Jan 182015

Wow, I got to see the backseat of a ‘56 Chevy again. – William Madar

DSC_7701So you have heard about the great 1950s American cars of Havana, they make a great photo op and are in every promotional and tourist picture of Havana you have ever seen.

What you don’t know is the fact that they are everywhere, no, not just as taxis in Havana for photo opportunities. They, and the Russian Lada are essentially the only cars available in all of Cuba

You will see them in the countryside, in the cities and along every road in-between.

They are in every conceivable condition, in every conceivable color and are held together with more Bondo than is annualy sold in the entire state of California.

On our last day we got to do the one touristy thing that everyone must do.  Ride in a convoy of old cars.

I asked our driver about his car as best I could. Tires… he can find a dealer to bring them in from the US, but it is very difficult and he gets a new set of tires about once every three years.

You have heard of the ability of mechanics to manufacture parts, true, but there are also dealers for this, however parts may take as much as three months to acquire.

Many people think that once Cuba opens up they are going to be able to fly down and pick up a great classic car, not so. The cars are so jerry-rigged as to be nothing more than a great look with nothing original on them.

I predict there will be a great market in the logos and hood ornaments, but not much else.

What I truly hope is that the Cubans realize they are such a part of Havana that they make them city treasures, restore them and require they stay on the streets of Havana as cabs.



Ken Maize sent me his observations of the cars in Cuba, I am grateful to have a more educated point of view to add:

“There are actually three generations of cars: the pre-1959 American iron, the Russian Ladas (Gustavo joked that you have to be a religious person to own a Lada, because it takes faith to believe that the Lada is actually a car), and, most recently, many newer models from South Korea, Japan, France, and, surprisingly, Germany. I saw at least 10 new or nearly new Audi models during the trip, most but not all in Havana.

Strangely, in Havana I saw a lot of 1970s VW beetles and none anywhere else. And a complete anomaly: in the taxi line at the croc farm there was a 1990s vintage Dodge Caravan minivan. How the hell did that get there?”


















The Russian Lada is no easier to maintain, soon after returning to the states PRI did a fun piece of Cubans, Floridians, Russians and the Lada – Here it is for your listening pleasure.


The Lada

The Lada