Rad A. Drew Photography: The Significance of Classic US Cars in Cuba

Continental Divide at Dawn

Continental Divide at Dawn
Continental Divide at Dawn

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Significance of Classic US Cars in Cuba

Clearly the American cars from the 40’s and 50’s are a novelty and a tourist attraction in Cuba. But they represent so much more.

The fact that these cars are even running at all today is testament to the ingenuity and mechanical engineering and devotion needed to keep them running. Each is an historic capsule from the past, preserved as much as possible, and behind each preservation is a resourceful Cuban who is making it all work.

I once had a classic car owner in Cuba tell me, 

Making the parts we need is the easy part; it’s making the machines we need to make the parts that’s challenging

There are those who take pride in sharing that their car is completely original, while others can’t hide the clatery sound that’s a dead giveaway to the Russian diesel under the hood. I’ve even seen boat motors used to run these tanks, and I have a good friend who powers his classic Dodge with - are you ready? - a Hyundai engine! 
Regardless of the efforts and methods employed to keep these cars running, there’s no doubt in the pride of ownership. 

Seeing old US cars from the 40’s and 50’s on the streets of Havana and on the roads connecting towns throughout Cuba is as much a part of Cuba today as her native music and dance. Cubans have taken something created elsewhere long ago and made it uniquely, iconically, their own. 

It speaks volumes about Cuban culture.

I lead trips to Cuba several times each year, often partnering with Cuban photographer, Ramses Batista. If you have an interested in joining me on a future trip, email me here to be notified when new experiences are available.