SURFSIDE, FLA. -- Step into the lobby of Michael Dezer's hotel and step back to a time when the jukebox played three tunes for a dime and the automobile had wings.
The oceanfront hotel is a chrome-and-kitsch monument to the cars of the 1950s, owned and decorated by a nostalgic condo king with a passion for boat-sized cars with tail fins.
The lobby of the Surfside Beach Hotel is furnished with a turquoise '55 Thunderbird, a '57 Studebaker Golden Hawk with silver fins and a red '50 Willys Jeepster. There are cars scattered around the hotel and a row of '50s classics sits in the front parking lot.
"I have an obsession with these cars," said Dezer.
The hotel is full of tire and oil company ads, Red Crown gas pumps, battery racks and other '50s automobilia. There is a couch made from the back seat of a '59 Cadillac, complete with tail fins and functional tail lights.
In the restaurant, diners sit in booths built inside authentic Studebakers, De Sotos and Chevrolets. The salad bar rests in the bed of a postwar pickup truck and the lobster tank is the dismembered trunk of a '56 Ford. The poolside bar is patterned after a gas station and there is a pink '59 Cadillac made of mosaic tiles on the swimming pool floor. Even the 220 guest rooms are named after the classic cars of the era. The ninth floor, for example, is the General Motors floor.
"If you have a car that brings back memories, the first or second car you made love in, we probably have the room," said Dezer, 46.
Dezer owns some 250 classic cars worth about $500 million and claims to have the world's largest collection of American postwar convertibles, from the 1946 to 1959 model years.
Some of them were rare and expensive even when new, like his 1953 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, one of only 450 ever made.
His single most valuable car is a 1928 Duesenberg worth half a million dollars. His favorite is a white 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, which he drives nonchalantly through the streets of Miami.
Its red twin, which appears on the hotel logo, stays in Manhattan, where Dezer lives when he does not occupy the hotel penthouse. He estimates the pair will be worth $100,000 each in two years, when they'll be 30 years old, but he has no qualms about risking them on congested city streets.
Last year he bought the hotel, a former Holiday Inn in the Surfside neighborhood at the north end of Miami Beach, and spent $4 million renovating it. The purchase was inspired by the need for a tax shelter, and the de'cor by nostalgia.
"I was always very nostalgic. This is like a Club Med for the car lovers of the '50s," he said.