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18 April 2016 / leggypeggy

Cuba—the land of vintage cars

Two vintage cars in Cuba

Three vintage cars in Cuba

Cuba’s roads are filled with vintage cars

Virtually everything you read about tourism in Cuba mentions the wealth of vintage cars cruising the streets of this Caribbean island.

Guess what? It’s true!

We arrived in the middle of the night, so didn’t notice much on the road until the next day, and then every second vehicle seemed to be a classic American car from the 1930s, 40s or 50s.

They come in every colour and size, and in all sorts of condition. Some appear to have rolled right off the factory floor, while others have dents and bumps and are in varying stages of being repainted.

Vintage cars in Cuba waiting for passengers

Waiting for passengers

So how has this time warp on wheels come about?

It has to do with the long-running, and now-subsiding, feud between Cuba and the USA. In 1962, the US imposed an embargo on American companies doing business with Cuba. This meant Cubans couldn’t buy new American cars or parts.

This ‘speed bump’ became an even bigger problem when Fidel Castro stopped allowing Cubans to buy cars. They could only be given them by the government. But the government never had enough money to import bulk orders of cars.

During the Soviet era, the Russians sent Ladas, but these didn’t last as long as the old American cars. That said, we rode in a few dilapidated Ladas.

But the inability to get parts has led to a strange breed of cobbled-together classic car. For example, the body may be a pristine 1940s American classic car, but the engine might be a Peugeot diesel.

The innovations have been a matter of need—keep the vehicles rolling. Today it seems that most of them cruise the streets as taxis especially for tourists.

One of our guides explained that these vintage cars can cost a fortune in Cuba. Even a car with 300,000 miles on it can sell for up to $15,000 CUCs. The CUC is the Cuban tourist currency and is worth a little more than US$1.

As relations improve between the two countries, you might expect US car collectors to be rushing to Cuba to make big purchases, but this probably won’t happen. As our guide said, the cars may look the part of a vintage model but the extent of ad-hoc replacements mean they will never fetch a high price from collectors.

I’m thinking that’s probably a good thing. Maybe it means these wonderful old cars will continue to rule the roads of Cuba.

P.S. Looking back, I can’t believe I took so few photos of the vintage cars. Bad me. And I’m gobsmacked that so many of the pics I took are from the same direction. Time to go back for another visit. Never mind the luggage debacle. 🙂

P.P.S. I haven’t captioned most of these pics because I’m not always sure of the make of car and because, come on, these are all just eye-candy. So enjoy!

Green vintage car, CubaCuban vintage cars

Vintage Cuban cars with bicycle taxi

Vintage cars and a bicycle taxi

95 Comments

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  1. blondieaka / Apr 18 2016 5:23 pm

    This is exactly what my daughter said when they went to Cuba ..so many vintage cars…I think it’s lovely 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Vicki / Apr 18 2016 5:25 pm

    What an amazing sight Peggy!
    These colourful cars have to be one of most eye-catching sights I’ve seen.

    ………….and yes, you should go back for another visit to takes some more photos for us armchair travellers 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. stellalucentellc / Apr 18 2016 5:45 pm

    What wonderful photos. I’ve known about this but seeing is believing, as they say! I never realized how beautiful the Cubans kept these cars.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 12:03 am

      I’d seen photos, but it was amazing to see the real thing. This isn’t just a few cars, it’s hundreds of cars.

      Like

  4. jerseydreaming / Apr 18 2016 6:22 pm

    Awesome. I’m no rev-head but seriously, awesome.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. poshbirdy / Apr 18 2016 7:24 pm

    This post is lovely. The cars are one of the things I am really looking forward to most. LOVE the colours too!

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 18 2016 11:26 pm

      Makes you wish you owned a paint store. 🙂

      Like

  6. derrickjknight / Apr 18 2016 8:00 pm

    Fascinating, and well photographed

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Midwestern Plant Girl / Apr 18 2016 8:26 pm

    Thank you for posting these photos. How interesting! I get the situation about them having newer engines, but who cares, they look so cool!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. toutparmoi / Apr 18 2016 8:35 pm

    Lovely pics. A friend has recently been to Cuba, and there were plenty of classic cars in his photos, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. afterthelasttime / Apr 18 2016 8:52 pm

    Very nice as always, Peggy! Friends from Denver just returned from Cuba and their photos depict almost the exact layout as yours. Did you go to a car show in a park by chance? Or maybe it’s by a park or very nice green space?

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 18 2016 11:42 pm

      Nope, no car show. In Cuba, it seems that if there’s a place to park a car, there’s a car (or 10) parked there.

      Like

  10. gerard oosterman / Apr 18 2016 9:16 pm

    Great cars and lovely shots, Peggy. Did you and poor John go for a burn around town in one of those? My first car was a Ford V8 single spinner back in 1962 or so. It blew lots of smoke!

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 18 2016 11:44 pm

      We were too busy walking around enjoying the sights to get a proper ride. And then every taxi we rode in was only so-so. But I learned to drive in a 1960 copper and white Plymouth station wagon with the fins. 🙂

      Like

  11. pagedogs / Apr 18 2016 9:20 pm

    So many convertibles! I wonder did they start that way, or were they later converted to topless?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Laurie / Apr 19 2016 2:14 am

    Love those cars! They just don’t make cars like that anymore or that last as long.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 9:07 am

      That is so true. and true about a lot of things.

      Like

  13. Lynn Millar / Apr 19 2016 2:27 am

    Thanks for sharing. Reminds when I first went to California in the late 70s, I felt I was in a time warp with the old perfect cars. Coming from Chicago, cars only lasted two years before rusting out. – Lynn

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 9:27 am

      Cars didn’t last long in Nebraska either, although they came up with some sort of treatment for the undercarriage, that made a bit of difference.

      Like

  14. Sy S. / Apr 19 2016 2:58 am

    You have a nice selection of Old Vintage Car Photos!!! Loved to see them all…..! Here in the North Eastern USA a lot of salt is placed on the roadways in winter… which destroys the car bodies and especially the underside. But in Cuba no snow or salt on the roads,so the cars can last much longer.
    One photo had almost the same two combo-coloring of my father’s 1950+ Chevy (dark, medium green color).

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 9:10 am

      That’s a great point you make about the lack of snow and the accompanying salt in Cuba.

      I wish I’d been fast enough to get a pic of the pink Cadillac convertible with white interior. What a car.

      Like

  15. spearfruit / Apr 19 2016 4:39 am

    Very cool seeing these classics in Cuba – thanks for sharing Peggy. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  16. wfdec / Apr 19 2016 9:12 am

    Love that one. No that one. Which one. There next to the blue one the gold one. No I love the bright pink one. AAH I love ’em all.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. tony / Apr 19 2016 12:11 pm

    Great post! I’ve seen other’s photos before but not in such profusion.

    Tony
    http://breadtagsagas.com/

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 2:20 pm

      Wow, talk about profusion. You should go for yourself and be overwhelmed. 🙂

      Like

  18. Brian Lageose / Apr 19 2016 3:49 pm

    Have I mentioned lately how massively jealous I am of you and your magnificent travels? Wait, that sounds a bit maniacal. Softer version: I am so happy for you that you get to see, and wonderfully capture, such adventurous experiences. I have to admit that the “unique” car situation in Cuba has had me yearning to go to Cuba for years. Granted, I’m just as excited about the cultural exposure. But those cars? Damn… 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 20 2016 5:52 am

      I know what it’s like to feel maniacal about someone else’s travel. It keeps me going. 🙂
      And yeah, the cars in Cuba are real showstoppers. I think they’ll be around for a while, so you can start planning your trip.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / Apr 19 2016 6:52 pm

    Love it Peggy, Love it!!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. voulaah / Apr 19 2016 8:21 pm

    colorful and loveful cars
    thanks for share
    anita
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Lynz Real Cooking / Apr 20 2016 12:38 am

    Wow wonderful post, love the photos!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Carol Ferenc / Apr 20 2016 3:10 am

    Peggy, thanks so much for the history lesson. The Cuba/vintage car thing was a mystery to me, until now. Your photos are great! While every new American car today seems to be black, white or gray, it’s fun to see some color!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Sy S. / Apr 20 2016 7:56 am

    Drum Roll! The 64 Thousand Dollar Question? How are the Cuban Drivers? Crazy fast, honking horns, traffic lights, loud radio playing music….

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 20 2016 8:00 am

      We had a mix of drivers—some drove like madmen, but most weren’t too bad. I guess they don’t want to wreck their cars. The really fancy cars seem to go very slowly.

      Like

  24. Rashminotes / Apr 20 2016 7:56 pm

    I love vintage cars! enjoyed reading:)

    Liked by 2 people

  25. mistermuse / Apr 20 2016 10:34 pm

    It has been said that Americans have a love affair with cars (often lasting a lifetime, which is more than can be said of many of those other kinds of love affairs – ha ha). Obviously, Cubans have a love affair with their cars (even if out of necessity). Just another example of things that people of all races (pun intended) and nationalities share in common….if only politicians would butt out!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. chattykerry / Apr 21 2016 3:49 am

    Fantastic cars!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Alexander Lautsyus / Apr 21 2016 11:11 pm

    Possibly all these cars is not treasure for collectors, but it is definitely treasure for Hollywood. I

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Sharon Yvonne / Apr 22 2016 5:18 am

    I’m fascinated by the fact that you have a travel blog. You are living a dream, my friend.

    It’s interesting how something that was meant to isolate cuba, turned out to be an interesting fixture of their culture. Great post.

    I look forward to more. Following you now 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2016 12:15 pm

      Yes, we know we are living a dream and feel so lucky to be able to travel the way we do. Thanks for the follow. Am following you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Deb / Apr 22 2016 11:09 am

    Oh wow, my father would be in his glory here! He’s a huge vintage car lover..I will have to tell him about this! Love the pics you did share, what a fascinating story of how that came about! I have to catch up on your previous posts…hope your travels are going great…although I see you allude to a luggage debacle again…oh dear!! Stay safe, healthy and happy! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2016 12:17 pm

      Vintage cars are almost irresistible and the ones in Cuba are so great because of all the colours. Hope you father enjoys having a look.

      And our travels have smoothed out, so all is good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb / Apr 22 2016 12:28 pm

        Yeah the colors are fantastic, he will love this!! I’m happy to hear things have smoothed out for you…good to know!!
        Carry on.. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2016 1:02 pm

        Thanks.

        Like

  30. In My Cluttered Attic / Apr 22 2016 2:57 pm

    Yep, wonderful eye candy at that, and so beautifully restored and cared for, too. Obviously, a great deal of care is poured into these four wheel treasures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2016 11:20 pm

      Many cars have been painstakingly restored and many others are in the process. We saw one with almost 10 different colours of paint on it.

      Like

  31. tony / Apr 22 2016 4:55 pm

    Hi Peggy

    This is a first! I’ve posted a picture of your vintage cars to Pinterest. I’ve just joined up and I’ll be raiding ‘Where to Next for material’ on a regular basis from now on! Be warned.

    Tony
    http://breadtagsagas.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 22 2016 11:21 pm

      Thanks Tony, be my guest and have fun on your raiding expeditions! 🙂

      Like

  32. badfish / Apr 23 2016 1:25 pm

    I love this post, and those cars!! I grew up with those cars, I know the year a make of all of them. I’m thinking of going to Cuba this summer. Did you go on a tour? Alone? I may have trouble with a visa?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 26 2016 2:14 pm

      You’ll love Cuba. Everyone is so welcoming and there are so many visual treats. I don’t know if you’ll have trouble with a visa. We didn’t, but we travel on Australian passports. We met an American in Tampa who was going on a charter to Cuba. He didn’t have any trouble organising the trip.

      Liked by 1 person

      • badfish / Apr 29 2016 12:45 pm

        I’m sure I’ll love it…once I get there. It’s so difficult to plan things from half the world away.

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Apr 29 2016 3:14 pm

        Yes, the planning can be tricky.

        Like

  33. mommermom / Apr 26 2016 10:09 am

    I’ve heard about the cars in Cuba and how they babied them and taking such good care of them to keep them going. How fun and exciting to see them and to be able to visit Cuba!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. cruiseplannersctwv / Apr 28 2016 3:53 am

    Fascinating trip, love the cars!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. milliethom / May 2 2016 6:16 pm

    The old cars are great, aren’t they. Like you, we found them a real treat to see on the roads – and they just add to the colourful nature of the country. Everything in Cuba is so bright and the people are lovely. Communism ruled when we were there, so that was a bit bleak, to say the least, and relations with the U.S. were still a no-no. I’d be interested to see how things have changed there now. The photos you did manage to take are wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 2 2016 9:28 pm

      We throughly enjoyed Cuba, but think the country has a long way to go to figure out and how to treat tourists.

      Like

  36. Joe / May 28 2016 4:09 pm

    This country is currently very interresting. I need to visit also by time. Greetings Joe
    https://joesrestandfood.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/die-fantastische-chevicheria-in-kreuzberg-der-neue-foodporn-hype-ceviche/

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 28 2016 7:21 pm

      Hello Joe. Hope you can get to Cuba soon. It’s really worth a visit.

      Like

  37. Ray / Jun 11 2016 4:13 am

    The entire island has these vintage cars! However, I once saw a BMW having lunch in Santa Clara when I went to visit Che Guevara’s Mausoleum a couple of years ago. Not sure who in Cuba would have the money to drive that, but I am guessing it was a diplomat. Parked right behind it was a Lada, though! LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 11 2016 1:29 pm

      Don’t remember seeing a BMW anywhere in the country. Most of our rides were in ancient Ladas or horse carts.

      Like

  38. rivertraveller / Jul 27 2016 2:34 am

    Hello!

    Your pictures look breathtaking with these cars! I just wanted to ask if you could rent them for a day or two if you stay in Cuba for a while?

    The whole place is amazing! Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jul 27 2016 11:50 am

      Thanks so much. I know you can rent a car with a driver, but not sure if you can rent the car on your own.

      Like

  39. dsagese / Jan 31 2017 9:15 am

    cool

    Liked by 1 person

  40. harrismac / Feb 4 2017 8:36 am

    cool

    Liked by 1 person

  41. It'sRodders / Feb 8 2017 9:46 pm

    Awesome post! Had read about these before, so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 9 2017 10:28 pm

      Thanks. It’s really amazing to see all the vintage cars in Cuba.

      Like

  42. Christy B / Jul 29 2017 9:24 am

    We have a few antique car shows here during summer and I love them! Such cool rides – and some awesome colors for the vehicles too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jul 29 2017 6:57 pm

      We have an antique car show coming up in a couple of months. I should do a post about the last one. And, yes, the car colours in Cuba are amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

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  1. Vintage cars in cuba, I guess it’s time to book a vacation! – Your Friend in the car buisness

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