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Collector opening private car, antique museum for free tours

Klint Lowry The Suncoast News
Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 07:57 PM

Families are invited to review tomorrow nearly a century's worth of technological progress at the 2012 "Cook's Antique and Classic Car Museum Tour" at manufacturing company Component General.

Component General founder and owner Jim Cook will open the doors and offer free, guided tours of his private museum at 2445 Success Drive from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sunday. Cook inaugurated the tour last year.

The collection features rare, vintage automobiles dating back to a 1915 Studebaker and representing every decade through the 1980s. There also is a considerable collection of antique radios, cameras and other interesting items on display.

The event seeks to raise money and awareness for the Foundation for Early Learning in Pasco and Hernando Counties, a nonprofit organization aimed at quality early childhood education. The group provides preschool teachers, home-schooling parents and other educators with ideas and materials.

Cook, who sits on the foundation's board, is a firm believer in education. He grew up in Texarkana, Texas. After a stint in the military, he went to college on the G. I. Bill and earned a degree in electrical engineering.

He started his company in a small New Jersey basement with no money, no customers and no product. Today, Component General is a leading manufacturer and supplier of high-power electrical components.

"Without higher education, I would be back in Texarkana picking cotton," Cook said in an interview with the Tampa Tribune prior to the first museum tour last year.

A self-made man, one of the ways Cook has enjoyed his success is through his passion for antiques, particularly antique cars — enough of them that it warranted building his own museum.

Remembering his roots and what got him where he is today, Cook's journey came full circle last year when he decided to give the public a rare look at his museum as a way of supporting education.

"We keep the event free for everyone because when you start charging for services, you limit families that can come," Cook said, referring to families with multiple children or a limited budget. "Everyone should get to experience our history."

Along with free admission, there will be free refreshments, including ice cream, water, soda, cookies and cake.

Last year, 589 families took the tour. Returning guests are in for a few new surprises that have been added since then, including a "plum crazy purple" 1970 440 Dodge RT Challenger, a 1952 M38 military Jeep and several antique radios.

Though not required, donations to the early learning foundation will be accepted.

For more information about the Foundation for Early Learning, visit or call (727) 233-8291.