Classic Car Dealer in Illinois Gets Hit by Tornado Months After Recovering From Massive Fire

The dealership after the 2017 fire.
The dealership after the 2017 fire.
Screenshot: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A classic car dealership owned by a couple in small-town Staunton, Illinois just can’t seem to escape major disasters—natural and otherwise. Just over a year after a fire burned through a more than 100 of the dealership’s vehicles, a tornado struck on Saturday, damaging an estimated 100 cars yet again.


Russ and Anita Noel opened their Illinois dealership, Country Classic Cars, in 1999, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The past year and a half has been eventful, though, with a fire scorching through their inventory in August of 2017 and a tornado hitting just this week.


The Post-Dispatch reports that the couple had just fully rebuilt from the fire in February.

The three-hour fire last year damaged 143 classic cars and took 13 local fire departments to extinguish it, the Post-Dispatch reported, saying at the time that most of the cars burned were American and dated back as far as the 1920s. Cost of the damage, at the time, was estimated to be in the millions.

Then, the tornado struck. Owner Russ Noel, 73, told the Post-Dispatch Sunday that the good thing was no one got hurt, and that he’s “still trying to look at the cars and see now much damage there is.” The report said the tornado struck two of the five buildings on the lot, including one that was just built onto, along with roughly 100 cars. From the Post-Dispatch:

At least one car, a red 1960s Ford Thunderbird convertible, was flipped on its side. Several others lost their convertible tops. Keys that had been locked in a box in one building were scattered around the property, and one man helping clean up estimated 100 cars had some damage. But the extent wasn’t really clear yet.

“I’d be afraid to guess at this point how many cars are damaged,” Noel said. “There are parts of the building you can’t even walk through yet.”

One of the buildings that was destroyed had just had a major addition finished less than two weeks ago. The company has five buildings on its property.


The fire happened on a Tuesday night, and Russ Noel told the Post-Dispatch at the time that he thought they’d open the next day. The dealership sold three cars that next day, a February report from the outlet said. The story painfully detailed all of the steps the couple and their employees went through after the fire, from selling the burned cars off for scrap and parts to having to identify which keys went with which cars due to burned labels.

Just about 10 months after fully rebuilding the business, the Post-Dispatch reports that Russ and Anita Noel are about to start the process over again, this time from wreckage instead of ashes. But the outlet reports that just like last time, the couple plans to open the dealership this week and get back at it.


“We’re going to rebuild,” Russ Noel told the paper on Sunday night. “We’re starting in the morning.”

Staff writer, Jalopnik

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carter [road salt disliker]

I was bummed when I saw this on their Facebook page. They just seem like nice people who keep getting the short end of the stick lately. Their inventory is always really cool and I’ve always hoped to stick my head in someday to look around if not buy something. I hope they don’t give up, but man...I’d start looking for a new deity or something.