The Cars Of Cuba


If you ever wanted to have chill inducing, iconic experience of driving, watching and enjoying retro cars there is no place like Cuba. Cuba is a real car museum of vintage cars and the only place on the earth where old-timers are not a hobby but a lifestyle.

Taking a trip to Cuba is like hoping into a time capsule which will automatically relocate you to the times no later than the 1950s. and this is one of the strongest Cuban potentials when it comes to not only tourism, but also authenticity and mark of the place. Having an old-timer today is generally considered as an expensive and sophisticated hobby and citizens of Cuba practically live that life.

Go to Cuba and look around you – you will see an old movie scene. American classics from the fifties and Chevrolet are among the most frequently seen automobiles. The reason that Chevrolet is something that you will notice so often is the fact that is was one of the most popular marquee cars before the revolution. Besides Chevrolet, you will also see many 1950s Buicks which still patrol Havana in the excellent shape, giving a special note of elegance to Havana’s landscape.

Speaking of vintage cars, there are many other that must be mentioned: Cadillac Eldorado, Ford Fairlane and Ford Edsel, Mercury Monterrey, Buick Super and Oldsmobile 88. However, it is not only about the American vintage cars which cruise through the streets of Cuba – you can see many Soviet old-fashioned models such as Moskvitch 2141debuted in 1986 and was planned to replace most of the cars from ‘60s, going back to the times when USSR and Cuba were trading partners. Besides Moskvitch, GAZ 2410 is one of the models which you can spot more than easily, since they were exported into Cuba starting in the late 1950s and more than popular back then. Besides American and Soviet classic, some Chinese and Korean models can be spotted, but not so often.

But where all that peculiarity and uniqueness come from? The answer is simple: revolution. And there is a strong connection between the cars and the revolution. Actually, cars are one of the symbols of the revolution. They are something like “revolution machines”, since they characterize Castro’s Cuba. If Castro had not come to dominance, new cars would have arrived to Cuba, since there would not have been be economic blockade by the US. However, history has its own paths and today we recognize Cuba as an island of classics when it comes to cars. A law which stipulated that vehicles cannot be younger than 1959 so the cars can be associated with the revolution is one of the main reasons why Cuba is real “vintage car catwalk” today.

All here, marooned in time, for Cuba the ambiance it is not 21st century, it is the 1950s again. Painted in all the colours of the rainbow, they sail through the streets. Depending on the condition, usage of the vehicle is different. Those well-maintained are driving tourists, while the other are used as a line-taxi, mostly by the locals in cases when 5-6 people go in the same direction and split the bill.

Cubans nicknamed the old taxis Almendrones. There is no official statistics when it comes to number of the vehicles, but it is estimated that today around eight thousand American cars from the 1950s are circulating through the capital

However, it is all fun and games until you really owe one. The main question is how those cars are maintained and serviced? There is a real philosophy lies under this question. It is really difficult to find parts for the vehicles – they are not only expensive but hard to find, since most of the models are not in the production anymore and embargo included prohibition of the replacement parts as well.

This is why Cuba is a country of DIY culture and hand-built parts. Since having an old car is necessity and not a hobby, like in some other countries, mechanics had to learn how to be creative – and today Cuba is the country with most inventive mechanics in the world. Adopting regular house hold items, exchanging, selling and trading them, as well as using soviet leftovers are some of the ways to maintain this more than a half-century-old automobiles. Those unable to repair are sorted to parts or saved for future repair. And this system of improvisation works – which is more than impressive.