All photos by Eric Clem.
WOW, what is that silver car? What in the world were “they” thinking with those….bumps?
Considering Cuba is an island it’s amazing all these cars haven’t fallen apart before now. Pretty amazing/interesting modifications.
The silver car is a Renault Dauphine. It is much more recognizable from the front (as seen in Part 1).
CC’er Reubens added information about this car in Part 1 as follows:
Posted April 21, 2017 at 11:16 AM
“That Dauphine had a VW platform and by the way the rear wheels are hanging… the engine is gone.”
The “bumps” are air intakes for the air-cooled VW engine. The Dauphine’s original engine was water-cooled.
It very much has its engine: note the two twin VW stock exhaust pipes.
The wheels probably have so much positive camber because the Dauphine weighs less and/or because the adjusted the torsion bars to increase the ride height.
I’m not so sure it’s actually sitting on a VW platform. The VW’s wheelbase is a good 6″ longer. Also, the Dauphine was a unibody. But it does look like the Dauphine has VW wheels in the front too, so it either had the VW suspension grafted in, or maybe it is sitting on a shortened VW platform. Anything is possible. 🙂
I forget that the Dauphine’s engine was water cooled, I’m guessing it’s similar to /same as the 4CV? 🤔
Cuba is a bucket list destination for me. The wife isn’t keen on the food and general cleanness.
I am surprised by the number of British cars.
+1 re the number of British (and mainland European) cars present; I don’t think I’ve seen another article on Cuban motoring that’s pictured European cars. Most other articles favour a multitude of faded (or not) American makes and models.
Yay, the 59 DeSoto! And that black car I caught a glimpse of the other day really is a 55 Studebaker. That may be the nicest body modification we have yet seen here.
Some of these cars look like they may still be on their original running gear, like that blue and white 56 Ford sedan.
Finally that blue 59 Oldsmobile looks strangely bent up in all kinds of ways.
That ’59 Olds is an X -frame car. Those X- frames used to noticeably sag when we put them up on a lift. Doors sometimes wouldn’t close even if they weren’t rusted. I’m told that new shocks were often hard to obtain down there. Could that be why she’s twisted? Looks to me that 50 years of worn shocks might do just that.
Just went back and read Paul’s article on the GM X-frame. Great article!
i’m pretty sure my grandfather had a 1959 olds like the one here. even at five years old, i remember thinking that it was a very strange looking car.
The ’59 Oldsmobile and Pontiac were LEAST “strange” looking of the 5 mainstream 1959 GM lines. The book ending Chevrolet and Cadillac was where the wildness was! Buick sat in the middle, Makes sense, as the Buick body design basically dictated the architecture of the rest.
Cadillac and Chevy shared this frame concept. Oddly, I briefly had (in 1984) 1960 Cadillac Series 62 coupe whose huge doors closed like a bank vault! I’ve been lucky, My 71 Electra was also solid! (71 B/C hartop bodies are notoriously “jiggly”)!
Amazing how modern that Stude looks. If I had never seen one before, the positioning of the headlights is about the only thing that might clue me in that this car was from 1955 and not 1975.
I like the Mercedes
Curbside Classic heaven! Have to admire the ingenuity involved to keep these classics rolling for sixty years. Wonder how that blue, nineteen seventy Nova made it in since the embargo started in nineteeen sixty.
I was also astonished by the 1970 or 1969 Nova given the embargo. I’ll guess that it may have been built/assembled in another Latin American country and exported to Cuba as a used vehicle…
Argentina built ’68-72 style Novas well into the late ’70s.
Think you might be on to something. The “Nova” badging on the trunk lid of the US version seems to be “Chevy” on this one. Also, the tailights seem to be a bit different than the US version. Amber turn signals perhaps?
Beat me to it! Even under maximum magnification I couldn’t read the nameplate…then thought, maybe a Holden? – but with LHD that wasn’t likely. I know the Argies built Rambler Americans well into the 1980s as Torinos. Maybe am Argentine-built Nova?
Looking at all of these pictures of the Cuban automotive scene, I’m amazed at the absense of wrinkled sheet metal. Maybe with resources so precious the Cuban people are more cautious drivers than us Americans.
They’re also very good at body work.
I had the same thought as Hardboiled Eggs and Nuts, nothing is dented, plus I see the cars are old and worn, but they are intact! There seems to be a high level of pride in keeping cars complete. No missing bumpers here..
Also I guess there is a low crime level, as trim on these cars would be almost irreplaceable in this instance, and most of the cars have all their badges etc. Cuba seems like a society we can learn something from.
Thanks Eric and Paul for this peek into a really interesting place. Oh! and I’d go there just for the architecture..incredibly beautiful!!
You don’t get a sense of the true condition of the cars when looking at these photos. Most of these cars look good from a distance but at a close distance there is clear evidence of body work. Havana is a waterfront city and corrosion has to be a factor.
Generally, I took pictures of the nicer of the vintage cars or rarities (i.e. The Opel Rekords). There are two distinct types of taxi service using the older cars. If the cars have a more storied history such as the Buick convertibles or ’57 Chevies, then they exclusively serve the tourist trade. A lot of the pictures of the nicer cars I posted are in more touristy areas. There is a larger number of vintage cars that are really quite shabby, and don’t have the same reputations as the more popular cars. These serve as collective taxis for the locals. These are the cars with missing grilles, strange looking modifications or just rundown – the ’59 Olds for example.
The Cuban people are quite talented in the art of maintenance and adaptation, but a lack of parts and money fuel their enforced creativity. These cars wouldn’t pass muster from most at a car event in the U.S., but for me the beauty is the effort to keep these cars alive. The quality of the work is quite good, but I don’t anticipate many Americans actually going down to buy these cars. The modifications are way too extensive to reverse.
What an interesting mishmash of vehicles! Some are clearly recognizable as vintage American iron from the ’50s, while others have been so heavily modified you can hardly tell what they started out as. Was that a ’54 or ’55 Caddy in the one pic?
16th or so picture from top?
The red Cad sedan parked at the curb?
Looks like mashup of ’55 and ’56.
’55 bumpers (round exhaust port, front lamp above bumper).
However, lamp looks like it may be ’56 unit, relocated.
Looks like ’56 hood trim
’54 had a long “gill” and no “step” in the side panel, so maybe not much ’54 was in the recipe?
yes that’s the one! Whatever the year it looks pretty nice.
Oh, I gotcha now, just appreciating it.
I thought you were trying to reverse engineer the mix it contains.
Yes, it is a nice one.
I wonder if it’s propelled by a 25 or 28 horsepower Russian tractor diesel? LoL
No doubt the first time the original Hydramagic had a hiccup it was history.
What is that parked little yellow sedan that has been donked? It gives me the giggles. I thought maybe that it was a side view of the Singer, but on closer inspection it is a different car. That’s the cab ride I want to take when I get to La Habana. So many wonderful old cars, thank you for this time machine ride.
British Ford Anglia.
With four doors it would be called Prefect, but essentially the same car (Estate/wagons were either Escort or Squire depending on trim level). This is the car which the Hitchiker’s Guide character got his ‘nicely inconspicuous’ earth name from.
The Singer (Gazelle) may be a Hillman Minx with the contemporary Singer grille grafted onto the front as the grille doesn’t have the proper blended in support shape, or perhaps some Minx parts have replaced the originals.
The blacked out sections of Minx have been deleted the grilles were never blended in properly and the Singer sidegrille sections are both there, the ornate rear plate surround is gone but the front is Rootes correct they really did very little to distinguish the Gazelle from the Minx outside.
Edit it even has Singer bumpers though not Singer overriders Id call it the Genuine article
The rainbow of bright colors that are on the streets is a sharp contrast to American streets today.
Its getting more interesting three different 100E Fords now and three different MK2 Consuls yet always pictured together, The Singer is nice its an early model Audax and appeared to still have the original front suspension, tough little cars and hard to kill.
I wonder how many of the convertibles are converted hardtops. The maroon/white 55 Chevy looks like it started out as a 2 door post.
Earlier today I drove past a local donk shop with Caprices and Crown Vics painted in colors never offered by OEM, even a Mercedes W124 in a bizarre Robins Egg Blue repaint. I kinda view those donks in the same vein as those Cuban classics. Lots of effort spent on personalizing and keeping the cars on the road. In Havana, its about necessity, in the ‘hood its about representing. Either way I applaud the owners efforts, but the end product is virtually worthless as a vintage vehicle. Hopefully the Cubans will now have better access to repro parts to keep those cars rolling for another 50 years.
Espectaculo! Every picture tells a story.
If the Dirección General de Inteligencia isn’t listening …… I’d sure like to know how many owners have these cars passed through, and the various circumstances therein.
Meantime, I’ll go for the ’54 Olds 88 convertible taxi.
Showed a Cuban friend these posts and he loved them. He says that indeed, cars are too previous not to take care of and modify to keep running. Authenticity is not a big concern, but everyone wants a nice-looking ride, so they are kept clean and polished and painted as well as they can be. He left years ago but was obviously proud of their determination.
Nice bit of custom work on the F1? The duallies look just right on it.
Love the Wheels on that PEUGEOT 404.great shots.well done.
Yellow ’57 Pontiac convertible..rare and looking fine, my favorite among some great examples of US style and innovation.
Now that we’re trading with Cuba again, will there be an influx of parts user/new for these oldies ? .
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