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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!)



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  • 13 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Having been to cuba, there are a large number of older American cars there, some in very good condition, some beaters, some nicely customized.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I should mention that having been to Cuba that this is true. Although... if you go to Cuba do not expect to be able to rent one of these beauties (much less bring them back) ... you will be meet at the car rental by new japanese cars... usually SUV's (both of my trips I got mitsubishi's)
      • 8 Years Ago
      Luz, I really like your photos!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hi, I'm from Cuba myself, and yes there a bunch of "classics" on the Cuban roads, but most are "franken-cars", that is they are body and chasis American irons, but deep inside they're an amalgam of compatible and incompatible technologies and materials – some have American blocks with Soviet/Russian crankshafts and pistons, Volga trannies, UAZ difs, etc... and the interiors feature custom-made coaches of vynil, rags, etc. Some are ven painted with house paint... it's a lot of made-ups and daily maintenance to keep those vehicles running. Also, there are a lot of newer Japanese, Korean, German and French cars on Cuba today, as pointed by Pedro above most rentals and taxis are of those type.

      Regarding the people of the floating Chevy truck (pictured), after being repatriated and their truck sank by the USCG, many of the same guys did it again in a floating blue Plymouth (early-50's I think), and again were repatriated and their car sank. Today, most of them received visas to come to the States and many have already happily done so.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #8 GM management, (Lutz) should grab as many of his engineers as he can and go to Cuba to inspect these cars and see the kind of product GM used to provide. Then come back here and build cars that would last half as long as these did.

      That's funny, all the tales of cars from the 50s I remember indicated that if you had a 3 year old car you were driving a real beater. I think these cars have lasted this long because of the inherent simplicity of the cars and the people involved had no choice
      • 8 Years Ago
      my college photograhpy professor often took trips to Cuba to take photos of old cars (and the people)
      • 8 Years Ago
      Although it's too bad about the cars, Castro has ground far too many PEOPLE into dust. Cubans are very resourceful and resiliant. Hopefully, their dark days are soon over.
      • 8 Years Ago
      there are a lot of pictures out there that would have supported this article a lot better.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This photo is a year or so old. Shortly after it was made the Cubans were off loaded and the truck/raft was destroyed by the US Coast Guard using cannon fire. I don't know what happened to the refugees.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I remember hearing about that old truck which had been turned into a boat. The coast guard made them return to Cuba and sank their "boat".

      You know, if you can turn an old truck into a boat and make it almost 90 miles, I think you should be able to stay in America. Those are the types of people we should be weloming here, problem solvers and tinkerers. How many people in Washington or even in the Coast Guard could have done what those people did?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think most of you miss a point. The article shows a respect for those who engineered and built these vehicles. GM management, (Lutz) should grab as many of his engineers as he can and go to Cuba to inspect these cars and see the kind of product GM used to provide. Then come back here and build cars that would last half as long as these did. That would be about twice as long as the junk he makes now. Yea, technology, technology, bla, bla, bla. He still builds shi* compared to these things. " Quality, quality, ....must have left it in my other pants."
      • 8 Years Ago
      Cars for Sale in Cuba

      Luz Lopez Auto Sales
      123luzmaria@earthlink.net
      Havana, Cuba
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