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Fire Ravages Country Classics Dealership

 

Words: John Gunnell

 

A large fire on Tuesday, Aug. 8 wiped out the main building and more than 100 collectible vehicles at Country Classic Cars in Stayton, Ill. According to news reports, a major blaze that burned the building to the ground took 11 fire companies to bring under control.

Reports said the building measured 510 x 50 feet and had a wooden support structure under a sheet metal exterior. The fire apparently began before 8:00 p.m. The business is located at the juncture of I-55 and Route 66. The Interstate remained open during the fire. The roof on the burning building collapsed and disintegrated before fire crews got the flames under control around 11 p.m.

Country Classics housed a total of about 600 cars in several buildings and outdoors. Russ and Anita Noel own and operate the business. They opened Country Classics about 18 years ago with the idea of splitting their time between farming and selling old cars. That arrangement lasted a few years, but the car business, which started on the family’s farm, became too big to handle on a part-time basis. The Noels lease the farmland and run the car business full time.

The business has focused on affordable, restorable vehicles. The buildings housing vehicles are generally filled bumper-to-bumper with a wide range of muscle cars, prewar cars, postwar cars, pickup trucks, sports cars and hot rods. Some vehicles are taken in on consignment.