Recognizing that car guys (and gals) are car guys no matter where in the world they live, the folks running this weekend's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance have decided to use a bit of "Car-Guy Diplomacy" to reach out to that bigger island a little south of Florida...Cuba. They have invited Ing. Eduardo Mesejo Maestre, Director of Deposito del Automovil (the Cuban Automotive Museum), to serve as a judge for the event. It's kind of like those ping pong matches between the U.S. and China back in the '70s, but, you know, with classic cars.
It's actually a first in U.S.-Cuba relations, for a Cuban national to be invited to judge a major concours in the States, believe it or not. In fact, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury had to grant permission for Ing. Mesejo to come here for the event, which runs March 12-14. For those too young to remember or too inattentive in history class, the United States has had a commercial, economic and financial embargo on Cuba, Cuban goods and Cuban people since 1960. Leave it to the car community to bridge that divide.
Cubans and Americans share a bit of a history with classic American cars, too. Since the embargo laws blocked the importation of new vehicles into Cuba, Cuban auto enthusiasts have made it a bit of an obsession to keep the best of the 1950s classics alive and running, relying on a lot of ingenuity to find or make parts when needed. Ing. Mesejo will join racing legends Denise McCluggage and Carroll Shelby in the jurying duties, Shelby stepping in for the recently injured Sir Stirling Moss. Fittingly, they will be judging the "Cars of the Cuban Races" class, an homage to a series of races held just in 1957, 1958 and 1960. You can read more about the event and Ing. Mesejo in the full press release after the jump.
[Source: Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance]
visits UNITED STATES To Judge at Major Concours d'Elegance
U.S. Visit Marks Possible "Car-Guy" Diplomacy
Among Enthusiasts at 15th Annual Amelia Island Concours d' Elegance
Jacksonville, Fla. (March 5, 2010) – A first in U.S.-Cuba relations, Director of Deposito del Automovil (the Cuban Automotive Museum) Ing. Eduardo Mesejo Maestre, will make a trip to the United States as the first Cuban official to judge a major U.S. automotive Concours, with his participation at the 15th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, March 12-14. Despite the commercial, economic and financial embargo that was partially imposed on Cuba in 1960, approval for Ing. Mesejo's visit came from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and the Cuban authorities just this week. The participation is heralded as a milestone in the collector car hobby and an important embrace of common interests between the two countries.
Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated substantially following the Cuban Revolution and have since been marked by tension and confrontation on diplomatic talents. However, similar to a symbolic "Ping Pong" diplomacy, which forever changed the U.S.' relations with China in the 1970s, Ing. Mesejo's visit signifies a possible "car-guy" diplomacy among enthusiasts, surpassing any preceding political barriers.
There is an important link to American history and the automotive heritage of Cuba; as embargo laws prevented the importation of vehicles to Cuba, Cuban enthusiasts have kept some of the most beloved American cars of the 1950s alive and running through innovation, improvisation and creativity for more than 50 years. Though these vehicles have not been seen in the U.S. for that long, generations atop generations of Cuban families have taken care of and passed down these amazing American relics, in addition to other great collectible automobiles from around the world.
Efforts to host Ing. Mesejo at the 2010 Concours began in early 2009, when a group of Amelia Island Concours Foundation representatives led by Co-Chairman and founder Bill Warner, took a fact-finding tour to the capital city of Havana to meet with Mesejo, in an effort to learn more about the island's dynamic automotive history. On this trip, they realized that there is no difference between the U.S. auto enthusiasts and their counterparts 90 miles off Florida's coast, except 50 years of silence. The team then invited Mesejo to judge at the 15th annual Amelia Concours and after months of discussions with U.S. and Cuban government agencies, approval for Mesejo's visit finally came in early March. In this way, they hope to bring people together over a love of the automobile.
"Cars are a common language among enthusiasts worldwide. The passion that Ing. Mesejo and the Cuban people have for the automobile transcends all geo-political boundaries, and we hope that this is the beginning of great things to come because Cuba has a tremendous automotive racing heritage," said Warner. "Our goal isn't to make a political statement, but to simply extend a hand to car guys around the world who share a bond through their love of the automobile. Ultimately, we hope that hobbyists from America and Cuba will one day be able to enjoy these cars together, car guy to car guy."
During the Amelia Concours, Ing. Mesejo will join racing legends Denise McCluggage and Sir Stirling Moss OBE, winner of the Cuban Grand Prix in 1958 and also in its final year 1960, on a team that will judge the "Cars of the Cuban Races" class. These will include examples of the winning Maseratis from the 1957 and 1960 races, the Carroll Shelby Ferrari 410 and Phil Hill's Ferrari 335S. The Cuban Races were held only in 1957, 1958 and 1960.
Ing. Mesejo has been the Director of Deposito del Automovil for 16 years where he has become an automobile historian, while searching deeply about the unknown history of the cars in Cuba. He is recognized as the best consultant and the clearest source for people who would like to know anything about old cars in Cuba from the past (since 1898) to the present day.
About The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is one of the nation's most innovative vintage auto events featuring nearly 250 rare classics from seldom-seen private collections worldwide. The show is scheduled for March 12-14, 2010, at The Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. The show's foundation has donated nearly $1.6 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. since 1996. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org or call (904) 636-0027.
About Ing. Eduardo Mesejo Maestre:
Eduardo Mesejo Maestre has been the Director of the Deposito del Automovil for 16 years where he has become an automobile historian, while searching deeply about the unknown history of the cars in Cuba. He is recognized as the best consultant and the clearest source for people who would like to know anything about old cars in Cuba from the past (since 1898) to the present day.
He has written many articles for automobile magazines and is currently preparing a book entitled, "The History of Cars in Cuba." Since 1997, he has organized several Cuban Concours of elegance and rallies, and has founded the most important event concerning old cars on the island: Autos Clásicos.
He knows all the secrets about how the Cuban car owners keep their old cars running day to day without supplies in one of the largest fleets of old cars in the world. He is now finishing and supervising all of the work of the first professional restoration of old cars in the country as well as beginning his graduate research for a PhD in technical science regarding the extension of an automobile's life.
Mesejo has been involved with old cars since he was a child, and found his vocation learning to fix and drive his father's car. He graduated as an Automotive Engineer in 1985, and spent his first years as the head specialist of a national transportation enterprise. Since 1994, he has been working for the Historians Office of Havana as a member of its directive board.