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Havana Hotrods and More

Havana Hotrods and More

Havana has been buzzing and humming with “American Cars” for over half a century. On first arrival, or if you are just in town for the day trip from your all inclusive, you might be surprised at the numbers of fifties, and even forties sporting about. What is even more amazing is the same cars have been chugging and weaving as if they were fresh out of Detroit, slightly used, slightly remodeled and complete with mid century exhaust systems (cough, cough) that were buzzing about in 1959.

“Is there a car show in town this week? Oh, this is regular life in Havana” … a city of over 2 million that got intercepted in a time warp it has slowly been wriggling itself out of over the past half century. After a while one becomes accustomed to the lack of destruction, other than a slow, half millennia crumble, that has left Havana a living monument. Wars and other devices of greed have left this city, and thus its vintage motorcars, largely untouched. These rumbling paint palettes speak life to streets hanging onto a past dating to the Spanish conquistadors; from Colonial and Baroque to Neoclassical backdrops such as the Capitolio National into Art Deco and Eclectic periods where the cars feel more at home. Step in and take a cruise in a mid century coach down five hundred years of history, mixing with a local who really knows his roadster.

In a city where the streets are a museum, cars offer life.

With over a million visitors a year Havana car owners have to keep 70 years plus “American Cars” active and moving. As with human seniors, “Use It or Lose It”. In this case lose the moolah. They may rattle but they also roll. Access to tourist dollars valued at over 30 times the Cuban peso feeds the work ethic. Depending on what the three generations of vintage car owners have had access to under perpetual sanctions and embargos, some are more pristine than others. “Eat What You Kill”, or, in this case, “Factory Orders Ended In 1959, Fix With What You Have”. They parade around classical squares in a kaleidoscope of colours never imagined by Chevrolet. Cubans have become masters at keeping these old relics mobile, giving hybrid a whole new meaning. Tuneups and bodywork offer street photographers access to the people. You can strike up a conversation with a Havanan about his pride and lifeline or dare to step into history by sharing a cruise about town with a local in one of these. Pick your colour.

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