Joe IV said about car mechanics. “It’s something new every day.”