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NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (AP) - 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 that includes 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, said curator Myles Kornblatt.
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.
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 while touring the museum.
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 on this trip because the television series about the talking, crime-fighting car has been his passion since the day it first aired Sept. 26, 1982.
"It's very familiar. I've studied all of the remaining surviving original cars," he said while standing next to KITT, the black Pontiac Trans Am that was featured in the popular 1980s television series.
The museum houses the largest collection of micro cars on display, including a Velorex made in Czechoslovakia. Some are so small that 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 car with a rear windshield to shield the backseat passengers. It is just one of five known to still exist.
Among the most popular galleries at the museum is the Hollywood Cars of the Stars exhibit, which showcases cars, 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 "Fast and the Furious" film in 2001, which was the first car the late Paul Walker drove in the film series.
The Batboat used in the Batman television series that aired during the 1960s was signed by the builder, George Barris, and the Batmobile (also a Barris creation) is also on display.
The museum also houses the largest collection of everything James Bond, including the Aston Martin sports car he drove in 1964's "Goldfinger" and 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. And that film 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 in the museum 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."
If You Go:
Miami Auto Museum at The Dezer Collection ( http://www.dezercollection.com/). Open Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is located off Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, about 7 miles south of Aventura, Fla., and 13 miles northeast of Miami Beach.
Admission is $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12 to see one of the buildings or $40/$10 to see the entire collection. Children younger than 5 are free. The museum offers special rates for groups, and Florida residents are also given a discount.
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