Dealership in HBO series sues after fire destroyed building, vintage cars

Facility was used in the making of 'I Know This Much is True' to depict a 1990s-era used-car dealer

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A number of vintage cars parked at the dealership for the production were burned | Poughkeepsie Journal photos

A car dealership featured in the HBO series “I Know This Much is True” has sued the production company for negligence after a massive fire destroyed the business and its contents, including dozens of vintage cars used in the making of the show.

The Ellenville, New York, car dealership seeks around $8 million from Calling Grace Productions, which filmed the dramatic series starring Mark Ruffalo for HBO. 

The dealer claims that a transformer used to charge camera batteries burst into flames after midnight on May 9, 2019, and that a security guard on duty had fallen asleep and was not alerted until explosions occurred when the fire was well-advanced.

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The 613 Automotive Group was ‘devastated’ by the blaze

Levi Hecht, a co-owner of the 613 Automotive Group, said that a year later, they are still devastated financially by the fire, the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper reported.  

“The business, basically, almost fell apart,” Hecht said in the Journal report. “We’re holding on by a thin string to keep this alive financially and physically.”

The 10,000-square-foot dealership was destroyed, as were about 30 vintage cars, some owned by the business and others brought in for the production. The dealership has spent more than $200,000 clearing away debris, it contends, which has not been compensated.

The dealership also claims that Calling Grace improperly stored and poorly controlled flammable equipment, and that they were in breach of contract revealed by uninsured and underinsured losses from the fire.

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In the HBO series, the 613 dealership is shown in several scenes, portrayed as a used-car business owned by a character in the story.  The show is set in the early 1990s, and the cars parked in the lot are older models.

“We were very excited at the prospect of our location being used by HBO to bring ‘Ellenville to Hollywood’,” Aaron Weingarten, a co-owner of the 613 Automotive Group, said in a press release. “We invested substantially in this business since acquiring it in 2013, and seeing it burn down in just a few minutes as the result of the negligence of Calling Grace and potentially others was devastating. 

“Despite clearly being responsible for the damages, Calling Grace did not even have the decency to clear the property after the fire, which has left us financially destitute and without the necessary capital to rebuild our business.” 

Neither HBO nor the production company have commented about the suit. The blaze remains under investigation by Ulster County fire officials.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

8 COMMENTS

    • Richard why turn this into a political statement?? Thirty vintage cars are gone never to be replaced. A business is on the verge of having to close it’s doors as a result of this negligence. That’s the sad thing. Let’s hope the truth wins out here and the 613 Automotive group gets proper compensation. Who cares if Ruffalo is left, right or center? FFS man.

  1. A true tragedy !! My name is Edward O’Shea. I’m an auto wholesaler that has supplied these guys with inventory for years. I couldn’t believe how irresponsible & RUDE the production company has been with these people. I hope a judge awards them even more money.

    • Mate, is that a genuine sentiment? Or are you having a joke. Two guys business and livelihoods burns down and you’re saying they deserved it!? You are a piece of work.

  2. Let’s take the high road on this no need to spread hate for people of different political persuasions. The fact is the dealership and owners are the ones who deserve the attention. How can we as car enthusiasts help out.?

  3. I wonder if the battery charger failure is related to the fatal fire in that scuba boat last year off the California coast where a battery charger also caught fire and killed a number of people trapped in the lower deck of the ship. Sue the battery charger company, probably made in china.

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