Hot Rod City

Aug 24, 2012

Michael Dezer is a renowned New York City and Miami real estate developer and has been a collector of cool cars since the 1970s.

His collection is eclectic. He loves micro-cars from the 1950s and ’60s; he loves “dream” cars; he loves television and motion picture cars from Hollywood; and all sorts of motorcycles and scooters, including a huge contingent of Vespa motor scooters and other Eastern European brands.

A Growing Collection

Dezer’s passion is collecting these “works of art,” as he calls them, and it’s what he spends his time at when he’s not developing real estate properties.

He’s accumulated hundreds of them, along with thousands of pieces of memorabilia, many of which are on display at The Dezer Collection, a car museum in South Florida.

Over the years, Dezer not only filled, but outgrew an 18,000-square-foot museum at the Trump resort in Miami Beach. He moved to a bigger 250,000-square-foot place and outgrew that too. So now, some of it is spilling over far to the west in Las Vegas at a place called Hot Rod City.

Hot Rod City came about when, a few years back, Dezer decided to develop some real estate in Las Vegas and purchased a property in the industrial area west of I-15 just off Tropicana. It’s in the shadow of a few well-known hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, and as new developments go it had a lot of promise as a destination resort, Vegas-style, for a new museum displaying Dezer’s continually growing collection of cars and motorcycles.

Then the bottom fell out of the market.

The upside is that for the past few years, Dezer has had more time for his real passion: the occupation of car collecting. And sitting on the property already was a big industrial complex with storefront areas, office space and warehouse space.

So, to make the most of the property without razing it, Dezer contacted Steve Levesque, a Los Angeles-based classic car aficionado and collector of vintage Vespas. Levesque operates a public relations firm called Luck Media & Marketing and its Las Vegas-based spinoff, Luck Media & Motors, dealing in classic cars, motorcycles, scooters and hot rods.

Together, they came up with the concept of Hot Rod City as a showroom and museum anchoring an automotive complex geared toward automotive-related businesses.

All Things Automotive

“It’s growing steadily and becoming a synergy between tenants,” says Levesque. “It’s like a one-stop shop for your car where you can find everything from tires to upholstery to mechanical work to a paint job. And, it’s a community of businesses that support each other.”

Additionally, Dezer has the West Coast version of his car and motorcycle collection at Hot Rod City, which includes famous television and motion picture vehicles.

It’s an interesting place to come in and see cars, and for Dezer, more convenient to sort and display the vehicles he gets from west of the Mississippi.

Vegas is a great place for this, he explains, because the city hosts several auto-related events including the Barret-Jackson Auction, the SEMA/AAPEX Shows, NASCAR racing, many other car and motorcycle auctions and ongoing events at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“In all it’s an automotive-friendly, car collector-type of town,” says Levesque.

Ultimately, Dezer has multiple goals for Hot Rod City. One is to showcase the vehicles, most of which he believes are works of art that the public should have the opportunity to see.

But he also hopes to make the most of the property. Hot Rod City is a brand concept that helps all the tenants and adds value.

Levesque says tenants are excited about the concept.

“First-time tenants in an industrial center like this have been coordinating and working with other tenants. It’s like a big family.”

On a Saturday in May, Levesque, the honorary “mayor” of Hot Rod City, presided over a Grand Opening celebration that featured a cool car and bike show, food, drinks, a live broadcast from KOOL 102.3 FM, biker babes, hot rod chicks, “Elvis” and a surprise visit from retired UFC champion Randy Couture.

Of course, a lot of the cars from the museum were on display.

Levesque says that after the success of May’s grand opening, a number of events are in the works, like more live radio broadcasts, Saturday car clubs, swap meets, tail-dragger meets, body restoration clinics, BBQs, music and a lot of car shows.

A Good Community

William “Willy” Salzmann and his son “JR” (Willy Junior) have been operating MCR Corvettes, a performance parts and service shop that’s been in the same location since 1975. JR says overall there’s been a positive change since Dezer moved in with Hot Rod City and gave the area a cosmetic facelift.

“There are more cars here, for sure, and nothing gets messed with any more since they cleaned up the place,” he says. “And we did get a couple of jobs from Hot Rod City, when customers who bought Corvettes from them asked for the neighborhood Corvette mechanic to look them over.”

Marc Brattin, the owner/operator of Las Vegas Choppers and Las Vegas Tattoo Parlor, agrees.

“It’s definitely a nice touch and a good group of businesses collected here,” Brattin says.

Carl Roberson’s shop, Carl’s Cool Cars, repairs and restores all types of automobiles. He’s been located in the area since 2009. He says he spent six weeks looking around for a suitable location after moving down from Alaska.

“I’ve developed relationships with other shops and we help each other out,” Roberson says. “If someone gets something in that they can’t or don’t want to work on, there are a lot of resources here. It’s a good community.”

Roberson says it’s an excellent location for his kind of service operation. “The complex is not razzle-dazzle; it’s older, but clean, painted and well-maintained.”

Other new tenants are coming in because of Hot Rod City, and are attracting even more business opportunities.

Dillon Cox moved in with his growing scooter dealership and repair business, DRC Scooters, last winter. Like Roberson, he spent a significant amount of time looking for a suitable location, and was attracted to the atmosphere and the other auto-related businesses in the area.

“We talked to the people here, and found the same mentality,” he says. “We like to have fun. We stick to ourselves and hang out and it’s a good bunch of people around here. This is probably the best location I could find for my business in Vegas. It’s a great location, the cost is great and we get no hassle from people. That’s why we moved in here.”

Plus, he says, business has actually been picking up quite a bit recently.

City Planning

With Hot Rod City’s plans to promote the complex and host more activities, more customers are bound to find it. As things progress, Levesque says other tenants will also be displaying their work.

It’s growing by word of mouth and Dezer’s collection is definitely a draw to the car enthusiasts. It’s a synergistic atmosphere, which is valuable to the tenants, as well as Dezer.

“I knew Las Vegas would be a great place to house a portion of my collection,” Dezer says, “but I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude for the people there who have made Hot Rod City so successful this past year. Their strong initial reaction to the collection reminds me of how great a car town Vegas is. They’ve also provided me with a great excuse to visit my cars and enjoy the city more than ever before.”