While Cuba is best known for the classic American cars that still roam its tourist areas, not all the classics are American. There are British, French, German and other countries of origin represented. Let’s highlight some of the lessor known classics of Cuba.
Thus modified British Ford Consul in primer perhaps to be painted in a bright color soon.
A 1957 Opel Kapitän with slightly ill fitting GAZ-24 grill with a bonus motorcycle and sidecar combination lurking behind.
These Polski Fiat 126p are reasonably common in Cuba both in stock and modified form.
There were also a handful of newer Fiats about like this Regata 70. A bonus Mercedes saloon behind it.
A British Ford Anglia on the move. This one looked more original than most.
I am not sure how a few vehicles like this Mercedes came into Cuba.
Most of the bikes were small displacement Chinese or East European units like this Huoniao HN125.
Hillman saloons like this one are uncommon outside of the United Kingdom but a few roam the Cuban streets. They are likely are running Russian running gear.
A real selection here including a Peugeot 3008, Ford Consul and Simca.
Hillman Minx, Cuba style, with a mixture of parts.
An ARO pickup truck I believe.
Here is a Dodge Avenger based off the Hillman Avenger, which likely a very rare variant anywhere in the world now.
A more modern Daewoo Tico hatchback with roof rack.
A variety of two wheeled transport in Havana, Cuba
I believe this one is a Dodge 1500, another re-badge of the Hillman Avenger.
Here is a rarity, a Brazilian Gurgel, with a body made of Plasteel. I believe this is a X12 model.
Again, I am not sure how this Ford Fiesta Ghia ended up in Cuba.
Skoda Octavia, Peugeot 405 and others. The Skoda is riding high likely as a result of the transplanted mechanical components.
Another Fiat Polski 126p in a Havana street scene.
Modern Fiat Panda.
These little egg shaped short haul taxis are quite common.
What is not common is a modified Auto Union 1000 SP.
This Austin A95 Westminster appeared to be in great shape and I saw it on the move quite often.
A Cuban Ambulance, this time a Chinese Jinbei Haise van. The Chinese have taken over from the Russians as the suppliers of capital and new vehicles.
A Chinese MG saloon next to a Chevrolet and Lada representing the American, Russian and Chinese eras of influence.
Another Chinese modern car, this time a Geely Bo Rui GC sedan.
Typical street scene in beach town of Varadero.
This one puzzled me when I was there was later identified as a Datsun 1000 with a modified front end.
A couple Cuban hodgepodge cars. The red one is a mix of Ford Falcons but the white one is a bit of mystery. Cuba is a wonderful place to visit and a car spotter’s paradise.
The three part Cuba series:
That 1960 Chevy in Varadero looks beautiful, although I don’t know how it will ever get out of that parking spot.
Not too hard to work out how the W123 got there.
Remember all those tales of hardy Cubans who drove their old cars across the waters to the US in the ’80’s? Well, obviously, the Mercedes was what they were trading the oldie in upon – and which they then drove back to Cuba. No?
What IS hard to fathom is why the ancient English iron would be there. Proximity to the Anglo colonies in the Caribbean, perhaps? Also, unlike the faded glamour in the US stuff, I’m not sure how anyone could be bothered keeping keeping something such as a pongy old Anglia going now.
Great pics, Mr S.
Got welding torch? Everything fits.
I’ve heard that Cuba is home to some very desirable sports cars. Supposedly there are gull wing Mercedes, BMW 507’s, and early Carreras in people’s yards. They’re usually half hidden under tarps awaiting a restoration. But, the story goes, local laws make it difficult to buy them and ship them to the States.
Not just difficult, impossible. Tourists don’t even use the real currency.
With the garden variety old cars most of them are so bodged after 60 years of continuous use they’re not really that desireable as classics anyway. Better to just leave them there to enjoy in their natural environment.
We brought items and supplies to give as tips to drivers, maids, etc instead of the tourist dollars since we heard that is preferred.
Not only that, but when I visited Cuba a few years ago I was told it was illegal to export the old cars. They want to make sure, if the US embargo is ever lifted (which admittedly seemed a lot more likely in 2015 when I was there than it does now), that American collectors can’t swoop in and buy up all their old cars, since they’ve pretty much become rolling tourist attractions at this point.
Great stuff, don’t recall seeing any English cars there. My favourite was the Dutch buses that still had the original Dutch destination boards on them. I don’t think that’s where this bus is actually going.
I think I baffled a lot of folks by taking photos of the “others” rather than the more obvious American classics.
Wild stuff. But quite interesting in that there is more modern and semi-modern stuff than one would expect based on a cursory reading of automotive-related reading over the years/decades; everybody (in the US) seems to only focus on the old American cars and the stories about what keeps them running, nary a mention that Cuba does in fact have the ability to import other vehicles from other places.
Like some other smaller countries (Iceland etc) there is a plethora of vehicles from all over the world roaming around, while perhaps not sold as new cars there (or perhaps they are as in Iceland et al?), there is little restriction on what can come over and when, either as new or used. Presumably if deemed acceptable in whatever home market it has, it’s accepted there as well.
Great shots, and I suspect you may look the same as our family when traveling, i.e. the wife and kids walking ahead and me/you scurrying to keep up with the group as essential shot after essential shot presents itself…
It must have one of the highest levels of automotive variety anywhere. Hardly any repeats in traffic.
We did not bring the kids along for this trip and I ventured off to Varadero for an afternoon by myself as the food did not really agree with my wife. I could not possibly post all my photos (I have hundreds) but they are a few more here:
Ah yes, the old “I’ll just nip out for a quick walk and shoot session while the Mrs. is otherwise occupied or taking a nap” move. Been there myself 🙂
Thanks for the link!
A very rag tag bunch! It’s rare to see a Ford Prefect with flush door handles, even with a hot rod look. The uppermost Minx is the original ‘Audax’ Series 1 from 1956-7. I had spotted the Dodge Avenger in Tuesday’s post, parked across the road from the ’55 Mercury convertible. Most likely it came from Argentina, though the blue one looks to have the Brazilian Dodge 1800 grille; seems they only built a 2 door version in Brazil so that grille is likely to be a transplant.
The red Mk.II Ford next to the blue Simca looks to be the Consul version rather than the Zephyr, but it being Cuba it might just be the Consul grille grafted on.
That last white car does hint that it too might have started life in the 1950s, particularly the shape of the rear wheelarch. Almost an Austin A40/A50/A55 profile.
Top pic with the the VW is a MK2 Zephyr the red one is a Consul, both Minxs are the small front screen earlies the top one on Peugeot wheels, yes they fit same bolt pattern.
Thank you both. I’ve updated the text to say Consul.
The white Avenger is, like you say, an Argentinian Dodge 1500. I can’t pinpoint why I know that, but it’s obvious to me as I grew up with those around. The blue one, I’m not sure. The grille is not the Argentinian model, but neither is the typical Brazilian. Then again, it might be chromed where I remember it to be black, or whatever. Of course, grilles, lamps, doorhandles and many other items are swapped for whatever is available when they break.
That HN125 looks like a copy of the Honda CB125 to me, with a different headlight.
Indeed it is a Honda CG 125. (not CB).
I had some of those. They are produced by the millions in China, from a dozen factories. Price is a trife. 900 Euros and straight out of the card box.
Could look heaps more attractive with a round headlight.
I am surprised to see an Accent in Cuba, guess they were sold there. Did they wreck it at some point given the Black bumpers? Also, the tires look beefier.
Great three part series!
Could the Falcon be from Argentina or maybe Australia, as the rear overhang seems shorter than a North American Falcon.
My brother did a short visit to Cuba, his car pics were nearly all American, which are interesting, but a bit of a clique. Really enjoyed this group of odd balls.
As I understand it the two door was never sold there so perhaps an American model updated/repaired with parts from Argentina?
You are right, Ford in Argentina only produced the 4 door Falcon (and a station wagon based on it, with many more constraints on the modifications than in the US or Australia). The only part that is seems identifiable as Argentinian are the rear lights, which come from the ca ’72 to ’77 model.
We need a Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack to go along with all of these wonderful old cars. Sitting here in an Ohio December, it is also wonderful to see you capture the lighting in the old Caribbean/Gulf beach towns.
The white car next to the red Falcon doesn’t look that old, even if it had been modded and updated over time. The fit of the molded bumper and tail light and rear panel, and the flush door handles look too well integrated into the shape of the body. Could it be a Chinese/North Korean/Iranian car from the eighties, itself based on some older body stampings? A true CC mystery.
In general, the re-use of components and the effort needed to keep these cars going, is a real testament to the creativity and energy of the Cubans. Their reasons for needing to do this are unfortunate, but the use of older platforms with more modern powertrains (even electric) has the potential to minimize the resources used to make new cars. Kind of the opposite of the glider kit model used to put old engines in new trucks here in the US. What started as a way to update worn-out chassis and cabs became a workaround to complying with newer emissions regulations and avoiding DEF, etc.
I should have mentioned the bumpers came off a Subaru Legacy (the badges were even moved over). You can see at full size the seam where the bumper was cut.
You can view a larger size on Flickr as well as the speculation of its origins. Everything from a Moskvich 2140 to A55 Cambridge was tossed around.
I only saw the back and side briefly as we were on a horse and carriage ride but here is another angle. The rear wheel arch looks rather Austin like.
Thanks for the additional details. It never occurred to me that the rear plastic work could have been adapted, so I guess the same could be true for the mirrors, door handles etc – even the lower body character lines seem more modern than the greenhouse. Quite a piece of craftsmanship, even if the styling is a bit awkward.
I am truly stumped. Initially I was sure it was a Moskvich 2140, but there are some serious differences, like the wheel opening cutout of the rear door. And the door handles are much lower on the 2140.
The Austin A55 has some similarities, but also some major differences.
It’s either something we’re overlooking, or someone did some very serious custom coach building. Probably the latter. Remarkable.
I’ll let you in on a secret Hillman sedans like that are very rare in the UK my cousin who lives there another Kiwi refugee attends a lot of car and bike shows and tells me he hasnt seen a Hillman like my one yet, still moderate numbers about in NZ and some in Cuba though,
Imagine – you live in Cuba and somehow scrape together the resources to get A CAR. You know you will never get another but you know lots of people good at keeping the old stuff running. Imagine your surprise when the best you can do is . . . a . . . Hillman Avenger? Oy! I think I would prefer a chopped up 49 Chevy.
JP, you sounded so much like my mother or gradmother with that Oy!…..:)
The Dodge 1500 was a complicated car, nice when it drove, terrible at the gas pump, and absolutely unreliable (at least in its Argentinian produced, Uruguayan assembled incarnation)
Chrysler actually tried to buy a big chunk of Borgward in the late ’50’s, but was rebuffed. Imagine if they had succeeded ? There might have been P100’s and Isabellas all over.
All great photos in your Cuba series David. Some beautifully shot images here. Really enjoyed this collection.
Is that a real life johnny cab halfway down ?
Very enjoyable series!
The stand-out for me is that Auto Union 1000SP — just wow!
I visited Cuba in 2006 and I remember seeing car from every late ’50s American marque except Packard and Lincoln. The oldest car I recall seeing was a Model A Ford — even my then-GF was impressed by that one. And the oddest was a series 1 Citroen CX. Keeping one of those on the road in Cuba must have taken some doing.
What a selection. To be pedantic, the Peugeot is actually the smaller, Europe only 2008, so what it’s doing there is a puzzle.
Favourite has to be the Audi 1000SP