Tourists taking a vintage taxi.
When tourists enter Cuba, they are welcomed with a sea of vintage cars on the road, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. These cars from General Motors are usually used as taxis and the tourists would pay about $3 or more just to experience a ride in these miniaturised museums. They truly are a sight for sore eyes and the streets of Cuba are filled with these “collectable” cars although they aren’t as collectable as they seem to be.
Due to the Imposition of the U.S. embargo in 1962, the American car companies were no longer allowed to do any sort of business in Cuba. To add a cherry on top, Fidel Castro’s autocratic socialism prohibited the Cuban citizens to buy cars and only receive cars from the government. Since they have no junkyards in Cuba, a lot of these vintage cars on the streets have been maintained since the 50s.ß This brought about the surplus of vintage cars that have been seen today in modern day Cuba.
Externally, the cars look as maintained as they should be but are they authentic as they seem? So what’s under the hood? As it turns out, the engines of these cars are no longer the original setup but actually have diesel engines installed. Other cars would have hyundai engines installed due to the small budgets the owners would have. One of the taxi drivers, Carlos Zamorra, owns a 1952 Chevrolet Belair which he has maintained with a Nissan Jeep engine from 1995. It has been passed down to him from his father and he uses it to this day. Some of the unlucky tourists have been welcomed with a classic car pieced together by duct tape. Undoubtedly, this is why vintage car collectors are turning a blind eye to these classic cars in Cuba.
Mckeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance (a company specializing in insuring collector cars), expressed his disappointment when he took a cab ride in a 1956 Cadillac. “It looked really good. The guy turned the key and it had a Peugeot diesel engine,” as stated by Hagerty. He had said that Cuba was the “Galapagos Island” of cars because of the the cars morphing into their own species. “It’s just something else,” according to Hagerty.
Although these vintage cars have not be “hot” for car collectors, they had become the pride and joy of the drivers in Cuba. They have turned these cars into something that is truly theirs. As long as these cars a well maintained and taken care of, the Cubans can make these cars a delicacy that few countries have. They may not be collectables but they have become an experience to the tourists and locals alike. If ever a tourists finds himself in Cuba, he can be sure that he will be in for a treat with these old-fashioned cars with not so old-fashioned engines.