For the next vehicle in our Cuba taxi series I thought we would do something Russian. I really hoped to find a GAZ or ZIL but the stars did not seem to line up for that. The local drivers of any of the GAZ cars we saw were either not taxis or not generally used by tourists. Perhaps they thought we would not have an interest in their car. Ladas were a very popular taxi but we received those in Canada during the Eighties so set my sights on a Moskvitch. We were able to finally flag one down and take a short ride from the Malecón to the Capital Building. Ride along with us.
Here is our approximate route. It went by in a blur so I suspect it might differ by a few streets but the start and end certainly are accurate.
We had just visited the Malecón which is a stretch of road next to the ocean with its impressive sea wall.
We went one street over onto Calle San Larazo to snag ourselves an interesting taxi . The advantage being that it was a rather more relaxed road than directly on the Malecón making it easier for a driver to pull over. We found ourselves a slightly confused Moskvitch driver who did not seem to understand our interest in his particular car with all the other choices around. A good number of the Moskvitch cars seem to be more geared towards private ownership or taxis for locals. Regardless he agreed to transport us to the Capitol Building which was an easy landmark to explain given my limited Spanish and his non-existent English.
The wild and wonderful streets of old Havana.
Here is a one minute video of the ride. Both the building and automotive sights are amazing and varied.
The interior of the car was very basic but rather a nice size for a compact car. Imagine a classic Datsun 510 for a rough size comparison. Overall I found it rather appealing but I tend to enjoy the odd and unusual.
The Moskvitch 2140 / 1500 was a refreshed version of the earlier M-408/412. The 2140 was produced by AZLK from 1976 to 1988 and sold under various names depending on the market. They were powered by a 1.5L four cylinder engine with a four speed gearbox.
My son managed to snag a photo of me paying the driver. The tight interior dimensions caused a small issue when I accidentally knocked off one of the interior panels when trying to extract my wallet out of my pocket. Despite the rather ill suited aftermarket alloy wheels I rather enjoyed the Moskvitch rather a lot. Charming might be the right word.
Our destination, El Capitolio, which is amusingly very similar looking to the United States Capitol building given the current frosty relations between the two countries. Construction was completed in 1929. It is not a mere replica of the more famous US building and actually has marginally larger dimensions.
As a result of our trip my son is likely one of the few Canadian teenagers who can identify a Moskvich versus a Lada from a hundred paces away. A niche skill no doubt.
At our destination a red JMC mini-truck and blue Opel are visible across the street. With Russian and French scratched off the list what else can we ride in for a taxi? Stay tuned.
CC Taxi Ride: Re-powered Citroen Traction Avant in Havana, Cuba
CC Taxi Ride: The Modern Chinese Taxi – Emgrand EC8
I noticed no stop signs or yielding to pedestrians…
Very, very few traffic signs of traffic signs. Vehicles definitely have the right of way over pedestrians. But yet somehow it works. Probably due to the lower overall volume of traffic.
I visited Havana and then the West of Cuba in 1999 from the UK. On many prior trips to USA I was very interested in riding in and photoing as many interesting cars as I could find. Cuba was a real treasure trove, as was Turkey back in teh ’60s and ’70s. The red ’50 Buick here was a taxi, most of the others were private cars but you could usually just flag any down and take a ride somewhere. In the west in Santiago I hired a car and drove around the west coast , hardly any cars on the roads there, a wonderful change from England. Took hundreds of photos, these are just a few interesting ones.
Another great taxi tour David, thank you. Excellent photos and clip. Must have been a treat to experience each of these rare ‘exotics’. The small quarter panel vent and longish hood (trunk?), had me originally thinking, this was a rear-engine design. In some ways, I prefer the vintage Italian-influenced styling, to the Lada. Designers managed to make ’60s and ’80s styling elements, work reasonably well together. Again, like the Citroen, the wheels lend the look of a die cast toy car. A Playart die cast this time, to my eyes.
Interesting, how the driver has an oversized convex interior rear view mirror. But undersized exterior rear view mirrors. Bodywork looks in great condition, for an old cab. In spite of the road dust, it doesn’t look abused. Roads are better than many in the US and Canada. Fewer utilities, and frost heaving, obviously helps. The cheerful paint colours through the downtown, does help offset the urban decay… some.
Really enjoying your Cuban mini series. Thanks!
The colours are definitely a treat – on vehicles, buildings and people’s clothing. We, in North America, seem to have embraced shades of silver and brown at the expense of any colour.
Overall the roads were in a reasonable shape but there was mismatched pavement and potholes in places. This road repair with a missing manhole cover was a little amusing.
can’t seem to add a photo… chosen a file (jpg photo) but doesn’t seem to be picking up
John, excellent chance the pixel dimensions of your photos are too large. I find less than 1,800 pixels (width) reliably works for me. Good luck!
Using RGB colour mode JPEGS.
Yes, if the photos are straight off the camera they are likely too large. You can use a program to re-size them.
Something like https://ipiccy.com/ is online and free.
Or install on your machine https://www.getpaint.net/ (also free)
David, I’m loving this miniseries as well. The video is excellent and I think really conveys the type of place that Havana must be. I would love to visit Cuba.
There is much there in your video particularly that reminds me of Old San Juan, PR (not surprisingly). That makes me wonder how long the look of the old city will last before it eventually gets swept away by more modern development. My suspicion is that so much of what has been preserved in Havana is due to economic realities than any particular curation. I could of course be wrong. But your lede photo shows what is clearly a very modern building being constructed adjacent to much older buildings. Sooner or later there will be a change in the economy, and politics, that might rapidly change the physical environment…if that hasn’t happened to some extent already (again, I am not claiming any expertise on Cuba).
The moral of the story is maybe that if I’m interested in seeing the old city actually being old, I probably should get there sooner rather than later.
I think its definitely a moment in time. I went with my wife in 2017 and I would say things have changed even since then. Overall there seems to be a bit more wealth and definitely more freedom.
There is a good amount of investment from China these days to modernize in some areas. That said old Havana and central Havana is a rather large area.
That’s a fun ride. The earlier Moskvitch 408 is quite a fetching little thing.
I’ve driven in Mexico and Costa Rica but wouldn’t want to do it in the cities. Figuring out who has right of way seems complex. Size of vehicle, speed and bravery all seem to factor in.
Enjoy your Cuba libres!!
I only saw two of the earlier ones this time around but hundreds of the 2140s which was definitely one of the more common cars around.
We did a scooter rental in Varadero which was perfectly fine but way more relaxed in terms of traffic.
Oddly every time we tried to order a Cuba libres we were suggested that the mohito is better.
The bicyclist was making pretty good time, no speed selector and big rubber tires. The streets seem clean but the buildings look really run down. The capitol is stunning though. Great report. Car sounded like a diesel.
It could have been a diesel but I cannot quite recall. Quite a lot of building were run down and repairs likely would not meet standards in other countries. The streets were for the most part clean but you definitely had to watch your step and often there was a bit of a smell from puddles and small piles of garbage.
trying again with resized photos, i had to rephoto old prints, they were old school photos, not digital
Great shots. Thanks for sharing.
and sorry for posting these in this European thread…hope they are of interest anyway
Definitely of interest. What is the green car?
I only saw one “real” Model A when I was there. I had full Lada running gear. Most seemed to be fiberglass replicas with Beetle running gear.
and thanks for the advice on resizing, worked well.. a few more of the hundreds I took
I spent about ten days (I think) in Cuba in 2000. It was at the time the little Cuban boy who survived the boat ride to Florida, his mom died, was forceably returned to his father in Cuba. I was in a preservation architecture program that went from one end of the island to another.
While we were in Havana looking at buildings and visiting with the City “Historiador”, all I could see were all the vintage Chevies and Fords everywhere. Ive attached a picture taken at that spontaneous car show in Havana.
One of my oldest friends whose family emigrated from Cuba in the early Sixties gave me the address of his family’s Havana house which had been expropriated by the government when they left. I stood in the middle of the street and with a makeshift bullhorn announced that on the behalf of the original family I was there to reclaim the house. Multiple men sitting on balconies of the house, now turned into an apartment building, looked on in bemusement as I prattled on in English.
In a small front yard next door to this house sat what looked to be a cherry ’57 DeSoto…….enclosed by the iron fence around the yard 🙂
All in all it was a terrific experience and I can only imagine that the economy is worse today then in 2000. And…..I didn’t see a lot of Ladas or Moskvichs so that’s kind of interesting
Interesting ~ from the side the car looks stubby .
John, thank you for sharing these photos ! .