Fire Destroys Classic Car Shop
If you are into classic cars you know that sometimes some of the coolest cars are in places hidden from view. Such was the case with Werke Classic Coach in Charlton, MA. Gary Cove had been down a dead end alley for over 22 years working on and collecting what some might call priceless cars. The shop was in an old 1800s mill, which added ambiance and provenance to the atmosphere, but an old wooden structure does have a downside. On July 26th, 2012 Gary found out the downside of a 19th Century wood building when fire broke out at the other end of the building, not in his shop, but connected to it. The cause of the fire is under investigation but the fingers are being pointed at a chop shop in the front of the building. Apparently the chop shop would bring cars in and cut them up for parts, sending the parts overseas. The wood structure didn’t lend itself well to such an operation. The Coves complained to everyone, the landlord, the authorities, all to no avail. A little legwork on the part of the authorities could have saved not only a historic mill but also lots of classic cars.
Luckily, Gary’s son Brandon Cove was working late when the fire broke out and had about an hour to watch the fire spread. It turned out to be the Golden Hour, Brandon’s quick thinking saved a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster and a real Shelby Cobra. Brandon remembers the fire moving like this,
“A little under an hour, it just kept getting bigger and worked its way down.”
If you were on-site you would have been re-assured, there are two fire hydrants in front of the building.
“None of the hydrants were working,” Brandon sadly recalls. “We were always told to keep them open, because they worked.”
When asked why they weren’t working Brandon had this to say,
“I’ve heard a bunch of speculation, they didn’t touch them during the fire. The town had opted to not make some sort of repair, the army core of engineers said it needed a $15,000 repair.”
So the town’s decision to not repair the water flow to these hydrants had resulted in hundreds of thousands lost in classic cars and parts.
Many of the cars were un-recognizable, ruined were the following:
1964 Porsche 356 SC
1966 Porsche 911
1970 Porsche 911E
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL
1969 Jaguar XKE
1973 Jaguar XKE V12
1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25
1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL
1971 Porsche 911 RS Clone
We can thank Brandon’s quick thinking for the saving of the following cars:
Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
1964 Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale
AC Shelby Cobra Race Car
Even though the cars that were saved made it out, not all their parts did.
“The 300SL wasn’t that bad. The only scary thing about the SL was all the door handles, bumpers, grill, windshield frame were all gone, thank God the engine was in it.”
I asked if he thinks any of the parts may be salvaged. Brandon was optimistic but also realistic.
“We’ll see when we dig up the rubble, if we find a quarter of the trinkets we’ll be happy.”
The SL was not the only priceless car saved. Brandon explains,
“There was a Shelby Cobra saved, a real one, an AC 289 Factory Race Car. I rolled it out, by myself, the adrenaline, and got an Alfa Romeo out.”
While there were other people on the scene, Brandon was on his own to save what he could. The fire fighters did have him sign a waiver of some sort.
“They made me sign some paper real quick, they didn’t even want me to go in. My thoughts were, if something happens and this wall comes down, between the 300SL and the Cobra, that’s probably 1.5 million worth of cars. I got those two cars out and those two cars probably represented more that everything that’s in there now.”
While a few of the most desirable cars were saved many that were destroyed were Gary’s personal cars, his collection from 40 years of cool cars passing through his place. While he will probably get insurance money on some of them how do you replace a 1970 Porsche 911E with 48K original miles? Or a 1966 Porsche 911 in a super rare color?
Gary must have brought Brandon up right, in terms of the customer is always right, because he saved their cars while the Cove cars perished in the fire. That’s something you don’t see often these days, integrity in business, luckily for the owners of the cars saved Brandon thought of them first.
While the old shop is a total loss, the Cove Family has plans to move to a new shop and get up and running again soon. The good news is they have a solid team in place and will survive and probably flourish again in the new spot. We wish the best for them.
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