As you read this, I have just returned from a holiday which included four days in Cuba. As you may know, Americans can now legally travel to Cuba under one of the twelve allowed “reasons for travel”, the most generic of which is “Support of the Cuban People”. That’s a euphemism for “don’t stay in government owned hotels and don’t buy in government owned stores”.
That’s not hard to do, as the hotels are not exactly world class and the stores have bare shelves.
I could go on for pages about how this failed socialist experiment has affected the lives of the Cuban people. The most popular saying is “if you Kind it, buy it”. Recently there was a six-month period where they had no toilet paper! But this is a column in the Healey newsletter, so let’s get to the car stuff! As everyone knows, there are lots of old American cars in Cuba (pre-1960 embargo). 1950’s, and even earlier, cars abound. Many of these are used as taxis for the tourists, but many are clearly daily drivers for those lucky enough to afford four wheels. I was expecting to see quite a few old cars, but I was overwhelmed by the numbers. In Havana at least one in three cars is a classic. Even in the countryside the number is at least a Kifth.
While two-door ’57 Chevy Nomad wagons are rare, there is no shortage of ’57 Chevy four-door BelAirs. In fact, it seems that many, if not most, of the oldies on the road are the less-than-desirable models. Maybe the US car makers dumped the models that didn’t sell well in the US into Cuba?
Of course, most of these cars, even those that look Concours, are less than original due to the non-existent supply of spare parts. Getting spares for US cars in Cuba makes getting parts for your Healey look like child’s play. It was not unusual to hear a vintage Buick pull away from the curb with what was clearly a six-cylinder diesel engine powering it (or alternatively, a four- cylinder VW engine). When the original parts die, the Cubans make do with whatever will keep the cars on the road. They are masters at “making it Kit”.
I have included a few photos of some of the cars I was able to capture on Kilm, hopefully, Tim will have room for some of them. If you plan to go to Cuba at some time, I would be happy to give you my insights and recommendations.
As a Kinal note, plans for California Healey Week are being Kinalized and registrations are brisk.
Please remember the April 15 deadline for booking rooms at the group rate. After that, rooms will be booked on a space available basis. So, don’t miss out, if you have not registered for Healey Week yet, please do so ASAP.