A large fire last month destroyed at least 150 cars and damaged several more, according to multiple news outlets. The fire occurred at Country Classic Cars in rural Staunton, Ill., located on historic Route 66.
According to its website, the business grew out of a hobby of a Midwestern farmer. An experienced mechanic, Russ Noel, grew the business to include an inventory of more than 600 collector cars. Besides the buildings that house the cars, there is also a service area, inside showroom and gift shop.
Noel said he typically has an inventory of a little over 600 cars. The fire destroyed 143 cars and a 50 x 530 feet warehouse that also housed an office and gift shop. Outside, six more cars sustained smoke damage.
The fire was traced to the warehouse to one of five cars located in the middle of the building; however, its cause remains undetermined.
Some cars are owned outright while others are taken on consignment. According to its website, the owner of a vehicle on consignment should retain insurance until the vehicle is sold.
Noel estimated he owned 95 percent of the cars that were affected, with the remaining cars affected on consignment.
He indicated that when a car arrives, their first step is to disconnect the battery, though it’s possible that step may have been overlooked, he said.
Most of the vehicles were removed from the premises with two weeks of fire, he said. Building debris removal was completed last month, as well. He plans to rebuild and estimated a start date of mid-September.
According to Jonathan Klinger, vice president of public relations for Hagerty, a collector car and boat insurer, Country Classics inventory includes a variety of cars. Typically, he said the nicer ones are kept indoors.
Klinger said that there are likely consignment agreements in place for those cars offered on consignment.
“Regardless if its consignment or an auction, it is universal industry practice that the owner of the car is going to sign some type of consignment agreement that states that you are still responsible for any property damage to the car. Meaning that they legally are not held liable for any damage that happens to the car while it’s in their care, custody and control,” Klinger explained.
Where the agreement states the owner should maintain insurance coverage, owners of damaged vehicles would submit a claim to their own insurer first, he said.
For the many cars owned outright by Noel, there may be agreed value policies in place.
Klinger explained that collector cars typically hold or increase in value, while standard cars depreciate in value. Thus, a policy on a collector car would typically be an agreed value policy where the value is pre-determined and agreed upon at the time of policy purchase, while a standard car would have a cash value policy where the value is determined at the time of loss.
Payout would be agreed value minus deductible, if one applied.
Noel couldn’t say what the total value of the loss is and Auto-Owners, Country Classic’s insurer declined to comment on the ongoing claim.
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