(first posted 4/20/2017) We’re going to take a vacation from our usual, fare and take a virtual trip to Cuba, thanks to Eric Clem, who just posted a raft of pictures from there that he shot just earlier this month. I’m also going to take a vacation of sorts, and just post the images, in sometimes random order, and leave all the commentary to you. Hasta la Vista!
What a great selection of vehicles! It shows how they’ve been working vehicles rather than ‘preserved in aspic’ Several seem to have had some interesting ‘updating’! Quite an eclectic mix. Nice to see many have owners that take obvious pride in them too.
Now that US-Cuban relations have eased, how long it will be before many of those ’50s classics head home?
I wonder if that Triumph 1300 is still FWD.
Rubbish, you say? Let’s see how many of us are still on the road, 60 years from now. More like remarkable survivors, I’d say. Much like the Cuban people.
I kind of like that ’58 Oldsmobile convertible in that color. It somehow changes the cartoonish elements of its style to something more playful and friendly.
That big Lincoln convertible is beautifully done. I like the way the rear wheel arches were opened up and their shape matched to the fronts. Even the fender lip molding was matched.
Rear fenders were extended quite a bit too, as you can see in comparison to the stock ’52 pictured below. This thing would have fit right in cruising Hollywood Boulevard in 1953.
The mods to the orange Lincoln make it look a bit like a Packard Caribbean from certain angles.
It’s such a nice job, I’m betting it was a custom owned by some sugar planation playboy before the revolution. This was not backyard work – the work extending the fenders looks like it was done by a pro. (May I add – the spare wheel tucked between the fenders makes the concept of a Continental kit far more appealing.) And note the neat little lip around the rear wheel. Not backyard work.
Some continental kits came with fender extensions. Here’s one for a ’53 – ’55 Studebaker.
I’d have to agree that most of them won’t be coming back stateside if the potential buyers get a good look at them. Lots of Russian truck parts and irreversible mods to keep them running. They certainly aren’t rubbish, they’re amazing survivors…but they would not be restorable at any reasonable price. I hope that in the future, after Cuba is free, some of them are kept as a reminder of the toughness and ingenuity of the the people. I built quite a few shortwave radio antennas and accessories from Arnie Coro’s program. He was a Cuban SW radio personality who had a technical show that could teach you how to make nearly anything from nearly nothing.
The probably highly modified Renault Dauphine in photo four may be the only one in regular use in the world.
I drove one in 1960 and it seemed as if the entire interior was made of cheap bendy plastic. I remember the shift lever as being vague in finding a gear. Of course that was 55 years ago and who knows how accurate those memories are.
Oddly, even with serious modifications to the wheels and probably most of the drive train, it looks like the rear wheel swing axle tuck-in is still there.
It is interesting how this salt water surrounded island nation is able to keep body and frame rust under control in most of these vehicles.
My brother and I had one of these in New York in the late 1960’s and it was already rusted through. Easy to work on. Even then, parts were somewhat problematic. I did manage to get a complete engine gasket set from J.C. Whitney for sixteen and change as I recollect. Our neighbor, Manfred, helped us R&R the engine. One of us lifted the back of the car and the other two pulled out the engine on a trolley jack we borrowed. You are correct about that vague shift linkage! Even with only 3 speeds there was a fair amount of guesswork involved. Haven’t seen one in many years.
That Dauphine had a VW platform and by the way the rear wheels are hanging… the engine is gone ..
These are incredible, for all their faults and dents and Russian Diesels. I went to Cuba ten years ago, and the only make I didn’t come across, funnily enough, was Lincoln. Saw everything else (even an Edsel) that the US had to offer in the ’50s. The weirdest encounter I can remember was a late ’70s Citroen CX — talk about a challenge to keep that on the road in Cuba!
As a nurse, (I am a guy, retired now btw) I worked with 2 guys that where “doctors” in Cuba. I use the term “Doctor” loosely because in Cuba, it was about equal to being a US Army medic here. They where nurses aides here. My point though, as Cuban Drs. They made a whopping $25USD a month. So these cars are marvelous tributes to ingenuity, and barter. They made brake fluid out of tree sap. One of the guys adapted a 24 volt battery out of a Russian tank to work in his car. Mounted it in the trunk. We used to joke growing up in western Pennsylvania, that sometimes a car was held together with wire coat hangers, and duct tape. In Cuba, those would have been Quality auto parts!
Oh, the guys got out of Cuba by lottery. One can apply, and maybe get lucky enough for an exit visa.
I like these cars, They may not ever be able to be restored, but the modifications look like they could have been concept mules for Detroit/Dearborn.
They are functional and interesting.
I can see repairs that were done by amateurs trying to fix them and coming pretty close for what is probably done by shade tree mechanics.
The intelligence it takes to modify these with the parts available is seriously amazing to me. ( I had to google how to change the headlights in my Dodge)
I hope they keep these around for a long time. It’s a big part of the history of the Country.
This is absolutely wonderful! When I see these cars I think about the people. What they have done with what little they have. And, the way they have personalized these cars brings a smile to my face. I believe that the owner of that Lincoln convertible has a thing for a ’53 Studebaker Starliner. Even the color looks right. And, who’s spirits can’t be lifted by the sight of that Renault Dauphine? A pink ’52(?) Chevy convertible? The ’56 Chevy four door hardtop following that little red sedan (which I can’t identify) with the British flag painted on it’s roof? They are the products of real imagination and are definitely loved. Many of these are four door sedans. Cars which, if they had remained in the U.S., would very possibly have been cannibalized decades ago. Doesn’t that Fargo pickup make you drool? Most of these vehicles have been kept on the roads out of necessity and for various purposes. That red and white ’56 Buick Special Sedan looks like it could give a GMC Denali a run for the money any day of the week. I hope these cars never come back to the U.S.. Someone would probably make rubbish of them.
THANKS for publishing these on the blog, Paul. I saw them on the Cohort…they just about took it over that day. What a bonanza!
Russian engines and fabricated parts? Who cares? I’d trade a few-year old Corolla, RAV4, CRV or Civic for one of these still-running, sturdy American veterans. They are a proud part of automotive history that deserves preservation as they are, not Concours-style, stuffed and mounted.
Sweet, I take it from the buildings that these are in Havana?
I’m a bit disappointed though, at first I thought that Paul had gone to Cuba himself. I think that needs to happen at some point. Seems there’s twelve categories Americans can go under, Paul could get in through journalistic activity..
Agreed, about the need to get there. Soon.
My son leaves for Cuba tomorrow. I just sent him a link to this and asked he take lots of pictures. Hopefully, some motors and interiors as well. May be another post coming.
These are workhorse machines that for the most part represent bread and butter for it’s owner since they are used as cabs. They are also a precious inheritance and have been in the same family since new. I have been to Cuba 3 times and find the people warm, friendly and appreciate your presence. I hope that they, like their cars persevere for a long time.
That orange 52 or 53 Lincoln is really something. It’s like a Lincoln version of a Packard Carribean. Too bad that Ford didn’t build something similar to carry the Continental torch. McGuyver had nothing on these Cuban mechanics.
There’s also a bit of Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton in it, with those Dayton wires! Wouldn’t be surprised if it was a direct influence.
I can imagine that some time around 1960, one guy thought “how lucky I am to have a nearly brand new Renault Dauphine while that poor SOB down the street is stuck with that ancient 48 DeSoto.” I imagine that DeSotoMan had the last laugh.
Not with the price of fuel in Cuba JP.
A Canadian friend of mine has vacationed in Cuba several times during the winter. Among the pix he forwarded a couple years ago was this one.
I reacted to the appearance of the Renault Dauphine: if you want quirky handling, that one will entertain you.
The Opel Rekord was an instant memory jogger as well.
The Ford Capri has been one of my favorites since it hit the road back then. I am not sure what the air scoops at the C pillar are for.
And I spied an MZ Motorcycle.
The vibrant colors of the cars and architecture are beautiful
The Capri caught my eye as well, as did the late 60’s or early 70’s Nova. Wonder where they came from as USA hasn’t exported cars there since ’59. Mexico, or Canada? And the air scoops are probably to cool the rear engine something or other they modified and put in the trunk. Could be a tractor, a stationary generator, or a marine motor, maybe even an air cooled be VW motor!
I keep wishing that Velocity will do a season two of “Cuban Chrome”. Every episode was fascinating following the guys trying to keep their cars on the road and getting into a car club there.
One guy even had his Oldsmobile re-fitted with some kind of marine motor that was cracking the frame. In full daily use as a taxi, but was the car he wanted to fix for inclusion in the club.
Fascinating, as well, watching a 58 Chevy convertible being brought back to life.
I watched a program on PBS years ago which was filmed in Cuba and featured restored cars and the people who restored them. The cars were gorgeous. During the restoration of one of the cars, it needed a new door skin. The guy cut a section out of an old fuel oil drum and fabricated one. You couldn’t tell the difference between it and a stamped panel. Those guys are craftsmen.
A similar thing happens down south in Uruguay
They can transform a 4 door car in a coupe and you just can’t tell it isn’t original.
MK2 Ford Consul has been Ladaised with the strut front end that probably wasnt hard to do.
Reminds me of a TV show I saw years ago called “$100 Taxi Ride”. The host would visit different cities and countries, and go as far as he could with an American $100 bill. One episode landed him in Havana, and the cab he hired was a ’57 Dodge with a drivetrain from a Russian Volga sedan. It was an interesting episode, and the driver had his work cut out for him just to start it and keep it running. I enjoy anythng that shows Cuba and its classic cars, and I’d love to visit one day.
! Pollo Con Pepsi ! (yum) .
The blue ’56 Olds 88 looks more like an Opel …… than Opels of that vintage, resemble an Olds.
MK1 & 2 Ford Consuls and a Triumph Toledo amazing that Toledo is mid 60s early 70s how did that get there its too new.
MK1 & 2 Ford Consuls and a Triumph Toledo amazing that Toledo is mid 60s early 70s how did that get there its too new.
I am not sure the UK ever had trade sanctions on Cuba. Sticks in my mind I saw an item in the news, in the 60s, of a ship that ran aground on it’s way to Cuba with a deck cargo of UK built busses. I remember seeing that and thinking to myself “huh? the UK trades with Cuba?” The UK certainly does not have trade sanctions on Cuba now. US laws that purport to penalize non-US companies that do business with Cuba have been a bone of contention between the US and UK for years.
The net is a wonderful thing. Found an article about that cargo of Leyland busses, on an East German freighter, grounded after colliding with a Japanese freighter in the Thames, in 1964.
Vist the Cotswold Bus Museum near Oxford England and you will come across a LHD Leyland single cab double decker bus .Part of a order for Cuba. Whilst sitting at the rocks a,pparently someone crept in and emptied metal fillings done the oil filler.. The saboteurs thought thanks would cause premature engine wear ……