Carlos “Charles’’ Dascal loved shiny new cars, and even in pre-Castro Cuba, he had to have the latest model — every year.
So it made perfect sense that he’d end up selling shiny new cars, and shiny used ones, to drivers in South Florida, where he settled after fleeing the island in 1961.
Dascal moved his wife, baby daughter and parents to a Little Havana duplex and went into made-in-Japan stereo components, which appealed to his love of gadgets.
DYN Electronics made money, and enabled Dascal to co-found Continental National Bank in 1972. Set up in a trailer at 1801 SW First St., it was the country’s first Cuban-American owned bank, catering to exiles such as himself trying to make it in the United States.
It now has seven branches.
With the same cheerful chutzpah that propelled him from one business triumph to another, Dascal announced himself as the bank’s chairman in a cold call to Henry Ford II during the 1974 Christmas holidays.
He asked Ford for a Lincoln franchise — and came away with Midway, the first Ford dealership owned by a Cuban-American.
That year, Time magazine named Dascal one of 200 “Faces From the Future.’’ He didn’t disappoint.
Dascal went on to preside over not just Midway, but South Motors Automotive Group and Vista BMW: 11 showrooms in all.
Dascal, of Miami Beach, was born in Havana on Feb. 16, 1932, and died Monday of cancer. He was 81. He and his wife, Fanny Nieman Dascal, would have celebrated their 59th anniversary on Aug. 15.
A quietly generous philanthropist who chaired the Florida International University Foundation board in the 1990s, Dascal supported dozens of charities, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Epilepsy Foundation of South Florida, the Jackson Memorial Foundation Guardian Angels, La Liga Contra el Cancer, various arts organizations and the Humane Society of Greater Miami.
The family’s six Maltese dogs, which appear in company advertising, also share the couple’s Biscayne Point waterfront estate, filled with sleek white furniture and, every Sunday afternoon, the Dascals’ three daughters and their families.
They’d gather to gab, nosh, and listen to the patriarch’s stories.
“With ‘Pa,’ you’re never bored,’’ said granddaughter Gabriella Chariff, daughter of Jacqueline Dascal Chariff and Vista/South Motors Executive Vice President Jonathan Chariff. “He can talk for seven hours and it’s interesting and it’s true.’’
“He was king of the monologue,’’ her mother said. “He’d start a conversation, take it 360 degrees, then hit you with a zinger and tie it all up.’’
He could be “a goof, a promoter, the ultimate visionary,’’ she added.
Dascal named his grand home Villa Maravillosa, because that’s what he called himself: “Maravilloso.’’
An “electrical whiz’’ who had to have “the latest and greatest gadgets,’’ according to daughter Jacqueline, Dascal came up with all the ideas for BMW’s designers, some that the company adopted. He’d fly to the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland and track down BMW’s president so he could present his ideas face-to-face.