This does it; I’m going to Cuba. I’ve been talking about it for decades, but I need to get there before the party ends. Look at this! This is a genuine rolling Salavadore Dali-mobile; a mid-fifties Studebaker updated in someone’s driveway or open-air garage. Yes, its taste is a bit iffy, but then so was the Studebaker sedan’s back then. And in many ways, it works surprisingly well, like the way those headlights are faired into the fender tops. And there’s an electric blue Opel Rekord wagon sitting there. Look at them all; it’s like a dream. What has Fidel been putting in their water? Enough procrastinating; must go….
ptfour posted this along with the “updated” Rambler and a few other shots at the Cohort.
I can see when relations with Cuba are eventually normalized (probably after a couple of Castro deaths) American car collectors swarming down there to buy some of the more interesting specimens. And there will be an entire sub-group at Barratt-Jackson – “Cuban Cars.”
It appears that Studebaker’s famous front fender rust was terminal even in Cuba.
Whoever did this did an amazing job of matching the character lines in the body. I may not be the biggest fan of the front end styling, but it could hardly be worse than what Studebaker itself did in 1955.
Holy carp! Now this is the ultimate retro car! New VW Bug, PT Cruiser, Mini Cooper, New Thunderbird, Chevy HHR and SSR, *OK* you get my drift, aint’ got nothing on this one! Well done Señor from Cuba!
I am both highly impressed, and equally, really feel for these people. Making the most of their situation, with such… creativity. You can tell they love cars.
I think the resourcefulness of working class Cubans could be a lesson to many of us.
+1 to Daniel M. Was stationed at Guantanamo in the late seventies. Never able to leave the base but have always been impressed with the resourcefulness of the Cuban people. My brother was stationed there before the revolution and said that it was nothing new. I think we may have been much the same before we became “disposable”.
+1 to Daniel also. The current throwaway mentality bothers me to no end.
I dont so much feel for the people who have to shoestring their 60 year old cars along so much as the folks in Cuba with no transportation at all.
I was there about 4 years ago, everywhere we went (including the middle of nowhere) there were hundreds of people crowded around bus stops waiting for a ride, a ride from something, anything.
Our tourist van guide would sheepishly ask if we minded filling the bus with additional riders and we would say “Oh yeah, pack em in”. I really wanted to talk to some of the “normal” people but my Spanish is so bad that it was hard to get beyond hello, thank you, and counting to ten…
I like the ’58 Cadillac in the background, someone’s daily driver just going on it’s usual commute
Heh, you’re a brave man, Paul, for expressing an active desire to visit the forbidden island on a public website.
Not telling the gang here anything they don’t already know, but apparently plenty of Americans visit Cuba every year by flying out of Canada or elsewhere.
Who knows where that ex. School Bus is from, but I wonder if it is a Carpenter bodied one?
The buses come from Canada. In Havana you see Montreal school board buses with all the writing still in French on the sides of them. In other towns they are still running 1970’s ex Montreal transit system GMC city buses.
We now know what the child will look like if a new London taxi mates with a 1950s Studebaker!
Looking at the shapes used for the headlight surrounds and grill, as well as the taxi yellow color, I seriously think that whoever built that car was aiming to evoke a London taxi with that front end.
This is the photo that I meant to add:
I visited Cuba several times back in 1999 and 2000.
Most of the American cars that I saw there were so modified, rusty, and filled with bondo that I doubt they would ever be worth restoring.
Very few coupes or convertibles. Mostly just sedans that did not feel safe at any speed more than about 25 mph.
In Cuba you can flag down almost any car passing by, and they would transport you as a taxi for a flat fee, so I rode in many of those old American cars.
Interesting country to visit, but I would not waste my time waiting for those cars to become available for purchase.
I’ve wondered how these cars could survive so long in regular use, and you’ve answered my suspicions about their condition.
Not only that, but few are running on their original powertrain (understandable).
Many have a Mitsu or some gawd-awful Russian diesel powerplant underhood. It is disgusting and the air in Havana is reminiscent of the 1950s in a large North American city.
Better get there soon, Cuba will discover used JDM cars eventually if they havent already and the old US cars will disappear.
JDM cars having their steering wheels on the wrong side for Cuba, used cars from the U.S. and continental Europe are far more likely to be imported into Cuba. JDM cars with steering wheels on the wrong side were common in post-Communist Russia, but the proximity of the Russian Far East to Japan was a significant factor in those imports.
Driving on the left is quite common in former British colonies in the Caribbean, and is even done in the US Virgin Islands, but on all of those islands the cars are primarily left hand drive North American market models.
Exports of used cars from the US to Central America and Africa is already such a well-developed trade that extending that supply network to Cuba would be a simple proposition. I assume that the same is true for used car exports from Europe to Africa and Latin America.
Not that I would expect them to, but theoretically, they could switch sides. Samoa switched from right to left in order to get New Zealand’s leftovers.
If Cuba ever opens up, I would expect that Cubans in the US would ship cars back to their family members.
That was to source cheaper used cars than LHD out of the US also JDM used cars direct from Japan rather than end of life vehicles from NZ
Anyone else notice the Rekord has AMC door handles?
Or more likely Volga ones which were all-but identical. British Leyland had similar ones too, and CAR magazine gave them a farewell article when the last car to use them (firstgen Land Rover Discovery) was discontinued.
Were AMC and BL handles the same or did they just look similar?
Oh, I’m sure they’re completely non-interchangeable, as are the GAZ-23 Volga ones (from the mid ’70s on, older ones have what look like Ford Maverick door handles)
They look just about the same, though.
I had been under the impression that the old American cars had faded out some years ago. Amazing they are still around, whatever their condition. That Studebaker works for me except for maybe the grill that appears to have been borrowed from something else.
Answers the question, if Studebaker were still around what……….
Commuter ’58 Cadillac. Amazing.
And I have your sound track for the trip: Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club, recorded in Havana in 1997 with an amazing group of old Cuban musicians and vocalists. The liner notes have a street scene with a couple of ’50’s American sedans, and the back cover of the CD has what I think is either a ’51 or ’52 four door Chevy. Put you right in the mood. Se volvio loco, Paulo, Ay que interesante!
I’ve had it ever since it came out. Wonderful.
Fantastic CD. Here’s the back cover from the Buena Vista Social Club CD. (The original printed version is quite fuzzy.)
Also of interest is the Wim Wenders documentary on DVD, also called Buena Vista Club. (The CD is a modified version of the documentary soundtrack.)
It’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours – the story, the people, the music, and of course the cars which figure prominently in the street scenes.
If you enjoy Latin music and old cars, it’s a win-win.
And here’s a typical street scene from the documentary:
I would so look forward to your take on the scene down there. Yup a 58 Caddy rolls by just like that. Probably a year’s worth of posts in that trip.
True; I’d probably have to start a spin-off site: Cuba Classics.
I watched a special on American cars in Cuba, (can’t remember which channel it was on), but they showed the determination of the owners to keep their cars running. They showed an old Chrysler that in the U.S. would have been long ago sold for scrap, the garage guys were painstakingly recreating copies of the frame structural members. The craftsmanship displayed was amazing! 🙂
This PBS documentary was a good one: http://watch.wliw.org/video/1317690969/
This Motor Trend video is a bit hit and miss, but the guy at about the seven-minute mark makes up for it.
The beady eyes on that “Cubabaker” remind me of a Nissan Juke. Perhaps Nissan exiled their stylist to Cuba as punishment.
The back window indicates this Cubabaker started out as a Studebaker Land Cruiser, which would be the longest WB and best fit for a Taxi!?
I’ve been to Cuba a few times,last 2012 my wife and daughter go every year, salt air doesn’t agree with me so better to stay home but I do have quite a few pictures of Cuban cars and so does my brother in law. I believe he started a website for the gems he’s found and photographed. The website name escapes me but I’m sure if you google it it’ll be there somewhere.