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Cuban Classics

When Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries ousted President Batista from power in 1959, it signalled a rapid departure for most Americans from the island paradise. The US trade embargo subsequently imposed on Cuba meant that the cars they left behind—1940s and 1950s Cadillacs, Buicks, Fords, Chevrolets, and others—were sealed in the world’s most bizarre motoring time warp. Pressed into use as taxis, they shared roadspace with mostly Russian cars and vans, imported cheaply from Cuba’s supportive communist ally across the Atlantic.


Fuel was no problem for Russian-backed Cuba, so these lumbering old American tanks were able to soldier on in everyday use. Since importing spare parts from the US was forbidden, the cars were kept on the road with makeshift repairs, often using custom-built components or parts recycled from completely different makes of car. Today, these rolling monuments to a bygone age look amazing from afar, although most bear the scars of a hard life when examined upclose. Now that relations with the US have thawed, the future for such working classics is uncertain. However, their influence as a symbol is undeniable; they are destined always to be an iconic part of Cuba’s heritage, no matter the prevailing political dogma.

Classic 1950s American convertibles line up in the Havana sunshine, with a 1951 Chevrolet nearest the camera just ahead of a 1956 Cadillac.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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