At least one of Autoblog's staffers is a sucker for the monthly 'Discovered' and 'Lost & Found' features British rags Thoroughbred & Classic Cars and Classic and Sports Car. Great 'barn finds' make our hairs stand up on end and constantly have us peering into farmyards whenever we drive through the countryside.
In this regard, at least, Cubans have it easy. Their streets fairly team with vintage iron, particularly American classics from the 1940's and 1950's. While this isn't exactly 'news,' Reuters has put a big number to the phenomenon: 60,000. That's how many of the buggers it believes are navigating the communist nation's roads, most of which are in states of tune that would make the cars' original engineers scratch their heads in wonder.
Given a 40+ year trade embargo with the U.S., modern vehicles are essentially unavailable, so many American classics have been pressed into service as cabs and private transports. With the availability of quality, affordable replacement parts being similarly non-existent, locals have taken to jury-rigging their rides with whatever bits they can muster- ancient Russian diesel engines, tatty Kia bits, baling wire, used cigar wrappers, anything. From the sounds of it, they're raising a generation of MacGyvers over there.
Cuban grand pooh-bah, Fidel Castro has announced plans to supplant privateer hacks out of business by buying some 8,000 Chinese cabs and busses. If El Presidente grinds the vintage iron to dust, it'd be a real shame. As it is, there are apparently some genuinely important classics lurking in Cuba, though efforts by American restorers and collectors have largely proven fruitless in getting around trade barriers.
[Sources: Reuters via CNN.com; HavanaJournal.com]
(Top tip, Evan!)