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Post Cars of Cuba: A Gallery
Created by John Eipper on 12/29/17 10:30 AM

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Cars of Cuba: A Gallery (John Eipper, USA, 12/29/17 10:30 am)

No surprise to WAISers here:  your car-infatuated, Motown-residing editor was endlessly intrigued by the cars of Cuba.  I had originally feared that many of the 1950s Detroit classics I saw during my last visit in 1998 would be gone.  Rather, two decades later they've been coddled and restored to a higher standard than ever.  Very little of the vintage metal is pristine, however.  Taxis have universally swapped their thirsty gasoline V-8 engines for four-cylinder diesels, usually of Mitsubishi or Hyundai manufacture.  It is purely an economic decision:  diesel fuel runs about $1 per liter, while gasoline is twice the price.

These Frankencars would not pass muster at Pebble Beach, or even a neighborhood summer cruise-in.  But they provide an endless visual treat to the visiting car nut, and are a tribute to the ingenuity and intrepid can-do of the Cuban people.

Here's a sampling.  If there's interest, I'll add a second installment.


Outside Havana's Capitolio:  Two Chevys and an Oldsmobile plying the tourist trade.  I cannot identify the fourth car


Very original, early 1950s' Cadillac in El Vedado neighborhood, Havana


Gorgeous bullet-nose Studebaker Commander convertible, c. 1951, outside Havana Libre hotel


Cueva del Indio, Pinar del Río province.  A heavily pimped-out Buick, c. 1952


Your editors aboard one of Havana's legendary Coco Taxis:  cute, economical, dangerous



Thousands of Soviet Bloc vehicles are still hard at work:  Here, in historic Trinidad, a 1980s Polish Fiat, affectionately known in the homeland as "Maluch" (little tyke).  Note the crossed Cuban and US flags



The last taxi ride of our Cuba adventure, Varadero Beach.  A glistening '55 Chevy Bel Air, powered by a Hyundai diesel.  The driver is an oral surgeon by training, but driving a cab is where the money's at.  Only in Cuba.  And at 58, he just became a new dad.  Only in Cuba?

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  • Cars of Cuba, Part II (John Eipper, USA 12/29/17 4:29 PM)

    The first Cars of Cuba gallery (December 29th) met with reasonable success, so here's a second installment.  (An extra big thanks to fellow Car Guy Michael Sullivan for the encouragement.)

    I promise the next Cuba posting will be on a serious topic.  Who's interested in the dual currency system?

    In the meantime, enjoy:


    George Romney Special:  a 1959 Rambler, with sporty wheels and the "optional" concave tailfins



    What could be more Cuban than a Chevy-Ford showdown?  Stoplight drag racing on La Rampa, Havana

    Partners in Mid-Century splendor:  The Riviera Cinema, c. 1946, on Avenue 23 (La Rampa), Havana.  The car?  I'm not sure, but probably a Ford or a Plymouth


    A rare German exotic:  1959 Opel Kapitan, at Playa Ancón


    Another oddity:  1948 Mercury Eight in Trinidad


    Retro transport at its finest:  JE astride "Chocolate" in Viñales Valley, Pinar del Río province

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    • Celebrating a 1949 Ford; WAIS in Cuba? (Michael Sullivan, USA 12/31/17 4:36 AM)
      I really like the 1948 Mercury John E encountered in Cuba. I had a similar car in high school, except it was a 1949 Ford coupe and not a convertible but they looked similar.  It was a manly machine!

      Hope we have our 2018 meeting in Cuba, as John is an expert now and knows the particulars. I'm sure most WAISers would really love to visit Cuba as it's such a fascinating place even if the modern conveniences are scarce and we have to rough it a bit.

      JE comments: I'm eager to regroup and plan a blockbuster meeting for next fall. In the New Year we'll have to decide among our finalist venues: Vienna, somewhere on the Western Front (Belgium or France), or Cuba. I'll assemble a poll and have the WAISitudes decide.

      Michael, I also took a tail shot of that Merc. See below. Happy New Year to you and Nicole!

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  • A Cadillac, and a Citroen (Paul Pitlick, USA 12/31/17 4:55 AM)
    John E (29 December) asked for help in identifying a car he photographed in Cuba.  The fins on the red one look like a Cadillac, and there's a sticker on the car next to it, "...ROËN"; presumably a Citroën.

    JE comments: Paul Pitlick really extracted detail from the photo; see below. I never know the ol' Canon Sure Shot had it in it!

    The modern trucky thing on the right is definitely a Citroën. The raspberry-color machine next to it could very well be a Cadillac from as early as 1948--they were the first marque from Detroit to feature nascent tail fins.  These would grow to hyperbolic excess by 1959.  What this Caddy is missing, however, is the emblem on the tail (see final image; note too the similarity in the rear bumpers).

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