Cuba, part VI: How on earth do these things even move?

I think it’s safe to say that Cuba is extremely famous for two things: cigars and… cars. And it’s not because the Cuban car industry has ever produced something magnificent—partly because there’s no such thing as Cuban car industry—but because it’s a known paradise of old, pre-1950ies American cruisers.

The first question that comes to mind really is, how do these cars still move? Most of them are about 60 years old, some even 70 and older, it seems like they should upgrade with some Pre Owned Chevrolet Vehicles in durham ct. And they still cruise around Cuba, albeit rather slowly—on motorways, they seem to have a top speed of 40 mph, definitely not more. As mentioned before, most of these old American cars in Havana operate as taxis, but in countryside many of them are people’s every-day vehicles.

The one part that seems to have died on almost all of those old Americans is interestingly the gearbox. None of the cars I looked into had the original gear lever on the steering wheel, but instead had manual gearboxes and the lever coming from the ground. I know that the weak spot of American cars is usually handling, but I guess the gearboxes aren’t that great either.

While most of these oldies are in pretty bad shape, some cars are either really well kept or very recently renovated. We did see quite many utterly beautiful old cars that looked liked they were built yesterday. And while common sense tells you that those cars were utter crap even 60-70 years ago when they were built, they can sure offer visual beauty.

But old Americans aren’t the only cars that move around Cuba. The second type you see everywhere in Cuba are old Soviet cars. 20-30-40-year old Ladas and Moskviches are every-day vehicles for many Cubans. For 30 years, Soviet Union was Cuba’s big brother and they exported tens of thousands of utterly crappy Soviet vehicles to the island. In addition, there’s also a fair amount of small cars called Fiat Polski—Polish Fiat. These were produced in Poland during its Soviet partnership under FIAT’s licence, and it’s one of the most hideous cars ever made.

However, it’s not only old cars drive around Cuba. Nowadays, there’s also a fair amount of new cars that have been imported from… China. Yes, Cuba is a brilliant import market for Geely—the producer of cars that got EuroNCAP safety rating of… yes, you guessed correctly, a big fat zero. The world’s least safe cars usually come in grey, they look absolutely ghastly, and it’s pretty much the only new car a Cuban could afford.

There’s also a fair amount of rather old French and Spanish cars running around. 10-20-year-old Citroens, Peugeots and Seats are often used as taxis, but many also do their every-day business with them. Not particularly fascinating, these.

During the to weeks we spent in Cuba, I saw about 10 Mercedeses and one BMW. Just thought it’s worth mentioning.

An old blue car in front of Havana's capitol.

An old blue car in front of Havana’s capitol.

They really are all taxis!

They really are all taxis!

A 1955 Chrysler DeSoto. It's 56 years old!

A 1955 Chrysler DeSoto. It’s 56 years old!

Break time.

Break time.

This thing actually looked rather well taken care of.

This thing actually looked rather well taken care of.

A car from the 1940ies, and an American-style schoolbus.

A car from the 1940ies, and an American-style schoolbus.

An orange taxi on El Malecon.

An orange taxi on El Malecon.

A tired Chevy in Viñales.

A tired Chevy in Viñales.

A rather nice-looking Chevy.

A rather nice-looking Chevy.

This thing should have been retired decades ago.

This thing should have been retired decades ago.

A Chevy at Playa Ancon near Trinidad.

A Chevy at Playa Ancon near Trinidad.

This Chevy in Trinidad looked quite fancy.

This Chevy in Trinidad looked quite fancy.

I just realised that most American oldies in Cuba are Chevys.

I just realised that most American oldies in Cuba are Chevys.

Except for this one, that's definitely a Ford.

Except for this one, that’s definitely a Ford.

Mototaxis in Havana. Almost exactly like in India.

Mototaxis in Havana. Almost exactly like in India.

A Chevy, a Moskvich and a Lada at Playa Ancon.

A Chevy, a Moskvich and a Lada at Playa Ancon.

Lada 2107 in Havana.

Lada 2107 in Havana.

Lada 2105s and 2107s in front of a ministry building in Havana.

Lada 2105s and 2107s in front of a ministry building in Havana.

A tired Moskvich.

A tired Moskvich.

Lada 2106 - one of the best cars produced in Soviet Union.

Lada 2106 – one of the best cars produced in Soviet Union.

FIAT Polski.

FIAT Polski.

You know, Geely are the new owners of Volvo. So don't be surprised when you go to a dealership to buy a new Volvo and get something as hideous as this thing.

You know, Geely are the new owners of Volvo. So don’t be surprised when you go to a dealership to buy a new Volvo and get something as hideous as this thing.

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