CHESNEE, S.C. - Authorities estimate 50 Studebakers were among items destroyed in a fire at the classic car shop owned by longtime Studebaker Drivers Club member David Walker.
In addition to the cars, Walker said 20 motorcycles, a camper and a tour bus were destroyed. No one was injured in the blaze on Studebaker Road.
The fire broke out around noon Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Walker told news reporters that a catalytic converter caught some grass on fire at about 11:30 a.m. near the large shed and garage where at least 40 classic cars he's collected over about 50 years were housed on the land where he's lived all of his life. Walker thought he extinguished the fire with a garden hose. But it ignited leaves in the shed area and quickly spread.
“With the wind blowing, there was nothing I could do but look at it,” Walker said.
According to Cherokee Creek Fire Capt. Billy Bishop, firefighters arrived to find one of the sheds on the property collapsed and a tour bus ablaze. He told news reporters that eventually two of the three buildings at the scene collapsed, making it difficult to extinguish the fire. The cause of the fire, considered accidental, is under investigation.
Walker's interest in vintage vehicles is well-known in the Studebaker family. There are vintage cars on display inside the Chesnee Bantam Chef, which Walker and his wife, Sandra, have owned for about 45 years and where they still work five days a week.
The SDC forum was abuzz with words of condolence for the Walkers. “David and Sandra are some of the best and hardest working people I know,” wrote John Clary of Greer, S.C. “Any of you who have been to their restaurant know that they are also one of the classiest and best ambassadors for all things Studebaker.”
To learn more about the Studebaker Drivers Club, visit www.studebakerdriversclub.com.