Route 66 News

Fire ravages Country Classic Cars near Staunton

Country Classic Cars fire

A huge blaze Tuesday night destroyed at least one building and dozens of old vehicles at Country Classic Cars near old Route 66 near Staunton, Illinois.

The Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office told KSDK-TV in St. Louis that 11 fire departments were battling the blaze, which apparently started shortly before sundown.

No injuries were reported. Country Classic Cars closes at 5 p.m., so no workers were there during the fire.

Here’s video taken from when the fire raged:

The fire reportedly was brought under control by 9:40 p.m., although the fire still was burning in spots late Tuesday.

KPLR-TV in St. Louis reported from the scene shortly after the fire was knocked down:

The station said between 100 to 150 old cars were in that building that included a repair shop.

More than 600 old cars are parked on the massive lot.

A column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch barely two weeks ago told about how Russell Noel, a local farmer, took his classic-car hobby and turned it into a full-blown business about 20 years ago on an Interstate 55 frontage road very close to old Route 66 south of Staunton.

Top price on the latest inventory is $69,950 for a light blue, air-conditioned 1954 Cadillac Eldorado convertible showing fewer than 23,000 miles. On the low end, you can get a green 1978 Jaguar XJ6 for $750 if you don’t mind that it has no motor. The same money would buy an orange 1973 Fiat Spyder convertible that “ran when parked.”

Many are “as is” collectibles, not ordinary used cars. A few buyers drive them right off the lot, although Russell discourages that, pending a mechanical examination. One woman bought a Volkswagen that stalled after only a mile. (Russell towed it back and fixed the minor issue for free.)

UPDATE: Here’s a video this morning from KSDK in St. Louis:

The fire’s cause remains unknown.

UPDATE2: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted a good follow-up story about the fire.

Owner Russ Noel, 73, stood outside the scorched property the next day and wiped his eyes with a handkerchief.

“They just don’t make them like that any more,” he said, standing in front of the crumpled building with rows of burnt vehicles.

Noel opened the business in 1999 after spending most of his career as a hay farmer near Edwardsville. Now he simply plans to carry on with the hundreds of undamaged cars he has left.

“I think we’re going to open again tomorrow,” he said. “It’s no hill for a climber.”

UPDATE 8/27/2017: The Springfield State Journal-Register reports Country Classic Cars reopened within a day after the fire and is planning to rebuild.

(Image of the Country Classic Cars fire near Staunton, Illinois, by Macoupin County Illinois Scanner Page via Facebook)


10 thoughts on “Fire ravages Country Classic Cars near Staunton

  1. Richard Mark Henry

    Regarding Country Classic Cars, went by this am coming back from Litchfield. Their two main buildings totally destroyed from my viewpoint on Historic Route 66 overpass over I-55. I would imagine others closeby, especially outside under canopies, have damage, too. Sad. Reminded me of the Saturday evening years back seeing the Collesium Building in Benld, Illinois, on fire on the news.

  2. Eric Hayman

    Did the building not have a fire sprinkler system? Seemingly not. I do not understand why any building of any size does not have a fire suppression system built into it. Especially, as in this case, with so many very valuable objects in it at any time. Here, in the UK, there have been many fires in seaside piers over the years, structures usually dating back around a hundred years – yet, even, with limitless amounts of water immediately to hand, none has had a sprinkler system installed. And when pier buildings (theatres, amusement arcades, etc) have been rebuilt, I have seen no mention of putting in fire prevention systems. Surely, if the Country Classic Cars building had had a sprinkler system then its insurance premiums would have been lower. I am assuming it had fire insurance.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      He was outside any sort of municipal jurisdiction, so no sprinkler system was required. Even if he were, most cities and towns usually don’t require sprinkler system unless a building is taller than four stories or so.

  3. Eric Hayman

    As I indicated, it should be common and business sense to have a sprinkler system in such a building. I am not compelled to carry a fire extinguisher in my car, but I do. I have extinguishers in my home. You may have read of a residential tower block going up in flames, after a refrigerator in one of the flats caught fire. The occupants did not have an extinguisher and the flames spread to external cladding, engulfing the whole building. There were some 70 deaths.

    1. Never Quite Lost

      If you know the size of Country Classic Cars, you will realise the huge task and immense expense it would be to fit a sprinkler system. The site also doesn’t have a hydrant but water is tanked in. .

  4. Eric Hayman

    Surely the larger the premises the more money is available to provide proper fire protection. The lack of hydrants should – in my opinion – have meant the owners had erected a high level emergency water tank to serve a sprinkler system. What was the total value of all the vehicles stored there? One Australian dug a large pond with the sole purpose of having the water immediately available in the case of a fire. When there was a bush fire in the area, water pumped from the pond kept his house’s roof and exterior cool, saving the building while those round about were burned to the ground.

    1. Richard Henry

      Some Property and Casualty insurance companies in the USA will give a better home insurance policy rating, if a homeowner has a pond accessible on their property to where water can be pumped out of it in case of a fire.

  5. Eric Hayman

    Thanks, Richard. I didn’t mention the matter of insurance and Country Classic Cars. The money will never replace a destroyed old car. But did the firm have a liability to take extra care of the vehicles because of them being rare and highly valuable? A fire at a preserved railway in the UK saw the destruction of irreplaceable coaches and a diesel locomotive.

  6. Pingback: A clue surfaces in the Country Classic Cars fire - Route 66 News

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