Friday, June 28, 2013

Dezer Collection is a museum of weird cars and bikes

Here I am wondering how a normal human gets into a Berkeley sports car.
There was no Royal Enfield. Otherwise, the Dezer Collection Auto Museum in North Miami, Fla., was the fulfillment of every automotive and motorcycle dream I've ever had.

Or perhaps they were nightmares.

Jaw-droppingly weird is the most appropriate description of the place I can manage. You've been to carefully curated collections of "significant" vehicles at prestigious museums.

This ain't one of those.

Michael Dezer, a real estate tycoon and associate of Donald Trump, has crammed two giant warehouses full with every car, micro-car, motorcycle, motor scooter, Whizzer, bicycle and — yes, for good measure — every outboard motor that has ever struck his fancy.

Dezer and his nut-bar collection of magnificent stuff is the subject of a recent Forbes article by Hannah Elliott.

There we learn that Dezer's personal favorite vehicle is — no, not his Veyron — the Vespa. His museum claims to own the largest collection of Vespas in the world, with more than 400.

A Tatra. Ever seen one? Me either.
I am ill with jealousy. He has a Tatra, the Czech sedan with rear mounted aluminum V8 and swing axles! He has an Israeli Sabra sports car! He has three King Midgets! He has more teeny British Berkeley sports cars than I could count.

Walking through his museum is an exercise in repeating "I never thought I would see one of those. Well, one of those either. That one either..."

It's not the quality of the collection that impresses (although a Toyota 2000GT sports car can not have come cheaply). I didn't spot a single Bentley. The Bugatti on display is a replica. There's no XK-E. The "Ferrari Daytona" (so labelled) is the phony used on the "Miami Vice" television show: a Corvette in crude Daytona disguise.

The museum is a perfect trivia quiz for anyone who fancies himself a car buff. Placards describing the cars are few, and often wrong.

Doug shoots a picture, I admire a Postal Jeep and Marilyn Monroe looks on.
"This is a Rolls Royce?" my wife Bonnie asked, gazing at a worn Simca Aronde. No, but the sign in front of it said it was. Did I mind? Hell, no. I've seen Rolls Royces lined up like dominoes at other museums but I had never, until that day, laid eyes on a genuine Simca Aronde.

Thank you Mr. Dezer.

Our wives may have been mystified but my friend, author Doug Kalajian and I, were thrilled. We share the same train-spotting mentality, I suppose. We shook our heads at the sight of the Cadillac Allante pace car from the 1993 Indianapolis 500.

"It must have been a slow race," Doug commented.

Dezer has an example of the famously hopeless Siata Spring "sports" car. There's no MGA on display, but the museum holds an MG Magnette, a car (its placard notes with evident amusement) that MG aficionados viewed as an affront to marque.

Sidecar combination after Indiana Jones finished with it.
Yes, the alleged stars of the museum are its Batmobiles, the enormous James Bond collection and many other movie cars. Who cares? I was far happier to see a Postal Jeep, a vehicle so dismal that, at the end, the government ordered them crushed instead of auctioning them off when the Postal Service finished with them.

I was expecting to find a Yugo, but didn't spot one. Perhaps that is the genius behind the Dezer Collection: I was expecting to see a Yugo.

The Renault Dauphine caught me by surprise.


  1. Anonymous6/29/2013

    If you like them small go North!!!
    Always a fun time, you'll see actual runners rather than museum pieces.

    1. Link is to a microcar exhibit July 14 at the Larz Anderson museum in Brookline, Mass. Looks great!


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