Cuba’s Classic Cars: Catch Them While You Can

cuba classic cars

There are few places in the world where you can find modern Toyotas sharing the streets with Model T’s, and Cuba is one of them. The country’s abundance of classic cars may be the result of historic trade restrictions, but it’s also a key element of Cuba’s romantic, stuck-in-time ambience.

Why does Cuba boast so many classic cars? Until last October, Cuban residents were forbidden from buying and selling vehicles without the government’s permission. Only automobiles purchased before the 1959 Cuban Revolution could be freely traded, forcing car owners to use creativity and craftiness to make their existing vehicles last. By outfitting their old cars with replacement engines, fixtures, lining and paint, many have been able to significantly extend the lives of their vehicles, instead of sending them to the junkyard as we’re so quick to do in the Western world. In fact, most cars you’ll find on the street resemble a mash-up of different parts: a hubcap here, a dashboard there, topped off with a dash of house paint and often a Playboy bunny sticker.

%Gallery-159262%But last October, President Raul Castro (Fidel’s brother, for those unversed in Cuban history) announced that Cuban residents would now be able to buy and sell cars “without any prior authorization from any entity,” for the first time in 50 years. According to Reuters, the new law is one of many reforms intended to put a greater emphasis on private initiative, a notion that has largely taken a backseat under Communist rule.

While the new law is a definite step forward for Cuban society, it does mean that owners of classic cars will be less motivated to maintain their vehicles, now that they have the freedom to trade up for new ones. But during a recent trip, the new law hadn’t seemed to have made much of an impact – yet. The streets of central Havana were filled with propped-up hoods and self-taught mechanics, and on the Bay of Pigs was parked a perfectly preserved 1929 Ford Model T, at our service. “Original engine,” our driver boasted, beaming.

Still, change is in the air, and the chance to ogle beautifully preserved classic cars may not exist for much longer.

Cuba Eases Car Sales After 50-Year Ban

Cuba’s 50th anniversary

Cuba has a lot to mull over as it rushes in the new year. That’s because it’s no longer up to Fidel to make decisions about the nation’s state — particularly with regard to its relations with the world’s most powerful nations (Russia, China, and the United States to name a few…). It’s up to Fidel’s brother, Raúl, who officially took the reigns from an ailing Fidel back in February.

Fifty years ago today, Fidel Castro marched his revolutionary troops down to Havana and freed his nation from dictator Fulgencio Batista. It only seems fitting, then that this photo is Cuban propaganda that says, “Fight and conquer the impossible.” Let no one argue Fidel’s power and influence in Cuba. He entered the picture fifty years ago. The rest, they say, is history. Soon after Castro’s rising, the U.S. government banned exports and broke diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Bay of Pigs, the Cold War, Guantanamo are all marked in his nation’s history, indicating moments of victory, defeat, and uncertainty.
To be certain, this new year will be an exciting and perhaps tumultuous one for this Caribbean nation. The Guantanamo military prison, which Bush opened in January 2002 in response to the September 11 attacks, will likely close very soon. Some European countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, and Switzerland are considering taking in some Guantanamo detainees. Obama, once inaugurated, will likely open talks with Raúl Castro, possibly ending a near-fifty year cold shoulder and allowing greater ease in travel between the two countries. Citizens of both are optimistic.

Perhaps, when the next holiday season comes around, loved ones will not need to rely on web-based shopping sites to send gifts.