Over 150 Classic Cars Destroyed In Fire

It’s a sad day for the classic car world. On Tuesday night, one of Country Classic Cars’ storage buildings caught fire. The 25k square foot warehouse in Staunton, Illinois, full of classic cars burned to the ground, leaving over 150 cars destroyed. If you haven’t ever heard of Country Classic Cars, they are a classic car dealer with a collection of over 600 cars. At this point, there’s no word on the exact number of cars destroyed or if there were any historically significant cars in the building, but regardless of what was destroyed this was a major loss to the classic car world. Special thanks to Doug, Fred W and C. Jay for letting us know.

Everyday, classic cars are lost to rust, accidents and the crusher, but this was a significant number of nice cars to be lost in one incident. While some of the cars might be salvageable, I’m sure most are beyond saving. Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, but admit that it will be difficult to pinpoint what exactly happened. There’s also been no word yet on what will happen to the remains of the cars. Let’s just hope that a few of the cars are restorable or at the very least can donate parts to keep other cars on the road. You can read more about the fire and Country Classic Cars here The Telegraph.

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Comments

  1. Michael Schreiber

    Very sad to hear I hope everyone is safe ✌️

    • Mountainwoodie

      Click here: Five-alarm fire causes extensive damage at Country Classic | Hemmings Daily

  2. jdjonesdr

    Terrible.

  3. boxdin

    Where were the sprinklers? Hope there is insurance for the owners.

    • Ed P

      This is probably an old building built to obsolete standards. No lots of things.

  4. craZee

    Talk about a car-b-que!

  5. Brian Gould

    Those boys have a lot of good cars there. This is a loss to the whole classic community. I’m glad that 3/4 of the inventory was not effected. Sympathies to the owners.

    Like 1
  6. Robert Gallagher

    Sprinklers, were were they? Or at least a halogen system ! It’s not expensive !

    • JMB#7

      Correction, you mean Halon, not Halogen.

      • Fran

        Probably stupid spell erectile opps see, correction!

  7. Vin in NJ

    One can only hope nothing gets crushed and the cars that can be saved get saved, and the cars that can’t be saved, get parted out for another restoration

  8. Todd Fitch Staff

    Oh the humanity. I agree with boxdin; I’ll take water-damage any day over destruction by fire. I’ve seen smaller warehouses with giant water pipes overhead for the sprinklers, but apparently this isn’t one of them. A sad day indeed.

  9. Mace

    Am I the only one that thinks there is something off with this whole situation?

    I purchased a couple of cars from them in a “no reserve” auction a few years ago and because they did not sell high enough, they reneged and cancelled my purchases.

    I have watched their site from time to time and it seems as if they do not move that much inventory.

    It is a terrible loss to have so many cars destroyed and if they were on consignment it will be up to each owner to claim on their insurance if they had any, but something smells fishy here

    • boxdin

      The first thing investigators ask is; Is there insurance on inventory building, cust cars etc. Depending on that the investigation could go many different ways.

    • ulm210

      I agree on the sketchiness of the operation. I drove down from northern Illinois (3.5 hrs each way) only to find they had given me a VIN and ID Tag for a “numbers matching survivor” that was not the car they were advertising. When I show up the car I am looking at has been repainted a different color and the interior is mismatched, and now they are not so sure it is numbers matching. The asking price was good for a survivor, way too high for the car they actually had. I felt completely misled and my declaration of such was met with a take it or leave it attitude.

      This was not the first time (nor will it be the last) I have driven a long distance to find a car completely lacking for what was advertised, but usually it is a private seller… not someone with a reputation at stake.

      I feel bad for the collector car community but am not at all convinced this is devastating to the owner. I’m a little perturbed that he is receiving so much sympathy considering he, in my opinion, is not deserving of it.

    • Dan Koch

      IF THEY HAD THEM IN A NO RESERVE AUCTION & EVEN IF I ONLY PAID $1 THEY ARE MY CARS PERIOD! OR IDA SUED THEIR ASSES OFF! You can’t do shit like that in ‘Merica Trust ME I wudve taken my purchases home One way or the other! I had that happen to me years ago & the Attorney charged me $3,000 Retainer but l had em by the nuts l ended up selling them back “MY” car made $6,500 & they were ordered to pay Atty’s Fees too

      • audifan

        Congratulations. Your attorney “Ida” must be really good and a big asset to the classic car community.
        Only in ‘merica. Sad. No need to be proud of that.

  10. Fred W.

    In general, a 25,000 sf warehouse, if not brick, would be metal frame/metal cladding. How exactly does that type construction burn to the ground without gasoline or something to help it along?

    If it’s a pole barn, that’s a little easier to explain.

    • LAB3

      I’m pretty sure you’d find plenty of gas and fumes around a building full of old cars, but I wasn’t anywhere near the place last night and can prove it!

    • CJay

      It was a pole barn type building.

    • dukjupiter

      last time I was there, that is exactly what it was. a pole barn with dirt/stone floor clad in thin steel. the front section (office) was finished off with cement floor. most of the cars there are entry level, undesirable models. you could buy a car there, do a little bit and make a “ham sandwich”. you got what you paid for there, people were pleasant. like any place with that big of inventory, some cars are on the money, some are silly, and some are deals. and like any place the description are to be taken with a grain of salt. if you know what you are doing you could come out of there ok.

    • Brian

      It is\was a pole barn.

  11. jeff6599

    All it takes is one fault in one car to ignite everything inside. Surrounding structure may or may not burn per se.

  12. David Zornig

    Visited there twice.
    Unique place that was very cool to roam around.
    Hopefully they can rebuild.

  13. Bill McCoskey

    As someone who has been thru not one, but two, lightning-induced fires, I can tell you that any vehicle that has significant fire damage, can never be brought back to it’s original condition. Any part that can burn, does. Any piece that can melt, does. Even thick metal like a frame rail warps. Cast iron not only warps, but becomes brittle.
    I had a 1956 Packard with the 2 x 4 carb setup. 5 days after the fire, I removed the bolts holding the manifold to the heads, they were so loose I used my fingers. When placed on a flat metal bench, the manifold would rock side to side. Behind the Packard was a pre-war Alfa Romeo with an all alloy body. The car also had a large amount of aluminum in the drive train. What I found after things had cooled down, was a big congealed pool of aluminum with ferrous metal scraps sticking out.
    A 1941 Cadillac convertible coupe lost 15+ inches overall body height, as the metal body, frame, & springs sagged. The 1932 + ’35 Rolls-Royce 20/25 cars, with their liberal use of wood and aluminum were reduced to an engine block with various parts still attached, and bent frames with oval wire wheels alongside reverse arched springs. In the 1935, I had boxes of new Whitworth nuts & bolts, but when I tried to use them later, they couldn’t be tightened without stretching the bolts.
    I watched as a beautiful 1969 Chevelle SS 396 hardtop, sitting on 4 jack stands, had it’s fuel tank rupture like a clam opening up. The car rose straight up off the stands, hit a support beam for the second floor of the building, before falling back down on the stands. [Straight up, then straight down again!]
    And Todd Fitch; I agree, water is a lot easier to recover from. My 1937 Packard 120CD had it’s roof center panel catch on fire, and the firemen were able to save the car from being consumed by pouring a 4″ water hose onto the entire car, to the point the car would rock when hit with the force of the water coming out of the hose. I can rebuild and restore the roof panel and the waterlogged interior, but if the body wood had burned, it would be a parts car.
    I also learned there is no such thing as a fireproof building, when it’s filed with automobiles. I now keep my cars in several small buildings. I might lose 1 or 2 in a fire, but not 15.

    • Dave Wright

      My mind immediately went to the story about your fires. Unlike yours…….this one sounds like it might be a solution to poor cash flow. Like many restaurant fires.

  14. Dennis

    Not sure how many Chrysler products u have there I’m sure Mark worman could put them back on the road save them all

  15. Howard A Member

    This is “hot” news in the hobby. 1st, this is out in the country ( duh) and there wasn’t enough water in the area. It had to be trucked in by tanker. Besides, once this got going, high winds fanned the flames, and all the sprinklers in the world wouldn’t have done much. Modern forensics will get to the bottom of it. Seems odd, these things happen “in the middle of the night”, and being of skeptical nature, I wouldn’t rule out some kind of arson. They claim all batteries were disconnected, so I doubt it was a car that started it. They seem like a legit business, apparently, this was only one building of 6, I read, so not a total loss. Still, lot of cool iron gone.

    • J.Raley

      Howard you got me thinking about something when you mentioned the batteries being disconnected.My 77 AMX Hornet doesn’t get started/driven but once a week or soo,,but that’s a lot of. time with voltage hooked up in between.I believe I will install a disconnect switch jus to eliminate a possible threat,,you jus never know,,Thks .

  16. nessy

    This really makes you think. I’m sure we all worry about the same thing with our own garage/buildings where we keep our old cars right? I worry about snow loads taking the roof down during the winter, now, this will be on my mind. What a shame.

  17. PebblebeachJudge

    It only takes one car catching on fire to burn everything to the ground in the same building. It only takes a slow drip gasoline leak to make it’s way to anything that is a spark. I am positive not one of these cars had a gasoline shut off, a battery disconnect or a recent inspection. I am amazed it does not happen more often- like weekly. I am sure there is no insurance. Pity the fools.

  18. Doug Towsley

    In the UK some years back, the national Motorcycle museum burned down. Many of the bikes WERE rebuilt or recreated from parts over the years by passionate enthusiasts but many of these bikes were display only so, not as critical.
    The fire started in a back area near some cardboard boxs, might have been a cigarette? Never heard the conclusion.
    BUT, the point is, there WAS a fire suppression system but it was inadequate. It was a wake up call to museums around the world to upgrade your systems.
    For our local car & MC museum even the county and state took notice and during our construction we had things held up while we had to do major changes to our systems before we could finish construction.
    The entire museum complex (12 museums on one campus) we had to upgrade our water distribution system of pipes to a larger capacity so that, in case of fire or emergency there is enough water.
    Look up antique Powerland campus in Brooks Oregon

  19. CJay

    Once the fire got started in the wood frame of the building it would escalate and spread quickly.
    The location is rural and even if they had sprinklers I would be skeptical if there would sufficient water pressure for an extended period of time to extinguish the blaze. (I’ve been a member of volunteer fire companies for more than two decades.)
    The Grice Clearfield Community Museum in Clearfield PA suffered a snow load collapse March of 1994. It is my understanding that all but 4 of the cars were repaired. Some were sold damaged and the new owners repaired them.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      CJay, like you, I am a Lt.Fire-Medic in a rural area for many years and I agree. Tanker shuttle operations take time depending on the distance of the supply source and most likely there would not be sufficient pressure for a water suppression/sprinkler system. Our Twp. is hydrated but we retain three 3,000 gallon tankers for mutual aid to surrounding Twp.’s. Quite a few rural areas that are not hydrated suffer from poor pressure even for normal residential use.

  20. Charles Hixon

    Time to call Mannix, Barnaby Jones, Jim Rockford or Columbo.

  21. John D.

    When I would go over the insurance package for our small new car dealership, the fire insurance was a major part of it. A major part of the fire insurance was to indemnify cars and tools owned by other people. If ass was mentioned above, they carried more inventory than I ever had on my lot, so I am certain their insurance agent has already visited and is filling out papers.

    Haven’t all of those Private Investigators had all the air leak out of them?

    • Marshall

      Er…Mr. John D, I’m afraid you have been misinformed. I’m not a private investigator (shows police ID badge), I’m a homicide detective with the LAPD. I would not be able to help out anyway because I’m not a trained arson investigator. That’s assuming of course, that the Illinois state authorities determine this fire to be arson. Boy, Ain’t it a shame what happened to all those cars. My wife’s (That’s Mrs. Colombo) mother once owned one exactly like that one in the picture. She loved that car. She drove it 100,000 miles without a problem.

      (Scratches his head and lights a cigar)… There’s just one thing bothering me. Why would somebody set up an antique car auction operation way out in the middle of nowhere, with no suitable fire protection? No sprinklers. No fire hydrants. And especially somebody who has a reputation for misrepresenting the merchandise. Do you see where I’m getting at sir? (Yada yada yada at Infinitum).

      • Marshall

        (Colombo slaps his head)
        I’m sorry, did I say “auction”? I meant to say “dealership”. They put the prices right on the windshields of the cars.

      • George

        best post on here in weeks! thanks Marshall!

  22. AMXSTEVE

    These guys are always way over priced on their cars.I used to keep track of their inventory and they didn’t seem to sell much.

  23. Joey

    Many of the cars are there on consignment, someone is going to get a royal screwing!

    • Mountainwoodie

      That royal screwing will be coming after all the lawsuits!

  24. scooter8

    similar topic; had a 69 daytona. needed work. lost job because of motorcycle accident. 9surgeries on same femur, bone infection.parents deceased for yrs.house to support, no rent paying squatters!….sold daytona to a pal of a pal. taxes were due. he had a 67? RT convert. completely done.wished him the best on the resto. took it apart for body work,thats when the garage burned down! he made more than i sold it to him for by parting out, glass,rebuilt eng/trans(me),wing,beat up nose. you never know what’s behind door #3?

  25. Mike

    It sounds and gives me a bad taste because I’ve stopped there several times over the years and the stuff they had was not your best quality.

    • waynard

      Agreed. Lots of misrepresentation as well.

  26. Stu

    I find it hard to believe that this building did not have an alarm system and/or an automatic suppression system in place? Very strange.

    • waynard

      Not too strange. These are old farmers (not an insult). They think differently. The place is out in the country with no solid water resources to fight fire. They ran, in my opinion, a skinny operation intending to maximize profits. They didn’t put much back into the business as far as I could see and they believed in “buyer beware”.

      Twice they had cars I wanted, and twice I was disappointed with their representation of them. Thankfully I had a PPI done on one and the other they could never start. Pass.

  27. Bob Member

    Stopped there a couple of times on my way to St. Louis or back to Chicago. The inventory didn’t turn too often. What they did have was a lot of truly “original” cars and trucks. Local news this morning said the owner is in his 70’s. Can’t imagine what that fire looked like from the highway as it’s right there.

    • Tony B

      Bob, check-out the fb post in my comment at the bottom of the page. Wild to see how the wind whipped tornado like around the building.

  28. mtshootist1

    It would be extremely rare for a barn to have a sprinkler system in the country. Good sprinkler systems cost a lot of money. plus you need a dual interlock system to prevent accidental discharge, with beam detectors, and protecto wire heat sensor wiring, then it needs to automatically call the fire department or 911. Good luck with that. damn shame. I keep telling my wife to quit sticking fuel cans in amongst my motorcycles, she pays no attention what so ever.

  29. Rspcharger Rspcharger

    Simple Google search brings up tons of pics and it was a simple pole barn. The fire was probably started by the Gods of Keep it Factory….

  30. Rspcharger Rspcharger

    and this

    • Fred W.

      A Valiant “convertible” with a Firebird nose? Now I have truly seen it all.

    • ccrvtt

      Karma…

    • Mountainwoodie

      Valiants and Firebirds produce some ugly chilluns!

  31. SteveR

    CCC is close to me, and the buildings were wood frame with metal cladding. No sprinklers; this is a very rural area with few regulations, which is what a lot of people tout as a big plus for attracting businesses but which obviously carry risks, as this fire proves. Not only were there no sprinklers, but there’s no hydrant anywhere close, so that didn’t help matters either. On the other hand, look at the pictures of the cars. Paint is gone, glass too from the heat, but it didn’t get hot enough to ignite the tires. In every picture I’ve seen, not only are the tires not burned off, they’re still inflated. So there may be more salvageable than you’d think, as far as mechanical parts. About insurance: CCC is basically like an antique mall where people consign their stuff and get paid upon sale. People who have put their cars there say that they had to sign a comprehensive waiver, holding CCC not responsible for any damage to their cars while at the facility. I hope the car owners maintained their own insurance on their vehicles, otherwise there’s not much chance they’ll be able to collect anything in court.

    • Mountainwoodie

      While I’m not familiar with the State law, but I’d be willing to say that if you could prove negligence there might be a chance.

      • Mountainwoodie

        Just took this off their website………

        “We do not have insurance on your vehicle. Please retain your insurance. We are not responsible for your vehicle.”

        Good luck with that disclaimer.
        :

  32. Rodney

    Sad. But, “It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good”.
    In this case, any number of collector cars just became more valuable since a number of similar cars have now been removed from the ” surviving world inventory”.

  33. Fran

    Always disconnect the battery and hang out for 5 or 10 minutes after returning a car to a off premises garage. All my cars are disconnected and I wait just to make sure, a little pain, but it makes for a good slleep.

  34. Metoo

    All those valuable cars and they kept them in a buck ninety eight building. Idiots. Even if they have insurance they may have a tough time collecting, depending on what the fire marshalls report says about the probable cause.

  35. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Had mine in April due to lightening…..lot’s of parts burnt or f’ed due to heat/water – about 40 years of hording and my bobtail F-350 was hurt good….pretty sure Halon was banded a few years back….I did data centers for banks for about 25 years….think we had to upgrade to something else.

    • Ed P

      Production of halon was stopped in 1994 because it contains CFC’s. It is still legal to use and reclaimed halon is ok to use. I would think halon has gotten more expensive similar to the cost of freon

      • Tony B

        I never could understand the ban on Halon… Maybe there is more to it…but, it seems to me-the extreme rarity that a halon extinguisher would be used…would result in a minimal of cfc’s being released into the atmosphere. I always thought the the burning vehicle/boat/house/person, would cause more atmospheric damage, than a simple fire extinguisher…

      • boxdin

        At first halon was used in race cars and many other applications, but halon did away with oxygen so none left for the human to breathe.

  36. George

    heat takes the temper out of metal and leaves you with stuff that just can’t be trusted. Such a shame! All is vanity!

  37. Brain

    Do you ever worry about copyright issues when sharing images? It could be a tricky situation if you get called out, especially from news service, but even pictures in classified ads are protected.

    • Jesse Mortensen Staff

      Nope. We always link back to the source. If someone complained, we would take the post down. Most people like the free traffic though.

  38. robbie

    at least the burned metal can contribute to alot of ratrods……….thats the way i see it

    • Tony B

      The sheetmetal most likely is too brittle and warped to be of any use, unfortunately…

  39. Tony B

    Son and I have visited here before. I spotted my VW Beetle convertible from high school on their site last year, didn’t have the cash to buy it…so, I hope it had sold prior to this… We drove by here last weekend, and as always ogled the cars… My gut feeling is there’s nothing fishy going on here, just a terrible accident. I’ll share a posting that was on my fb feed of a guy that recorded the fire from the highway. Insane to see the vortex of wind whipping around the structure. This had to have been an incredibly hot fire!

    https://www.facebook.com/jeff.scott.5055/videos/1772886922725695/

    • Tony B

      Just checked…my VW convertible had sold… I still have a chance somewhere down the road to have it back in my garage…

  40. Tony B

    Here’s what the cars looked-like before the fire… :( http://countryclassiccars.com/

  41. jeff6599

    The sheet metal wouldn’t be brittle. Heating and slow cooling off would cause any heat treatment (such as cold rolled, etc.) to be annealed. No other significant parts other than springs would be lost. If the tires are still up on many, items as A frames, driveshafts, pedals, frames, bumper brackets, etc. would still be serviceable.

  42. Wayne

    150 cars with active flame jobs!!!

  43. Pete

    Yeah I always thought these sold questionable cars over the years. I hate it for anyone who had stuff on consingment.

  44. Fran

    Ok how to I stop getting my mailbox filled with the burned car story, all I did was comment and checked the box so I could get replys on what I said, but I am getting nothing but nonsense and I am tired of the burned car stories.

  45. MGgezer

    This does look fishie, where is the roof? Shouldn’t it be all over the cars and not just a couple of them

    • T Mel

      The roof did fall on many of the cars. They had heavy machinery pick up the roof pieces and stack them along in the driveway. See pics I posted below. Still, I wouldn’t be too surprised either if it comes out as foul play.

  46. El Chinero

    <> in Meridan? If so, a cool visit … once. Not so hot, any more

  47. T Mel

    Some pics

  48. T Mel

    .

  49. T Mel

    ..

  50. T Mel

  51. Oldcarsarecool

    Regardless of what you think about the business itself, this was a wonderful place for the old car lover to visit. I stopped by a few times when I lived in Columbia, MO many years ago. If anyone is interested:

    http://theautolounge.net/lounge/index.php?topic=3515.0

  52. Melvin Burwell

    Maybe arson? Im always suspicious of these occurrences. This seems to happen too often. Happened to Reggie Jackson the baseball star.

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