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Rare Cars, Trucks Ruined in Calif. Fire

April 20, 2003

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ A fire at a storage yard destroyed five rare cars and trucks, including a 1916 electric vehicle that may have been one of only a handful left in the world.

The 1916 Rauch and Lang Electric, a boxy car that resembled a horse-drawn buggy, was lost when a blaze broke out early Friday at the L&N Uniform Supply Co. storage yard.

The fire caused more than $1 million in damage, fire Capt. Tony Espinosa said. The cause was under investigation.

Leonard Nowakowski, 83, believes the Electric, which he spent eight years restoring, was one of only three or four remaining. The value of the car couldn’t be determined.

Nowakowski, 83, of Santa Ana, founded the uniform company and owns a fleet of 30 antique cars. Besides the Electric, the fire destroyed a 1906 International Harvester Hi-Wheel; a 1923 Ford panel truck; a 1952 Studebaker and a 1972 Volvo Sportwagon.

``The cream of the crop was destroyed,″ Nowakowski said.

Electric and steam-driven vehicles dominated the car market at the turn of the century but gasoline-powered motors had taken over by 1915, said Roberta Watkins, a researcher for the La Mesa-based Horseless Carriage Foundation.

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