Old cars of Cuba have a few surprises
|This is a typical Havana traffic scene with a mixture of cars old and new|
The cars of Cuba were one of the biggest surprises during my recent visit.
I expected to see many old 1950s cars, American cars remaining after their owners left Cuba during the Revolution, when Batista left the island and Castro took over.
But I’d thought they would be the only cars I’d see.
|The traffic light here counts off the seconds until it will change.|
At the airport I saw many late model Japanese cars, much like my own Toyota, mixed among the older 50s cars. There also were models I didn’t recognize, such as 12-year old Russian Ladas. The Russians also left their cars behind after the fall of the Soviet Union. Near the airport was the only traffic congestion I saw during my week in and around Havana. Trucks, old cars and newer cars were among them.
I quickly realized that not everyone in Cuba has a car. Jam packed buses ply regular routes, but don’t pick up tourists. You’ll often see locals waving a fistful of cash as they stand beside the highway, hitching possible rides
|Here I am trying to choose if I’ll ride in Lola or Nadine|
One evening our tour arranged rides for us in a pair of meticulously restored 1965 Chevys operated by Nostagicars, a group of restored vehicles organized by Julio Alvarez and his wife, who is an American.
Lola was the pink car and Nadine was the blue one and soon we headed from our home stay accommodations in Miramar for dinner in Old Havana.
|I chose Nadine because blue is my favorite color|
|But Lola was just as gorgeous|
Recognizing that visitors want to experience the old cars, the Alvarezes have organized a handful of their friends with restored cars dating from 1950 to 1959 to provide transportation for folks like us, airport transfers, island or city tours and weddings.
Most have been converted to diesel, since diesel fuel is less expensive in Cuba.
They’ve also passed a rigorous annual government safety inspection.
To restore the cars the owners create parts by machine when they cannot import what they need, so a close inspection reveals these cars are somewhat different than the originals.
Member cars carry a Nostagicars decal on a window. Their website shows some of the one to two-day tours they offer which visit places I didn’t get to on this trip. It’s www.nostalgicarcuba.com.