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Published: 3/4/2012

Developer's museum shows off his wheel enthusiasm for vehicles

MIAMI HERALD
A 1976 Mercedes Benz limo with a heart-shaped hot tub is shown at the Dezer Museum and Pavilion. A 1976 Mercedes Benz limo with a heart-shaped hot tub is shown at the Dezer Museum and Pavilion.
MIAMI HERALD Enlarge

MIAMI -- Holy warehouse district, Batman! What are your Batmobiles doing here?

And that DeLorean from Back to the Future. And Magnum, P.I.'s red Ferrari. And James Bond's arsenal of cars, helicopters, and submarines. Not to mention the multiple miniature carousels, jukeboxes, bicycles, mo-peds, and micro-cars.

Real estate developer -- and extraordinarily prolific collector -- Michael Dezer knows the answer.

"I am," said the 70-year-old, "a collector of collections."

After decades of accumulating, he's brought the whole collection of collections together in more than 250,000 square feet of brightly painted, broadly themed warehouses in North Miami to display publicly. The showcase opened in February.

Divided into two buildings, which each cost $25 to tour, the museum boasts more than 1,000 pieces, including at least 600 cars. "Cars of the Stars," featuring vehicles that appeared on the big and small screens, will be most recognizable. But car buffs can also explore American oldies, European classics, bikes, motorcycles, electric cars, micro cars, military vehicles, and -- starting in April -- a James Bond wing valued at $15 million. Mr. Dezer opened a dealership in Las Vegas last year and plans to open a second museum there later this year; eventually, he intends to rotate vehicles between the two collections.

Michael Dezer, 70, showcases more than 1,000 pieces, including at least 600 cars, in two warehouses in North Miami Beach, Fla. He plans to open a museum in Las Vegas later this year, and he'll rotate the collections. Michael Dezer, 70, showcases more than 1,000 pieces, including at least 600 cars, in two warehouses in North Miami Beach, Fla. He plans to open a museum in Las Vegas later this year, and he'll rotate the collections.
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There's also an on-site art gallery, which opened late last year with two exhibitions: one dedicated to the work of former model and photographer Bunny Yeager and another featuring art that originated in Berlin. Plans include a wax museum and outdoor drive-in theater.

Mr. Dezer, whose cell phone's ringtone honks like a classic car's horn ("aaaaahhhr-ooooo-gha"), had kept some of the vehicles in a private collection at the Trump International Beach Resort that he developed with son Gil in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. Others of the family's properties incorporate classic cars and 1950s themes in their design.

"I've lived in Dezerland all my life," he said. "It's time to share it with the public."

He expects the museum to draw car fanatics but also baby boomers and families.

An indoor "drive-in" theater with seats in old cars will be available for photo slideshows or videos of the honoree. When not in private use, the screen will show old Bond movies.

Mr. Dezer doesn't think the North Miami location -- abutting railroad tracks west of Biscayne Boulevard and strip malls -- will be a drawback to visitors.

One of many Batmobiles is on display at the Dezer Museum and Pavilion. He also has a DeLorean used in 'Back to the Future' movies, and Magnum P.I.'s red Ferrari. And no collection of this size would be complete without James Bond's arsenal of cars, copters, and submarines. One of many Batmobiles is on display at the Dezer Museum and Pavilion. He also has a DeLorean used in 'Back to the Future' movies, and Magnum P.I.'s red Ferrari. And no collection of this size would be complete without James Bond's arsenal of cars, copters, and submarines.
MIAMI HERALD Enlarge

"Disney was nowhere, and it became a destination," he said. "We are not that far from anywhere. We think we are in a great location. It's an unusual location that you can have such a large building."

Just to make sure, the museum will send shuttle buses to Dezer-owned hotels and other lodgings, and will work with tourism offices, concierges, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and event coordinators to get the word out.

The tourism bureau plans to promote the museum as part of Miami Museums Month in May and also as a local attraction and meeting venue. Rolando Aedo, the bureau's chief marketing officer, said the museum gives tourism boosters something new to pitch. "This is yet another opportunity for staying in Miami and extending that trip by another half-day or day," he said. "It's further extending the visitor's experience."

Michael Dezer also displays vintage cars, including a 1940 Graham Hollywood, left, and a 1937 Cord 812 Beverly, as well as European classics, bikes, motorcycles, electric cars, micro cars, and military vehicles. He plans a wax museum and a drive-in theater. Michael Dezer also displays vintage cars, including a 1940 Graham Hollywood, left, and a 1937 Cord 812 Beverly, as well as European classics, bikes, motorcycles, electric cars, micro cars, and military vehicles. He plans a wax museum and a drive-in theater.
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