The first thing everyone notices immediately when they land in Havana are the vintage, pre-revolutionary American cars. 1950s Chevys, Fords and Oldsmobiles are everywhere. In fact, there is an estimated 60,000 vintage cars in Cuba. But seeing them everywhere in Havana felt like stepping into a scene of “Midnight in Paris”. It was surreal. It was like stepping back in time.
In its heyday before the Cuban revolution, Cuba was a huge importer of American cars. All this came to an end when the US embargo struck Cuba allowing nothing from American soil to be imported into the island, including spare parts to fix and maintain the cars.
Desperate to find parts to maintain their beloved vehicles, Cubans began refurbishing parts from the former Soviet Union and also used their creativity to care for their beloved cars, often sacred in the family. Some Cubans have made their own replacement parts or have even used common household items to keep their vintage cars running.
After the US embargo, Soviet Ladas, Korean, Japanese and Chinese-made cars became the new norm and can be found today throughout Cuba. Yet it is the vintage American cars that steals people’s hearts and brings Cuba her magical charm and allure like no place else on earth.
I must admit I was a little bit obsessed with the vintage cars. I loved them! A couple of times during my breaks I stood still on a busy street and snapped away, taking pictures of one old car after another, in hopes of capturing these idyllic creatures on film. Each and every car was unique and each car no matter what condition it was in, was well loved and driven with pride.
Here is my grand collection of pre-revolutionary cars that I saw on the move or along the side of the road while in Havana.
A reality in Cuba is that many taxi drivers are moonlighting professionals. Doctors, Engineers and other PhD’s who are fortunate enough to have an old car in the family and get a taxi license are either spending their off time working as a cabbie or even leaving their profession. Why? Because they can earn $25 in a day instead of $25 in a month as they would make as a doctor, lawyer or anything else in Cuba. That is communism.
Cars on the move
Cars around the Malecón
Broken Down Cars
What I found so ironic about the vintage cars is that some of the cars are in the same state of decay and deterioration as Cuba herself. Just like Havana with its deteriorating buildings, broken down sidewalks juxtaposed to her lovely restored mansions, old, rusty broken down cars are can be seen throughout Cuba slugging down the streets or pulled over on the side being repaired while completely refurbished beautifies pass them by. The irony of it all is so Cuba.
I thought your comparison of the cars to Cuba herself most interesting. Wonderful collection of these vintage automobiles.
Thanks Sue! There is just so much contradiction in Cuba and so much irony. Maybe that is why I loved it there so much! Always kept my mind spinning and thinking.
Lovely Cuba! Have you been there recently?
Yes I just got back from a trip about two months ago. I loved it.
Reblogged this on All But Good Articles and commented:
Thanks for the reblog! 🙂
wow beautiful cars
Reblogged this on anishkj8182 and commented:
All these are antique piece. They are more costiler than the new one’s
Thanks for the reblog!
Love these photos.. I wish us Americans could travel to Cuba 🙁
I am American! You can go but have to go on an organized “people to people” tour. It was amazing though. Hope it someday opens up for us to freely travel there though. 🙂
What a fabulous collection of photos! Kat and I also love vintage cars. But I must say seeing the cars actually in use looks like having gone in a time machine, so much more interesting than at a car show!! That must have been quite surreal visiting Cuba. Your article was really interesting. Thank you!! ~SueBee
Great collections of these handsome vintage cars! A big difference between $25 a day and $25 a month for them. Enjoy reading the post, Nicole.
Thanks Amy! Yes it is quite amazing isn’t it.
Cuba might have a gold mine on their hands with all those vintage cars. If they auctioned them off it would bring a lot of foreign capital.
jest love this blog , very kewl, being th old car buff and automotive restoration guy myself 🙂
I think i just spent time in Heaven.
Ha Ha! Love that Jo!
Don’t you have any more? Great post.
Actually I do have more car pics but had to cut it off somewhere! 🙂
So colorful, too. Seems as though now there’s a “color of the year” which tends to be a shade of grey. I love these colors.
Thanks Janet! So glad you enjoyed the post!
Love this post! I never knew this about Cuba.
Thanks! How is your garden coming? Our spring is so late here that we hardly have leaves yet!
Fabulous photos of these wonderful old cars, Nicol. Love the wedding couple’s wheels, but I think my favourite is the red Cadillac. 🙂
Thanks Sylvia! I love the wedding car too. There were actually tons of them going by on a Saturday afternoon down the Prado, the main drag. I just was worn out with photo taking at that point! Yes true…even me!
I have always heard that visiting Cuba is like stepping back into the 1950’s and you certainly have captured that Nicole. Great photos! Hope you are having a lovely Mothers’ Day. 🙂
Thanks LuAnn! Yes, every thing about Cuba feels like stepping back in time there but the cars were the biggest reminder of it and the first thing that I noticed once I stepped off the plane.
Wonderful photos – thanks.
SO glad you enjoyed! Thanks!
Gosh, these are incredible images, my friend. My sister has taken a lot of car photos when she’s been in Cuba, but it never ceases to amaze me.
Hugs from Ecuador,
Ha Ha…I know I went a bit crazy with the car photos Kathy but I just couldn’t help myself. I loved the old cars!!!