On the heels of Fidel Castro’s communist revolution, President John F. Kennedy declared a U.S. embargo on the Caribbean island, ceasing all imports including automobiles and the parts to fix them. For more than 50 years, creative Cubans have managed to keep American classics from the 1950s on their roads, and many car collectors have waited for the day that the embargo is finally lifted.
With the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the day the embargo ends seems to be drawing ever nearest. Yet the anticipated rush to scoop up many of Cuba’s classic American cars isn’t materializing, reports CNBC. Because of all the creative “fixes” due to a lack of replacement parts, the value of many of these Cuban classics has been all but destroyed.
Frank Hagerty of Hagerty Insurance told CNBC of one particular instance where looks can be deceiving. Hagerty recalled one of his first experiences to CNBC with the island’s cars on a trip their 15 years ago: “When I went, I jumped in a 1956 Cadillac, and it looked really good. The guy turned the key and it had a Peugeot diesel engine.” We cannot think of a better way to ruin a classic Cadillac than with a French diesel engine. So where an all-original ‘57 Chevy Bel-Air might command as much as $50,000 at auction, one of Cuba’s cobbled-together contraptions might bring just $5,000 when all is said and done.
Yet there’s always been car collectors looking to add something strange and unique to their collections. While they may never bring the same money an all-original Shelby or Yenko might bring, there’s a small-but-dedicated niche to true “survivor” cars, and few vehicles have survived as much as these cobbled-together classics. However, with the embargo still in place, this all remains speculation. Who knows what might actually happen once Cuba is open to America once more?