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Classic Car Dealer Loses 150 Vehicles As Fire Destory His Showroom

Illinois Dealer Surprised By The Number Of Friends Who Turned Out To Help

Sometimes you never know who your friends are until tragedy strikes. On Tuesday, Russ Noel, owner of Country Classic Cars in Staunton, Ill., found out that he has a bunch of friends he never knew about. It started about 8 p.m. Tuesday night when Noel heard that his classic car dealership was ablaze. Arriving on scene, he found a sight that was enough to break anyone’s heart. Some 150 classic and antique cars, dating to the 1920s, were on fire as the main showroom of his dealership burned to the ground.

Fire Began In Main Showroom

Authorities believe the fire began somewhere in the center of the dealership and spread to the walls, ultimately bringing the roof down around the vehicles.

More than 50 neighbors gathered on a nearby overpass watching as firefighters put out the fire, which took three hours. With the fire finally extinguished, Noel found that he had lost millions in inventory, he said, Wednesday as he wiped his tear-filled eyes.

Authorities look through the wreckage left by Tuesday night’s massive fire that destroyed 150 classic and antique cars. (c) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A former hay farmer, Noel opened Country Classics in 1999. It has been a labor of love as he received inventory from all over. Usually, Country Classics carries about 650 vehicles on its lots. The dealership moves between 35 and 40 cars a month to spots all over the world. Some of his deliveries were to Hawaii, Sweden, and Switzerland. As folks heard about the fire, they gathered on Wednesday and talked about their times at the dealership. One enthusiast said he had been there many times, often dreaming about the vehicles he would buy. Others had similar stories. Indeed, Noel was surprised by the number of friends who turned out with warm words or offers of help.

It is little wonder that he has so many friends. His vehicles likely bring people great memories of times past. Many of his vehicles were used by Hollywood to set city scenes where traffic or parked cars were needed. People likely knew many of his vehicles from those times on the screen or TV.

Noel Planned To Be Back In Business Next Day

Despite the significant loss, Noel planned to be back in business by Thursday with his remaining stock – about 500 vehicles – using the four remaining showrooms on his site. He believes his insurance will help him replace the vehicles he has lost. What was not lost on Noel was the warmth he had been shown by neighbors and friends from all over.


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