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Looking back on a loss
Hobbyist vows to start anew after flames claim classic cars
Burnt Karr Cars 2 es
Mike Brehl, an employee of Jimmy Evans, and Trevor Evans, 16, Evans' son, look through the window of what was a storage building. Lightning hit the building on Karr Road Tuesday night, causing a fire. - photo by Emily Saunders

A recent lightning strike has Jimmy Evans starting over on a lifelong hobby.

An outbuilding behind his home on Karr Road was struck Tuesday night, reducing it and Evans' collection of classic cars inside to a heap of scorched metal and rubble.

Evans said the vehicles were in various stages of restoration, with some in driving condition.

"I collect the cars and I'm starting over," he said.

Evans, 45, said he's had one of the cars, a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, since 1983. His 1979 Chevrolet Silverado, parked on cinder blocks next to the building, was exposed to the flames, but not destroyed.

"I drove that to high school, so you might say I've been in the car business a long time," he said.

Evans also kept a 1969 Chevrolet Nova, 1967 and 1970 Chevrolet Chevelles, a 1948 Ford truck, a 1996 Chevrolet Impala and a Volkswagen sand buggy in the building. The fire destroyed all of them.

Evans' hobby is one he shared with his family.

"My stepson is 34 and me and him have been building cars for the last 28 years," he said. "Since he was real little."
Evans declined to estimate the total value of the cars.

"It's too depressing," he said. "But they were some pretty rare cars. I wouldn't even want to guess."

Evans and his son, Trevor, a rising junior at West Forsyth High School, had worked on the Nova for the past two years.

The 16-year-old said the loss is "a lot harder to handle than people imagine."

"You don't realize how much you have until it's gone," he said. "It really wakes you up though."

Jimmy Evans said their home, the old Grady Bennett home place, has been in wife Linda's family since the late 1930s to early 1940s.

He said when the lightning struck just before midnight, it sounded like a "big boom."

"We thought it was the house," he said.

Evans said his wife grabbed her wedding rings and purse and he grabbed their dog as they ran out. They didn't realize what really had happened until they got outside.

"It went quick," he said.  

The building was ablaze by the time Forsyth County firefighters arrived.

"You never realize what firemen do until you see them get out there and go to working," Evans said. "I'd like to thank every one of them."

He said they were able to move a gas pump in the yard that dates back to the 1930s before the flames reached it.

Although replacing the vehicles may be difficult, Evans said one of the cars was insured and that he has homeowner's insurance.

Despite the loss of projects he shared with his sons over the decades, Evans was grateful that no one was harmed in the fire.

"I'm in construction and I've got some buddies I've talked to," he said. "We'll just haul the metal to the scrap yard, clean it up and life goes on."