Fire Destroys Nearly 150 Classic Cars At Downstate Dealership

CHICAGO (CBS) — People from all over the country have called the owner of Country Classic Cars in downstate Staunton to offer their support after a fire destroyed 148 cars.

Country Classic Cars has been a fixture off Route 66 for two decades, about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis along Interstate 55.

Owner Russ Noel, 73, said his security guard called him Tuesday night and told him the place was on fire.

Noel was at the dealership until early Wednesday, getting it ready to reopen.

“At 3:30 we went to bed, and before noon we had the phones in, and in the middle of the afternoon we had computers running and a temporary office in there,” he said.

Since the fire, Noel’s phone has been ringing almost non-stop.

“I didn’t realize we had so many friends,” he said.

Noel said his dealership is reopening Thursday. It’s a family business that includes a new family member: a 5-month-old grandson.

“My main mission, after we get this little bit of setback out of the way, is to get him a pickup truck,” Noel said. “We’ve got plenty of working time. Not spoiling him too early, am I?”

Noel said the fire is the hardest thing he’s had to endure in his 73 years.

“I would say it is, but my favorite saying is, ‘It’s no hill for a climber,’” he said.

No one was injured in the fire, but Noel has estimated nearly 150 cars worth millions of dollars combined were destroyed.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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