We have Fidel Castro to thank for saving all the old, wonderful, American cars on his island from export as tourist mementos. He recognized the iconic cars as part of the international brand of his country. He stopped their export and the government has created one of the world’s most photographed images. But, everything is changing in Cuba. Including the ability to sell property. Along, with the beautiful crumbling buildings that will get gobbled up through foreign investment, I’m afraid these beautiful, aging cars may suffer the same fate.
On our last night in Habana, our amazing tour company, Carlson Maritime Travel, rented a fleet of vintage cars for our drive across Habana for dinner. You’ve never seen grown men smile this wide on a Disney ride. This kind of fun can only be had in Cuba!
There are many modern cars in Cuba: Russian, Korean, Chinese, French. Modern cars are expense, explaining why resourceful Cubans maintain their 53 Mercury or 85 Russian Lada as well maintained as they can. They run on any fuel they can afford, diesel, cooking oil, doesn’t matter. Just don’t ride behind one. The black plume can’t be good for the lungs. Strangely, it was a smell that reminded us of our childhood.
If you want the same experience, make arrangements as far in advance as possible as the number of available, pristine cars is limited – you have to broker them through a government agency. Or, you can always hail a taxi, and enjoy a vintage ride that way.
Here’s our vintage car photo collection. Which one’s your favorite? Comment below or share with your friends. Just be sure to call them by their Cuban names: “cacharras” or “bartavias”
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