Cuba’s Classic Cars: Catch Them While You Can

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.

Summer Car Deals: Buyer’s Tips

In a crappy economy, buying a new (or “new”) car isn’t always a happy event. From Forbes comes a list of four helpful tips to help you save your bank account and your sanity while car-shopping this summer. Hint: it’s not too early to start looking for back-to-school or winter wheels, and why outgoing models are often your best bet.

As inspiration, check out Gadling’s list of “Iconic Road Trips” across the U.S.

Demolition Derby In The United Kingdom: A Little Bit Different

Traveling through Europe you’ll notice that many things are just a little bit different from the United States. Like the Royale with Cheese (actually the Cheese Royal, Tarantino got it wrong), Europe has many slightly different takes on American icons.

Demolition derby, for example is huge in the United Kingdom, but it’s called banger racing. Cars race around a track while smashing into each other. Nobody cares much about who wins the race since the crashes and flips are far more fun.

The most popular car to use for these races is the Reliant Robin. These three-wheeled vehicles were popular in the 1970s and ’80s because legally they were considered motorcycles and weren’t subject to high automobile taxes. Lightly built of fiberglass and equipped with surprisingly powerful engines, they’re fast but top heavy, and liable to flip on sharp turns. This, of course, makes them perfect for banger racing. Check out this video to see what I mean.

VIDEO: Vintage Turkish Taxis

Millions of people get around Istanbul each day via dolmuş, a shared taxi. Similar to the colectivo of Latin America or the dollar vans of New York City, a dolmuş is generally a mini-bus or van that follows a fixed route for a fixed price. At the beginning of the route, the bus waits until it is full of passengers (dolmuş means stuffed in Turkish) before departing. You hand your money (theoretically a share of a private taxi’s rate, but usually 2-3 TL) up to the driver, and hop out whenever you get to your destination; there are rarely official bus stops.

The video above may look like it’s from the 1950s, but it’s actually from 1986. As recently as a few decades ago, the dolmuş vehicle of choice wasn’t the large yellow van you see today, but classic American cars from the mid-century and pre-war. Some of the vintage cars were customized with a third bench to stuff in more passengers!

Thanks to Turcopedia for the links and info.

Travel Hubs To Avoid For Memorial Day 2012

Holiday travel can be hectic, especially when it comes to transportation. Despite the potential to be a scary experience, AAA statistics show that 34.9 million Americans used plane, train and automobile transportation last Memorial Day. With this year expected to be just as crazy, Foursquare has compiled data from 20 billion users, to let travelers know what the busiest travel hubs are expected to be this Memorial Day.

Top 10 Busiest Airports:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to airports vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
2. San Francisco International Airport
3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
4. John F. Kennedy International Airport
5. McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
6. LaGuardia Airport (New York)
7. Denver International Airport
8. Boston Logan International Airport
9. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
10. Newark Liberty International AirportTop 10 Busiest Train Stations:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to train stations vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. New York Penn Station
2. Grand Central Terminal
3. Union Station (Washington, D.C.)
4. Chicago Union Station
5. 30th Street Station (Philadelphia)
6. Long Island Railroad Jamaica Station
7. Newark Penn Station
8. Union Station (Los Angeles)
9. New Jersey Transit Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station
10. New Haven Union Station

Top 10 Busiest Bus Stations:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to bus stations vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Port Authority Bus Terminal: New York, New York
2. South Station Bus Terminal: Boston, Massachusetts
3. Harbor Pointe and Shuttle Area: Anaheim, California
4. Boltbus Midtown Stop (34th Street and 8th Avenue): New York, New York
5. Megabus NYC Stop (West 31st Street): New York, New York
6. Megabus DC Stop (Union Square Parking): Washington, D.C.
7. Frankford Transportation Center: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
8. International District/Chinatown Station: Seattle, Washington
9. Hollywood Studios Bus Stop: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
10. Magic Kingdom Bus Stop: Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Top 10 Busiest Highways:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to highways vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Lincoln Tunnel: New York, New York
2. Bourbon Street: New Orleans, Louisiana
3. Lombard Street: San Francisco, California
4. Rodeo Drive: Beverly Hills, California
5. Huntington Beach: Huntington Beach, California
6. Long Island Expressway: Long Island, New York
7. Holland Tunnel Toll Plaza: Jersey City, New Jersey
8. I-95 on Georgia/South Carolina State Line
9. Brooklyn/Queens Expressway: Brooklyn, New York
10. I-95 on Florida/Georgia State Line

Top 10 Busiest Rest Stops:
Foursquare looked at the change in check in rates to rest stops vs. the same time window during the week prior to Memorial Day 2011 to compile these findings:

1. Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza: Newark, New Jersey
2. Maryland House Travel Plaza: Aberdeen, Maryland
3. Molly Pitcher Service Area: Cranbury, New Jersey
4. Lake Forest Oasis: Lake Forest, Illinois
5. Cheesequake Rest Area: Sayreville, New Jersey
6. Woodrow Wilson Service Area: Hamilton, New Jersey
7. Chesapeake House Travel Plaza: North East, Maryland
8. Grover Cleveland Service Area: Woodbridge, New Jersey
9. Charlton Service Plaza (Westbound): Charlton, Massachusetts
10. Des Plaines Oasis: Des Plaines, Illinois