CANTON — There are car collectors, and then there are serious car collectors.
Rex Russell began collecting cars 20 years ago and now has more than 80 cars, several antique pickups and three fire trucks.
The Canton Township Carnegie Library is hosting a fundraiser at Rex Russell's Auto Museum in Mentor. The event will feature a steak dinner and open house from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 where attendees can view and learn about rare and antique vehicles.
Thelma Woerz assists Russell in maintaining and showing the cars, some of which they offer for use at weddings and other special occasions. Visitors to the museum are allowed to touch, sit in and even drive select cars.
"If you sell your car to us, and want to take it back home to your family for a month, you can do that and bring it back," Woerz said.
The oldest vehicles in Russell's collection include a 1910 Maxwell Touring Car and a 1911 Mercury pickup built for use in the Chicago stockyards.
"It goes about 45 miles per hour. It just is really fun to drive," Woerz said.
Some of the more unusual automobiles at the museum are two 1919 Stanley Steamer Touring Cars.
"Nobody seems like they know much about a steam car," Woerz said.
The cars are powered by a steam engine with 30 valves, which is much quieter than a typical gasoline engine.
"It's not noisy at all," Woerz said.
The steam car's wheels have wooden spokes.
"It's been redone," Woerz said. "All day long, I can drive down the road at 45 to 50 miles per hour."
Another special vehicle in Russell's collection once carried a presidential passenger. Franklin D. Roosevelt rode in the 1937 Lincoln Model K V-12 Semi-Collapsible Cabriolet Limousine. The vehicle, one of only seven made, is an open-drive town car with a landaulet-style collapsing roof over the rear seat.
While the museum features vehicles from familiar car manufacturers such as Dodge, Buick and Chrysler, some from rarer auto makers like Hudson, Nash, Austin, Studebaker, Packard and Marmon can also be seen.
"Rex says he never has to look for cars; they come to him," said library board member Tracey Werts.
The steak dinner will be held in a building that also houses an 1870s opera house ticket booth, antique nickelodeon and vintage juke boxes.
The event will act as a fundraiser for renovations at the library.
The Canton Township Carnegie Library was built in 1921 with Carnegie Foundation funds. It was the last Carnegie Library to be built and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Adding in central heat and air conditioning would help keep the library's books — some of which have been kept there since it opened — free from mold.
Yet another major hurdle is making the building accessible to those with disabilities or mobility issues. Currently, a set of stairs leads to the library's door and after entering, more stairs must be navigated to go up to the main floor or down to the basement.
In looking at all that the library needed, it was determined that the best course of action would be to remove part of the east wall and add on additional space at the rear of the red brick building. The total estimated cost for the project is $400,000.
"We are committed to improving our library," said Kim Witt, library board chairperson. "Our town deserves a vibrant library that can better serve its people."
Plans have been drawn up for the addition, which would give the library room for more bookshelves, extra space with a kitchenette for meetings, handicap-accessible restrooms and an elevator.
Tickets for the Carnegie Library fundraiser are $50. To purchase tickets or for more information, email email@example.com or call 214-679-9018.
To learn more about Rex Russell's Auto Museum, call 785-452-3089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at email@example.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.