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The Eiznhamer Motor Company:
A Studebaker Dealer and the Town He Served

By Randy Rundle

Bill Eiznhamer owned the Studebaker Dealership in Clay Center Kansas from late 1945 until his death in 1952. He died in the winter of 1952, the result of a heart attack while helping the local body shop owner dig his wrecker out of a snow bank.

I did not come along until the 1958 model year, but I have always been interested in antique cars and trucks. When my aunt (Bill’s wife) passed away in the spring of 1968, my grandparents got the job of cleaning out her house and preparing for an estate sale. I was only too willing to help, having heard numerous stories from my grandparents over the years, about the Studebaker dealership.

My hope was that there were still some remnants from the dealership stored in the basement. There was not much left it turns out, but the enclosed pictures show the dealership and I will provide you with the history as I know it.

Eiznhamer auto dealership
Early Eiznhamer Motor Company before WWII

Bill Eiznhamer’s used car dealerships were located in various locations around town (he started out selling used cars before WWII) until he obtained a Studebaker franchise just after the war. In August 1950 he moved over to 621 Lincoln Street. He was the first tenant in what was then a brand new building. It was the first building in town that was purposely built as a dealership, and the first one that he ever had ever… with a complete showroom and parts department.

He rented the new building from a Mrs. Schabel who was getting along in years but had taking a liking to Bill and wanted him to be the first tenant even though he could hardly afford it. She adjusted the rent down and said he could stay as long as he wanted.

The new building really put Eiznhamer Motors on the map and with an official parts department and a 4-car work bay, he was right up town. While he was only there for two years, those were no doubt his best years in the car business.

In his records it showed he had special ordered a 1952 Studebaker Model R-17 pickup for a Dr. Muck M. D. who was on temporary leave in the United States. Dr. Muck was serving as a foreign missionary. The truck was to be used in the foreign mission field and Dr. Muck had requested that special custom equipment be ordered and installed on his new truck.

Upon its arrival at the dealership Dr. Muck’s new truck was immediately sent to Kansas City, for the installation of the special equipment. The doctor paid in advance $2,182.20 for the truck and an additional $1,837.63 for the special equipment for a total of $4, 219.82, which was a sizeable sum in those days. It is too bad no pictures exist of the truck.

Upon his death my uncle had the following cars listed in inventory. Used cars were not worth very much in those years, but I was surprised at how little money he allowed for some of those cars.

Inventory of ordered cars

This picture of the dealership at the new 621 Lincoln address says 1940’s but the building was not completed until August of 1950. I am told the other picture of his dealership (above) was taken before the war.

Eiznhower shop, later
Eiznhamer Used Car Dealership in the 1940s

As for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb car, the Studebaker Company brought the car around to all of the established Studebaker dealerships to have a picture taken in front of the dealership. Then the dealerships could by copies to hand out to customers. Bill (below, on the right) never bought any pictures but kept the free sample.

Eiznhower (right) with customer
Eiznhamer (right) with customer and Pike's Peak Car

Eiznhamer adNotice, the neon Studebaker sign in the front window, very collectable today. There is also some nice Studebaker advertising in the parts department. If only I had been a little older. Uncle Bill gave away lots of the calf pictures (at right); they were inexpensive and fun, for kids. Those cards are one of the things I remember when I was growing up.

My aunt got the last car from Bill's dealership, a light blue 1952 Champion 4-door that he had special ordered for her. It arrived the week before he died. It was in very good condition at the time of her death, as she did not drive much in her later years.

Her Studebaker Champion had about 22,000 miles showing when it was sold at the estate auction. It sold for just over $1200 dollars at the estate sale. A local car collector bought it drove it for a few years then sold it to a collector in Belgium.

The Studebaker Dealership building became a Chevrolet Dealership in 1953 and remained the home of Skinner Motors up through the early 1990’s when it then became a NAPA Auto Parts Store. The building still stands today and looks much like it did when it was built in 1950.

 

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