I was fortunate enough to spend a week vacation in La Havana, Cuba at the end of June this year. What cultural shock in a country that remains unique in the world in terms of lifestyle. Will it remain so?
Cuba has long been known for its old cars, following the embargo that for a long time forced the market to survive for more than five decades without imports and exports for cars and car parts. The typical Cuban cars were until recently the mythical vehicles of America in the fifties.
Since last year, bans on import / export have been lifted, and a large number of vehicles of no great interest from major European or Chinese brands have arrived on the Cuban market. The number of vintage cars on the streets of Cuba is also falling, as many Cubans have sold their old cars to foreign collectors.
There is still a considerable number of classic cars in the streets, largely because many of the remaining cars have been retouched / rebuilt many times and are therefore not suitable for “purist” collectors.
The fact that these cars continue to roll 60 years after being launched shows the solidity of these models designed over time, but the longevity of these cars must above all be the ingenuity of Cuban garage owners over the years. It is not uncommon for example to find diesel converted gasoline cars, Chinese parts installed on American engines, or even tanks rebuilt with household appliances!
Despite their limited appeal for being collector’s classic cars due to their constant and frivolous rebuilds, the old classic car market in Havana is set to decline even more drastically over the coming years, in view of the normalisation of relations between Cuba and the States.
The most common car in Cuba is the Chevrolet “Tri-Five”, one of 1955, 1956 or 1957. The Chevrolet Bel Air and Chevrolet 150 models are often used as the taxis of Havana. These vehicles can be worth up to $30,000 for resale alongside the many other Ford, Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiacs on the island.