CultureLatin America

On the road: Classic cars in Cuba

When you think of Cuba, you immediately have images of brightly colored vintage cars in mind, because the Caribbean island has a richly stocked, moving car museum.

Diagonally across from the Capitol in Havana, for example, they are lined up, the beautifully restored convertibles and limousines of American cult brands from the 40s and 50s. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Studebaker shine here in gold, green, pink and the turquoise of the Caribbean Sea.

But not only in Havana, but on the whole island the cult cars chug around – sometimes lovingly prepared for tourists, sometimes almost falling apart. Gasoline stench, exhaust fumes and a loud groaning engine are part of the good manners. After the 1959 revolution, the then head of state, Fidel Castro, imposed an economic embargo on the USA, which has only been loosened further and further since 2014.

As a result, neither new cars nor spare parts were allowed to be imported. There were only exceptions for high-ranking government officials. And this explains the special relationship that Cubans have with their cars. They cherish and care for them lovingly as best they can. Since many of the cars can only be repaired in a makeshift way, you can always see some standing on the side of the road with their hoods open.

When you look under the hood, it quickly becomes clear that the cars have already had many operations. They are veritable spare parts stores for a wide variety of car brands. The TÜV doesn’t seem to take it too seriously here.

The special tip:

Book a late afternoon classic car tour of Havana. Not only can the prices be negotiated well, but when it comes to romance, it’s hard to beat driving a convertible along Cuba’s famous Malecón promenade into the sunset.


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