MONTAGUE COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Once known for western boots and later baseball gloves, the Montague County town of Nocona fell on hard times in the 1980s and 1990s — but new life is pouring in. Eighty-three cars from yesteryear headed out from town on Thursday to cruise wineries and view scenery that local’s brag rivals the Hill Country. It’s the kickoff of Nocona’s second annual vintage car auction; an event that many say is a sign of the town’s resurgent economy.
Mayor Robert Fenoglio remembers the good times. His family came to Nocona in the 1870s and saw the town in its heyday.
“In the ’50s, when television got popular, the downtown really died,” Fenoglio told CBS 11 News. Then the railroad left, and eventually so did the Nocona Boot Company, which once employed 450 neighbors. When the boot company finally closed in 1999, many people worried Nocona would become a ghost town. But in just a few years a renaissance began.
The mayor’s brother, Dan Fenoglio, and another man started refurbishing century-old structures in the town. The architecture fascinated them. “This was actually a saloon in the 1880s,” Dan Fenoglio said as he showed off his current watering hole. “I gave $250 for this building and $250 for the next building.”
The renaissance caught the eye of oilman Peter Horton, whose wife is a Nocona native, and it helped convince him to come home. When he did, he brought his multi-million dollar classic car collection with him.
“We missed the little town and we decided to do the cars and try to save the building,” Horton said, adding that he feels it is important to give something back to the community. “Nearly all the buildings were falling down and we have our oil production here in this county so we decided to try to save them try to help the town because we make our living in this county.”
He created the Horton Classic Car Museum. Eighty vehicles are displayed in what was a Ford dealership in the 1920s, and a wing is being expanded to hold another 70.
“It’s just a real big shot in the arm for the community as far as the influx of money to the community,” Dan Fenoglio observed.
The museum soon gave birth to a new attraction — this weekend’s 2-day car auction.
“People like old cars,” auctioneer Peter Vicari, of Vicari Auction, said excitedly. He claims prospective buyers may live and work in big cities…”But they love to come out in the country areas in the small town.”
Vicari also argues that vintage cars are a better investment than money in a savings account, because antique vehicles hold their value. “And with the money nowadays worth in banks a little or nothing, maybe one to two-percent maybe if you’re lucky, people can buy a car.”
Now weekend tourists help boost the little town’s economy, feeding a cycle of success. Twenty-five of Nocona’s 37 downtown buildings are restored. “Really makes us proud that we brought it back,” said Mayor Fenoglio adding, “and we’re not done yet but we’re going to get there.”
Nocona’s 225-car Vicari Auction begins Saturday.
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