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CUBA and its mobile open-air AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM

After a brief lull due to the coronavirus, Cuba is once again attracting tourists from all over the world. And although many think first of all about the world's oldest craft, cigars and rum, many come for old cars.

Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

One of the first things you notice when you walk in Havana, So colorful vintage cars, which line the streets of the capital Kube. Classic cars are as much a Cuban icon as theirs cigarette, rum in Che Guevara and the enthusiasm of tourists and locals. But why does Cuba have so many old cars? Best to do a little research history Cuba's vintage car industry and why these vintage cars are so important to their culture in Cuba.

A tale of the ancients classic cars in Cuba it is full of political and historical significance. This makes them classic old-timers a wonderful addition the urban landscapes of Cuba and their important cultural and, more recently, also tourist artifact. And also for this reason, my wife and I decided to experience the transition to 2023 on this Caribbean island, which is trapped in a socialist system and lack, although on the other hand, maybe Cuba is a beautiful country and worth visiting precisely because of this. People are trying to get tourists to come back, but time runs differently there. But let's get back to cars.

Tourists are excited to see Havana in these vintage American cars, which are also very brightly colored - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

Cuba never had an automobile industry, so they relied solely on import of cars. honey Cuban-Spanish-American War was the first car ever imported to Cuba, La Parisienne a little-known French manufacturer in 1898. After the turn of the century, however, they were the main source of cars and parts USA. Until 1919, it was Cuba the largest Latin American importer of American cars and parts and among the countries with the highest number of vehicles per capita in the world. Famous Ford T was ubiquitous on Cuban streets, as the locals liked to call him photo shoot, which means hook. Even today, any Cuban car that is dirty is called a fotingo.

This is what a column of old-timers looks like, transporting tourists around Havana - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

In the first half 20st century Cuba was used as test road for many American automakers, meaning these cars were often available earlier on cube, before they were available to US buyers. Companies like Ford, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Chrysler in Pontiac ter Buick were shipping their latest models to the southernmost ports of the United States, so the cargo in Havana arrived in a few days. By 1956, Cuba had more than 140.000 cars, of which approx 90.000 on the streets of Havana.

Gabriel, the owner of a 1952 Pontiac, with which my wife and I saw the sights of Havana and which was one of the few that had better speakers, which was known by the sound of the music in the car - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

But years 1959 so the Cuban Revolution and the import embargo and the onset of the Cold War caused a change in the island's automotive industry. When old friends became enemies, it is Fidel Castro introduced embargo on the import of American and foreign cars, which meant that no American cars were allowed on the island. The embargo even extended to car parts, which had serious consequences for Cuban owners these cars. With no new cars coming into the country and no parts available for repairs, car owners had to make a choice: let their cars rust in the garage or elsewhere, or yes use those parts, which they had at their disposal and carry out the repairs themselves.

The interior of a 70-year-old Pontiac today - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

Because the owners needed their own cars as a means of transportation or to support their families, they had to become mechanics and create innovative maintenance methods of their cars, which everyone can see for themselves. Unfortunately, not having adequate spare parts for known reasons, they were forced to perform repairs and renovations with parts derived from Russian and Chinese vehicles, especially from the crowd The D, follow in Geely's, which are still available today. On the streets we can see a range of patched cars, often painted in vivid colors. However, this one a moving museum of vintage cars in Cuba today is a reminder of the ingenuity and revolutionary spirit that lives on this island nation.

We see these old-timers not only in Havana, but also in other cities and even in villages, as they are literally part of the cultural heritage of this island country - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

It's 2016 Raul Castro, brother of Fidel Castro, eased the need for a permit to buy foreign cars and finally lifted the import ban american cars and parts. This has led to new cars on Cuban roads, although not as many as expected. Many wondered, still others feared, whether he would mean it the end for classic cars in Cuba. But there is no fear, because while it is the love of Cubans to vintage cars is rooted in their culture and is an important part of theirs tourism industry, there is another reason why we will continue to see old cars in Cuba in the future and that is the price of new ones. Imports of new cars are still highly regulated, and prices put new cars out of reach for most Cubans. The country still has monopoly over sales of cars, which means that the prices are high, rather astronomical. For comparison: Peugeot 508, which usually costs somewhere $ 30.000, costs incredible in Cuba 262.000 dollars!!! And because the average Cuban earns around $ 25, then I need not go on…

Otherwise, it is possible to re-import new cars to Cuba, but the country has a monopoly on this and for example the Lada in this photo, new though, costs 50.000 dollars! – Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

They say yes you can't visit Havana, the capital of Cuba, without visiting one of the many colored old-timers. Today, tourists literally rush to make reservations for driving these cars, mostly with convertibles and thus, returning to the past in their minds, they look at each other sights of Havana. My wife and I did this ourselves and drove for a good hour around the capital of Cuba to a red Pontiac year 1952, means in a 70-year-old car, in which the original eight-cylinder engine was not rumbling under the hood, but something from what kind of truck or a Russian car. Inside, however, I could see with my own eyes proof of theirs skills and ingenuity. But all this in no way affected the atmosphere and feelings you experience in these cars.

In addition to enjoying driving this old-timer, you can also spend time on one of the sandy beaches, where tourists will admire your current vehicle - Photo: Bojan Vrbnjak

Drivers of these cars that transport you around Havana, they try their best to make sure you enjoy and learn something new and interesting, because in this way they get more some dollar or euro tip. Ours is in the aforementioned red Pontiac transported Gabriel, who, in addition to his own wit and likability, also provided a pumpkin musical backdrop of Caribbean rhythms and modern music, whose authors come from Cuba, which was only then the cherry on top of the cake experiences. Unforgettable. For this reason, let me say that anyone has a purpose to visit Cuba and live this experience in vintage cars, don't hesitate. On top of that, he will also enjoy colonialist in imperialist architecture, cigars, rum in cocktails on wonderful sandy beaches.

Gallery of old timers in Cuba - photo: Bojan Vrbnjak


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