Working with wood, classic cars Millsboro Cruizers founder’s passion

MILLSBORO — It’s a vocational craft trade that has fueled Georgetown native George F. “Rusty” Rust III’s ongoing passion for woodworking and addiction to classic cars.

“I took a course at Sussex Vo-Tech in cabinet making and made a lot of money learning that trade. I took cabinet making and I’ve done thousands of items and sold them at craft shows and things like that,” said Mr. Rust. “And that’s how I made my money to build my house. I built my own house, in 1986.”

Mr. Rust’s full-time job is, as one might expect, glued in some way to wood.

“I’ve worked at Sussex Lumber for 41 years. So, it’s a great place to get discounts for lumber,” said Mr. Rust. “On the side, I do wood crafts and decks and things like that.”

Born and raised in Georgetown, Mr. Rust graduated from Sussex Central High School in 1976. He wasn’t much into sports or extra-curricular activities.

“I was in love!” Mr. Rust said. “I married my high school sweetheart — Denise.”

The couple resides in Millsboro in a home Mr. Rust built in 1978, the year they married.

They have no children. “We’ve gone through quite a few animals,” he said.

Wife Denise is a self-employed painter. “She has been for 30 years. She’s got a really good name down to the beach,” said Mr. Rust.

Owner of three classic cars, Mr. Rust was the car enthusiast who steered car owners from Millsboro’s fading Big Thursday celebration to the formation of the Millsboro Cruizers car club.

“I am the original founder of the Cruizers, back in 2004. It was the Big Thursday, and the chamber was the one running the car show back then,” said Mr. Rust. “We had talked about it in 2002, but in 2004 we really decided that we needed to take the money that we are making off this show and donate it to local charities in this area. So, we’ve been doing so.”

George “Rusty” Rust III with one of his classic cars: 1964 Nova station wagon at the 2018 Millsboro Cruizers’ Big Saturday Car Show.

The fundraiser is known as the Big Saturday Car Show. Proceeds are spurred by entry fees and a live auction.

A car club whose engine purrs for charity, the Millsboro Cruizers at this year’s Big Saturday event went over the $100,000 mark in charitable giving.

Mr. Rust’s first classic car served as his work vehicle.

“Back in 1986 I had to find some sort of transportation when I was building my house because my wife took the truck. So, I bought a ’63 Nova. That was my truck. I built the entire house with that car … lumber, ladders, tools, everything,” Mr. Rust said. “After we built the house, then I built another house as a ‘spec’ house and took the money and invested into that car and fixed her up as a classic.”

He subsequently added to his stable at 1964 Chevy Nova station wagon.

And with money made from his craft work he purchased at 1979 Chevy Impala. “That one is very rare,” said Mr. Rust. “There was only 1,000 of them ever made. I have No. 548 of 1,000. It was made for NASCAR. It is the two-door. Rusty Wallace drove one exactly like this car. If you watch the Daytona 500, they have a big parade beforehand, and they have a 1979 all painted up in Rusty Wallace’s colors in the parade.”

His treasured Novas are featured in National Nostalgic cards, similar to baseball collector cards. So is his Impala.

“My wife thinks I am addicted to these cars,” said Mr. Rust, who is 60. “But I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I just spend my time with old cars. It’s better than being in bars.”

Even before the founding of the Millsboro Cruizers, Mr. Rust was a driving force in classic car gatherings at the Dairy Queen in downtown Millsboro. He also triggered cruise-in events at Jake’s Wayback Burgers out along DuPont Boulevard in the Peninsula Crossing.

“Every Tuesday I run the Dairy Queen Cruise-In right here in Millsboro. I started that in 2001. I went to the Dairy Queen while they were being built and said, ‘Would you like to do a cruise-in?’ He said, ‘I don’t know what that is. What do I have to do?’”

“I said, ‘You’ve just got to provide us a place for us to bring old cars, and they go inside and spend money,’” said Mr. Rust.

That sounded wonderful to Millsboro Dairy Queen owner Bill Shook, who asked if he could back out at any time if it wasn’t working out, Mr. Rust said.

“I said, ‘Certainly.’ Well, 17 years later we’re still doing it. And Bill Shook at the Dairy Queen is an awesome man. He’s done a lot for us,” said Mr. Rust. “Also, Jake’s Wayback Burgers, we do a cruise-in there every first Saturday of the month. I started that seven years ago when they opened.”

Woodworking passion

“My grandfather was a big woodworker. I just took it over from that,” Mr. Rust said.

Motorsports interest

“I’m really not into NASCAR. I’m more into drag racing. I used to go to the big-boy shows up at Englishtown and Maple Grove for many, many years,” Mr. Rust said. “But as with every show I went to, it was always like a $500 weekend. I used to go four times a year, so that was $2,000 I was spending just to go watch drag racing. I said that $2,000, I can put into my old cars.”

Leisure time

“I am a Redskins’ fan. Is that good?’ I’m not much on the traveling thing. I like working with wood, wood crafts … knick-knacks, shelves, coffee tables, end tables. Nothing elaborate, but something nice,” Mr. Rust said.

Cruizer show locations

Over the year the Millsboro Cruizers have had several show staging venues. Their present home is land owned by Richard Cordrey across from Millsboro Middle School on State Street.

“We have moved to a couple different locations,” Mr. Rust said. “This is Cordrey Field. This is an awesome place to have a show. Richard is very nice in donating the property for us to use for this event.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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