Aside from classic car shows, there are few places in the United States were you can find hundreds of 1940s and 50s cars driving around. In fact, none come to mind. This, however, is not the case for a country that sits 90 miles off the Florida coast- Cuba.
A recent documentary with John McElroy investigates this country and the cars that time left behind. Thanks to Autoline Detroit for bringing us this video.
The documentary, “Stuck in Time” takes to the streets of Cuban cities. Once the richest country in the Caribbean, citizens now average only $10 for their monthly income. Because cars are expensive to own and maintain, many citizens get around by public transportation or on foot. Of the individuals who do have cars in Cuba, most inherited them from previous generations, especially those who own 1940s and 50s American classics.
While visiting Cuba may lead you to believe that time has stopped on the island, the cars have suffered greatly since they were imported into the country. Once pristine cars, most are now barely held together and the result of innovative mechanics. Because of the U.S. embargo, Cubans have not been able to get products in or out of America since the 1960s.
This causes major issues when parts on the American classics break. While Cubans can buy parts from other countries, most components are too expensive to buy with their minimal incomes. This is why many of the American classics in Cuba have parts from many different makes and models of vehicles. Some individuals even make their own components- like the buffalo wood steering wheel seen on one car, or the custom Chevy logo seen on another.
Some are even part of a Cuban car club that meets every month to show off their cars, cruise around Havana and socialize with fellow classic car owners. Both rough and restored classics can be seen in the documentary.
Both Ken Lingenfelter, of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, and McKeel Hagerty, of Hagerty Insurance- a company that specializes in insuring classic cars, weigh in on the classic cars in Cuba after the documentary.
If the embargo were to ever be lifted, both Lingenfelter and Hagerty agree that Americans would be very interested in seeing what kind of classics they could buy from Cuban owners. While these cars are one influence on tourism, Hagerty thinks that Cubans might keep their cars due to the long heritage of them, even if they were given the chance to ship them off the island. Lingenfelter states that he would definitely be interested in searching out any classics that were “diamonds in the rough” in Cuba if ever given the chance.
Who would have known that a country rarely traveled by U.S. citizens would be the home to hundreds of American classic cars. No matter what condition they’re in, they are truly a site to see- cruising around the cities like they did here in the mid 20th century.