Dusenbery family's Studebaker collection to be featured at Aztec Founders' Day
AZTEC — Bob Dusenbery has seen cars change a lot over the decades. The biggest change is that now everything is automated, making it cheaper to buy new parts than to fix or rebuild old ones, said Dusenbery, whose family owns Dusenbery's Auto Parts in Aztec.
"You wear an engine out, you just throw it away and get a new one," he said.
While drivers can get more mileage out of newer car, Dusenbery points out "they're not as much fun to drive."
And he would know.
Dusenbery still drives Studebakers. You won't find the vehicles on your average car lot — the Studebaker Corp. stopped manufacturing them in 1966 — but Dusenbery and his brother own about 40.
Residents may recognize the cars from parades throughout San Juan County. Dusenbery almost always enters one in the Aztec Founders' Day parade. And, this year, the cars will play a more prominent role in the celebration next weekend at the Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village.
Dusenbery plans to show his collection during the event, tying in with this year's theme: the history of transportation.
The evolution of the auto industry is something Dusenbery and his family have witnessed first-hand.
Bob Dusenbery's grandfather settled the area as a corn farmer in the early 1900s, but it was his father, Jim Dusenbery, who got the family involved in the car industry.
In the 1930s, Jim Dusenbery opened a Studebaker dealership at 112 W. Chaco St. in Aztec. The business, which still is operating today, sold Studebakers until 1964.
"We grew up around Studebakers, so we always thought those were the best car," Bob Dusenbery said.
After Studebakers stopped being manufactured, the Dusenbery family sold other models of cars until 2003. That's when they phased out selling cars and switched to trailers.
Dusenbery's Auto Parts started selling trailers and ATVs in 1999 and has since successfully marketed their products throughout the Four Corners. The business also sells auto parts, though Bob Dusenbery said that is now a minor part of the business.
Today, he still believes Studebakers are the best cars, which explains why he invests plenty of time into fixing them. His garage holds several Studebakers in various stages of restoration.
"It's just kind of fun to tear them apart and put them together again," he said.
In the back of the garage, beneath an old Studebaker sign from the family's shop, is a restored 1933 Studebaker Commander Model 73.
Bob Dusenbery first saw the car in San Francisco, Calif., though he didn't buy it until he later found it again in Illinois. It had been sitting in a garage for 50 years.
Bob Dusenbery said that while it needed to be restored, all of the parts were there, including unique ones he would not easily find.
But his favorite car is the Studebaker Hawk he purchased brand-new in 1962.
"It's kind of pretty," he said. "It still looks like new."
It's the car his son, Kent Dusenbery, remembers from his childhood.
Kent Dusenbery inherited his father's love for cars and special admiration for Studebakers.
"They're not a muscle car, you know," he said. "They're just a nice car."
While it isn't uncommon to find muscle cars in the area — Kent Dusenbery's brother owns a 1960s Chevrolet Chevelle — Studebakers are more difficult to track down.
"We've got kind of a market on them," Kent Dusenbery said.
IF YOU GO
What: Founders' Day
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village, 125 N. Main Ave.
More info: 505-334-9829