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Car Connectors

We kick this weeks show into gear with a trip to Wallace Indiana where we met up with a group of Model T collectors. Then we put the pedal to the metal and head on over to Decatur, Illinois for a tour of the Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum. In our final story we ill head to the country is largest vintage car dealership. So park it right here for next half hour of our company. [music] Hello and thanks for joining us today. This week, we ire at the place where EIU all began, the Livingston C. Lord Administration building or more commonly known as Old Main. This is the Cougill Foyer and one of the best times of the year to visit old main is during the holidays. Inside is the towering foyer tree and outside, a string of white lights outline the building. Now just a few years after old main was completed and our university is history began, history was also being made as Henry Ford starting manufacturing the Model T. We headed to Wallace Indiana to meet a group of people who collect, restore and drive these pieces of automotive history.

Theyre like rabbits they multiply. Ones not enough you know you need two and then it goes on from there. Uh it is a disease. [Laughing] I used to have a farming disease, now I got into Model Ts and uh it is all Nick is fault, Nick Ellingwood.    Meet cousins Nick Ellingwood and Evan Cork. Both are Wallace Indiana natives and both are Model T collectors. It was Nick who first caught the Model T bug back in , which eventually led him to buy an old garage in Wallace for his restoration work. This building it all fell in. It was a disrepair. I get twenty-five hundred dollars for the building and Evan and I worked all summer with his tractor cleaning all the roofing material up cause you couldn it walk from the other and put the joists up. This was in and here we go.    During the renovation of Nick is shop, cousin Evan, who was a car collector, started to change his mind about the Model T. He got me into it. The first year I owned three and I really didn it even like ëem. But, uh now I ive got eleven and uh we have a lot of fun, go to a lot of places, and a lot of tours, and meet a lot of nice people.    After filling Nick is shop with both of their collections, Evan decided to build his own, just across the street.

There was a house here that burned and I bought the lot, built the building, and then decided I id put in an apartment and move in.    While they both have their own spaces to work, Evan and Nick still work together on projects. If we get stumped on something you know one or the other of us can figure it out and it makes it a lot better with two people workin i on things. You need two more hands once in a while.    While they do help out friends with their Model T projects, the shops are not a restoration business or museum. But if Evan and Nick are here, they say people are welcome to stop in and visit. We are here more in the winter than we are in the summer uh and the doors always open when we ire here. You know you can come in and there is a lot of old guys come in and they ill tell stories. They ire some of the most interesting and sometimes private conversations that you get into about this stuff and it is all neat. Its part of America and how it grew and how it done.

Its great. In addition to his car collection Evan has an extensive collection of Model T bud vases, something that is hard to come by these days. They ire uh they was used in early cars uh in the twenties. In closed cars they had a little bracket that uh screwed to the doorpost on the inside and then the bud vase fit in that and then there was a little screw holder that would hold a bud vase in and then you id cut fresh cut flowers and put in there and that was the early car freshener.    While vases may be hard to find, the cars and parts for them are not after all million Model T is were manufactured. Henry Ford made the first car, his car, in and it was progressed A, B, and C up until you got to T in and he stayed with that T designation at nine. But there is Coupes and Sedans and Roadsters and touring cars and town cars and couplets he had a lot of ëem.

There  is a lot of people interested in this hobby. They do perpetuate the hobby, because there is people with means and knowledge to reproduce the stuff that you need. You can buy almost anything that you need for model T through the network of the Model T Ford club you know.    If you ask Nick or Evan both will say their cars are not show cars, they are for touring and that is exactly what they do. We collect, and we drive, and we have fun and that is what we do. We try to drive around we don it at one time I built a show car and it wasn it fun. You know cause I was worried about somebody scratching it all the time.    Thanks to the Model T Ford Club of America and its many chapters. Tours are held around the country and on this day we happened to catch The Indy club ride. This tour takes participants through the famous covered bridges of Parke County Indiana. Well our tour starts on a Saturday with a short tour on Saturday and a full day tour Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and a short day on Wednesday. We go from New Hampshire California, Wisconsin, Florida, yup we got Arizona. We got a lot of stuff going on.    On this day of the tour, one destination was Wallace that included a visit to Nick and Evan is shops as well as lunch at the CafÈ. Even though the weather was a bit chilly, especially if you were riding in a convertible, these motorists don it seem to mind and neither do their legged companions.    

Events like these really showcase the many styles and colors; nope they weren it all black, of the Model T. It gives people who love these cars a chance to swap stories, share advice and even get some roadside assistance. They ire all sharing the same problem hoping the Model T gets there. Hoping it gets there without breaking down you know and if it breaks down can I count on Joe to have some parts to fix it. So do you have to travel with parts? We do we do and we on this particular tour and a lot of official tours we ive gotten an official parts guy that holds a trailer full of expendable parts. This is a slower pace. You drive twenty-five, thirty-five mile an hour all the back roads and you see you see a lot more stuff. These cars are fun cars, they ire simple cars, they ire a challenge. You face the same challenges as the people that bought these cars when they was new. Keepin i them runnin i, innovating, and trying to make ëem better and tryin i to do better with them and they ire a great avenue to meet the people. The people are the hobby and you meet some of the nicest people in the world. For this next story we headed back to Illinois to visit a museum dedicated to Chevrolet. In Decatur, we met Lavelle Hunt, whose expansive car collection got so large; he decided to turn it into a museum. Yeah, I ive always been a diehard Chevrolet fan. Um you know, I grew up my family always had Chevrolets and I just you know I always liked the Corvette.

I always like the Camaro. I always like the Chevelle and of course those are all Chevrolet brands.    Like a lot of car enthusiasts turned collectors, it doesn it stop with just one car and Lavelle Hunt is no exception. It all started with a Chevelle and the rest, as they say, is history. After building and outgrowing garages at his home, he had the dream to one day open his own museum here in Decatur. So, when a vacant , square foot grocery store building became available, Lavelle purchased it and fulfilled that dream called the Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum. [music]    Specializing the Chevy cars and memorabilia, the museum is designed to impress as you step through the door. I just thought you know there is no better way to start it out with the current year Indianapolis pace car.    A big Indy Fan, Lavelle is pace car collection is impressive and includes the first Corvette pace car from as well as the first Camero Pace Car from . These are actual pace cars that were used at the Indianapolis for each year, but they didn it actually pace the race.

They were used for pace car duties, festival car duties, track car duties and executive people for the Indianapolis motor speedway or for the festival committee drove these cars. This particular car here was assigned to the Indianapolis police department.    It is also the one that Lavelle let me drive, around the parking lot that is. Since I wasn it taking this one home with me, it was back inside to see more. But, we start with the Corvettes uh from . We actually have a and a ë coming into the museum, but the earliest one we have in here on display right now is a . Uh it is a very, very rare car. It has factory uh dual quad carburetors. It has the off road camshaft in it. It has a lot of the original paint on it. Um it is a factory black car with red interior. And then we move on up into the uh you know  i, uh  i,  i, uh  i split window, which is a very rare car. That is the only year that they made the split window in the back of the coup. And then we go all the way up to uh here as far as the corvettes go all the way up to the Z.    

The museum also has a collection of Camaros from the oldest to the newest. It just so happens that the first Camaro that we have is the Camaro Indy pace car, um which also belongs to a very good friend of mine who is a well known restorer around the city of Decatur. He restored lots and lots of Camaros and uh he actually owned the particular one that is on display. But, uh we have the  i Camaro Indy pace car and then we also have the Camaro Indy pace car that was actually used in this year is Indianapolis .    This model is particularity unique and something you won it see on the highway. And this particular model that I purchased from my good friend that owned a Chevrolet dealership uh was called a BC, which is a police uh pursuit model. Um it was not available to the public. And I don it know how I ended up with it, but it was not available to the public and uh it was actually ordered special. It has the leather interior and a speed transmission. It does have the all aluminum Corvette engine in it. It has the uh no Cadillac converters on it and it is basically a non-restricted uh platform if you will. And uh so very, very neat car and it presently has miles on it.    Between all the vets and Cameros, on the walls and hanging from the ceiling are hundreds of pieces of memorabilia. It seems that uh guys that collect Chevrolets has just as much of a passion for the memorabilia as they do the uh cars themselves. Right along with all that is you know the memorabilia for each car.

You know all the signage and different things like that and all the Indianapolis memorabilia. But, then in the back we have what I have kind of turned into an old vintage Chevrolet parts department. And uh we have NOS parts from the ës all the way through today new parts through today and it is just kind of neat. Uh it is in an old display case from .    The museum about fifty percent of the museum is Lavelle is private collection with the remaining on loan from other friends and collectors. We have an old front engine uh rail dragster that belongs to another friend Paul Berry and then of course my good friend that owns Bullock Garages. That is his car that he raced for years and years and years which is a  i Chevrolet Camaro drag car.    And if you ire wondering, the answer is yes, Lavelle does drive every one of his cars in the museum. In addition to the museum, there is the adjacent Dreamer Diners, also Lavelle is idea. If you ire in the market for your own classic car, you can purchase one from the museums consignment area. But, if you happen to own one already and you ire looking for a place to store it, this is also the right place. We actually have an additional , square foot behind in the back of this building where we do actually do state of the art climate controlled storage. And that is a big part of this whole museum thing is the fact that we are able to do that.    With the help of many friends, family and lot of long hours on his part.

Lavelle has been able to bring his love for Chevrolet to the public. While he spends a great deal of time here, he also continues his career with Conseco Life Insurance. You know this is my passion. You know this is my life blood right here. This is what keeps me going you know. And a lot of people say well you never sleep or you never do this or you never do that. You know and to have something like this you got to work, work, work or you can it do it you know. It is been uh really really neat to see the way the thing has transpired and came along. I mean it is just uh you know um like I said the day we walked in it was just you would have thought that we were nuts. We worked countless hours in here and nights and now it is just really gratifying to see the way the place has came together.    So if you ire off the see the USA in your Chevrolet or any other car model for that matter. Be sure to stop by the Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum, located off US east in Decatur is open Tuesday through Sunday from am-pm. Some of our favorite adventures were ideas that came from viewers like you. If you think there is a place we should see or a person we should meet, let us know about it. Just make sure it is in the Illinois, Indiana or Missouri area. Drop us an e-mail at, call us at --- or send us a letter to Lincoln Avenue Charleston, IL . After seeing all of the cars in these last two stories you might be thinking that owning on might be kind of fun. In this final story, we ill take you to the place to browse and buy classic cars.    Sandwiched between an original stretch of Route and Interstate , sits a one-of-a-kind car lot that you can it miss. With an every changing inventory of cars under roof and another or so outside, Country Classic Cars is most likely the largest dealer of its kind in the U.S. and maybe the world! But this sprawling complex started with humble beginnings on farm site about miles away. After purchasing and then selling a rare Chevy business coupe, Russell and Anita Noel were able to reinvest that money and buy more cars. That is what got us started and the next thing you knew I had three or four and five or six and just kept investing. You know what basically we made and buying more cars.    

In a zoning issue at their farm forced the Noel is to seek a new location for their business. They told me we had thirty days to uh to basically uh move our business. And this was a corn field, so we bought it and uh we was going to put up a small building and I said well we ill at least put up a building that will hold a few cars. So, we put up our first building and then filled it with cars immediately. And we was just going to do like a little mom and pop you know just me and the wife was going to work here like you know four hours a day like we did at home you know. But uh right away we figured out and that is how we hired Tim. He come out lookin i for a job and we hired him and he is been here ever since, so almost day one. And now we have four full time salesmen and they do real good.    What started with one building grew into several more, each housing a variety of cars from the  is up to the  is. Vehicles are packed bumper to bumper and feature makes and models like Desoto, Hudson, Studebaker and Dodge, just to name a few. I kind of like to what I call reasonably priced probably something less than twenty thousand that we can sell ëem for. We have some nicer cars, but my favorite ones are the cheaper probably ten thousand dollar range. There is a lot more people out there that can afford those you know.    About every other weekend Russell travels the country purchasing cars for the lot. He ill also buy them out of the newspaper and take in consignments too. Their inventory moves fairly quick because these cars are priced to sell, not sit. And a lot of times we get a car in and we think well what should we price it at? And we price it and it sells right away and then we always wonder maybe we should have priced it higher. But my theory is you can it go broke making a profit.

So, [Laughing] we ive had a lot of dealers come in and buy uh you know several cars at a time. So, that tells me that we ive priced ëem right which means we bought ëem right cause we made money and they ire going to take ëem and make money. So that is good.    The cars here come in just about every size, color, style and condition, from turn-key to TLC. Full restoration is generally left up the buyer, but some cars will get a new paint job or interior work. Of the cars in stock, Russell says about % of them actually run. While browsing and kicking tires is common for shoppers, Russell does have a few rules when it comes to his cars. I don it like for people to open the hoods outside and let you know they don it some of them old cars you got to be careful to open the hoods. I don it like them opening the car doors and uh but they do pretty good most of the time. Yeah so that is about it really and if you ire interested why we ill let you road test one. It is really nice that people can come and look at ëem and you know and you never know they ill come back maybe and buy one someday but uh yeah we charge a dollar a person for ëem to look at ëem and I think that is reasonable for six hundred cars they can look at so.    With so many vintage cars in one location, Hollywood has called upon Country Classic Cars to supply vehicles for major motion pictures. Probably the first one was uh Ali and uh they had fifty cars in that movie and they rented forty-six of them from us. So, that kind of helped us pretty good, because uh you know we got the cars back. They did a little bit of tearing up. You know, they ate in them and stuff a little mess needed cleaned up. But that was really good so course then that enabled us to buy more cars.    With access to classic cars on a daily basis, you might think that Russell has amassed quite the personal collection. Every once in a while I ill bring one in and we just bought one today. I don it know if you seen it up there a little  i Chevy Malibu. Belongs to an year old man he bought it brand new and you know that cars never been racked. It is just got , miles. That would be a good one to keep, but you know the trouble of keeping them. You ive got to store them inside and you know an old car you really need to drive ëem to and I just don it take time. But one of these days I might try to collect some for myself but not right now.    

For the Noels, they never imagined their hobby would turn into such and successful business, but now, they wouldn it have it any other way. When we opened this up we just thought we id have a little small business. Again we thought we id just be here like four hours a day. And have I told my wife I never will forget that when we opened up it was just some cars I said I id like to get eighty or ninety cars. And she said it is crazy to have that many cars. So, I don it know she probably thinks I im really crazy today with over six hundred, but she likes it. She likes it and I do to. So, I don it know I think one of these days I might want to retire, but then what would I do if I retired. [Laughing]    So if you ire in the market for our own vintage vehicle or just love looking at cars, check out Country Classic Cars of Staunton, Illinois. They ire located just off Interstate and are open Monday- Saturday from am to pm.Want more information on the story you ive just seen? Head to our website at Check out our online episode gallery for past and present shows. Send us an e-mail or find out how to contact the people and places we feature in the show. That is That is all the time we have for this week is show, from Old Main, I im Kate Pleasant and I im Lori Casey, thanks for watching. our company is made possible in part by Consolidated Communications, offering customers high speed internet, phone service and digital TV service packages that include high definition channels, DVR and hundreds of sports, movies and music channels. More information on these services available at consolidated dot com.