Friday, July 11, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Miami museum has 1,200 cars, bicycles, Vespas

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. - The classic cars lined up against an empty vintage gas station along a busy street in North Miami attract visitors to a much larger space right behind it.

More than 1,000 cars are on display at the 250,000-square-foot Miami Auto Museum at the Dezer Collection, including American classics, military and electric cars, bicycles, and more. The museum is so large that if every passenger on three 747 airplanes were given just one item from the museum, they could all bike, drive, or pedal their way out, curator Myles Kornblatt said.

There are eight galleries spread throughout two large buildings in a part of Miami not known to showcase collectibles, much less $25 million to $30 million worth of one-of-a-kind vehicles.

"We are a bit of a hidden gem," Kornblatt said.

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  • Jorge Ivan Vergara Salazar, who came from Colombia to Miami on a family vacation, recently visited the museum and said he was surprised to find so many rare cars under one roof.

    "Everything that you see in television, like James Bond and Indiana Jones, those are all marvelous things. You get astonished by the things that are here in America," Salazar, 49, said in Spanish.

    Real estate developer Michael Dezer, 72, started his massive collection as a teenager and has one of the largest Vespa scooter collections in the world.

    "I knew it was original before I showed up," said AJ Palmgren, a self-proclaimed Knight Rider historian who traveled from Des Moines, Iowa, to Florida for a family vacation. He made sure to stop at the museum because the television series about the talking crime-fighting car has been his passion since it first aired on Sept. 26, 1982.

    "It's very familiar. I've studied all of the remaining surviving original cars," he said standing next to KITT, the black Pontiac Trans Am that was featured in the '80s series.

    The museum houses the largest collection of microcars on display, including a Velorex made in Czechoslovakia. Some are so small they could barely accommodate one person, yet many were known for carrying two or three.

    There's also a Duesenberg Model X from 1927, a sedan with a rear windshield to shield the backseat passengers. It is one of just five known to exist.

    Among the most popular galleries is the Hollywood Cars of the Stars exhibit, which showcases automobiles, submarines, airplanes, and more that were featured in movies, including the BMW motorcycle from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and the Mitsubishi Eclipse from the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious, the first car the late Paul Walker drove in the series.

    The Batboat used in the 1960s Batman film and television series is there, as is the Batmobile built by George Barris for the TV show.

    The museum also houses the largest collection of everything James Bond, including the Aston Martin sports car the character drove in 1964's Goldfinger, as well as a massive glass enclosure filled with rows of books, toy cars, and figurines.

    "There were no James Bond vehicles that really survived the first film, so you have to get to the second one," Kornblatt said. That was 1963's From Russia With Love. The boat featured in that film with Sean Connery is "the oldest surviving James Bond movie vehicle," Kornblatt said.

    Some of the items are replicas, including the Cadillac from Ghostbusters. But a majority of the cars at the museum are originals.

    "The replicas are sort of like a great side dish because we have so many originals," Kornblatt said. "It's the idea that at some point, whether kids or enthusiasts, there's going to be something that makes them say, 'Wow, I've never seen one of those before.' And people still walk away very happy with what they see."

     


    traveltalk@phillynews.com

    Suzette Laboy Associated Press
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