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Government Transportation Politics

Preserving Cuba's Classic Cars (hackaday.com) 83

szczys writes: Cuba is a wonderland of classic cars. These aren't sitting in showroom-like garages of wealthy collectors, they're on the road — about 60,000 of them. Most of these cards are 55-70 years old and it's amazing how people are keeping these automobiles running. After ties between Cuba and the United States were cut off in the 1960's, vehicles were brought in from the Eastern Bloc and the diesel engines from many of these ended up being retrofit into the American cars. But there are still many holdouts who have made their gas-burning vehicles more efficient rather than convert to the alternative fuel.
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Preserving Cuba's Classic Cars

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been to Cuba many times,
    It's true! they are nice and look good from the outside...
    If you open the hood of that 1950 Chevrolet, you will find a Dawoo, Suzuki or any other engine that they can fit in the body.
    It is still amazing!

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      And based on my not so classic American car ('79 ford Granada), you can fit pretty much any engine under there.

      • The article mentions diesels from Eastern Bloc countries but a taxi I once took in Holguin was a 1952 Pontiac with a 40hp diesel engine from a Korean tractor. Top speed was barely about 30mph due to the gearing. The smell... the smell...

      • Putting an LS1 in a Granada isn't going to do anyone any good.

        But a 351? Heck yeah. And the Granada is a classic, just not of the genre you would ordinarily associate with pride of ownership. Congrats on keeping it running, tho. I can't fathom why, but I covet a '65 Nova, not even the SS necessary...

        • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

          I meant less classic due to age (79 vs 50s or 60s).

          I don't have it anymore, I needed a part that was going to take too long to get (a random hose for the power stearing), overall it treated me really well though. It was super low mileage (old lady death car under 200k when I sold it), and the AC didn't work, but I was never sidelined by it, I did all the preventative maintenance though.

    • Re:Cuban Cars (Score:4, Insightful)

      by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Monday February 15, 2016 @03:51PM (#51514073) Journal

      This... There might be a tick in the aficionado market and there might be some historical or art value. If you're going to go to Cuba to buy the cars dirt cheap and bring them back like they're collector pieces, you will be disappointed. I *am* an automotive enthusiast and I have *been* to Cuba. You will not just find engines swapped, you will find the seats aren't the right model, the rims aren't correct, the body panels may not even be original (and probably aren't in many cases).

      They've done a great job keeping these vehicles running. They have not kept them pristine. I've mentioned this a few times now because every time the subject of Cuba comes up, someone seems to say, "I bet those cars are worth a fortune." They might be - if you get in very quick and grab some of the better ones. Mostly, they'll have some historical significance and some art significance. They will be unlikely to retain that value once the novelty wears off and they realize that they're not something you can just drive down to VIP and get a lube and oil job.

      Many of them do not look good from the outside. It's an island. It's an island in the ocean. The ocean has salt water. There's salt in the air. They've been in this salt air for a very long time, without proper care, and getting a whole lot of wear and tear. They are not going to be a reliable vehicle that the collectors can take to shows and show off. At best, they'll be trailer queens. That Mercury has a Lada engine, brakes from a Dodge, Ford seats, a bumper from a bus of unknown origin, four wheels from varied OEMs, and the body is rusting out under that paint.

      That they run at all is a miracle and a testimony to the skills of the Cuban mechanics. They might have some novelty value but that will wear thin very quickly. Collectors aren't going to have a big demand for them - though there might be a few that are worth a small amount for parts that are otherwise rare. They might have some art or historical value but those will probably dwindle quickly - probably not a sound long-term investment. If you're going to do anything, get a parts list and bring someone with you and hit up their junk yards and ship back parts by the ton in crates - there will be the only real money making possibility.

      If you buy a car from Cuba and you plan to actually use it, show it, or keep it in running condition then you're going to need to bring back the Cuban mechanic with you. Make suitable arrangements for their visa, family, and means of livelihood unless you plan on adopting the whole family. This is *not* a task I'd recommend anyone undertake unless they've a very compelling reason. Trying to invest in these will almost certainly result in a financial loss unless you're the first one on the scene and able to get the pick of the litter and somehow prove it was one of Fidel's, Raul's, or Batista's personal car. If you buy it to use it, it's going to break your heart. If you buy it to sell it, it's going to break your wallet.

      Other than that, they're kind of cool. But it's important to note, do not invest! We've had a dozen threads lately and I bet this has come up in all of them.

    • When trade restrictions are finally fully lifted, either crated small blocks will be sent in bulk, or these cars will be shipped here to be fully restored.

      Either way, profit!

  • You don't know how the car industry works, do you? The car lobby is working hard that the next trade treaty cuba makes with any foreign country except perhaps venezuela will contain provisions for enhanced car safety and emmision values. And all those cars will have to be dumped, and new ones bought, that only work for five years each.

    • and use the dmca to lock out 3rd party repairs you have to go to the dealer for any fix.

    • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Monday February 15, 2016 @02:21PM (#51513285)

      Modern cars will last as long as these did. I say "did" rather than "have" because even as TFA notes, if you were to look under the hood you probably wouldn't even find original parts in them anymore. That is, other than the body, these practically are no longer the same cars that they once were in the 50's.

      The reason why modern cars don't seem to last as long in first world countries is because once they break down to a certain point, the labor cost is so expensive that it's cheaper to just get a new car. However in Cuba, the labor price is typically lower while at the same time it's harder to get a hold of new stuff, which means reusing stuff becomes more practical than just making a new one. Like for example, TFA mentions repurposing old dryer motors for key cutting machines.

      It's somewhat hard to think that in the 50's, Cuba was a somewhat wealthy country. That is until glorious revolution happened, and communism made everybody equally poor.

      • It's somewhat hard to think that in the 50's, Cuba was a somewhat wealthy country. That is until glorious revolution happened, and communism made everybody equally poor.

        A blockade by their biggest trading partner also had a little something to do with it.

        Cuba will remain a communist country, but just watch what happens to their economy once relations with the US are normalized.

        The red-scare, commie under every bed political diaper-wetting just doesn't have the same sway over US policy any more.

        • by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 ) <sharper AT booksunderreview DOT com> on Monday February 15, 2016 @03:11PM (#51513703) Homepage Journal

          A blockade (keeping other people out) isn't the same as an embargo (not trading yourself). Cuba has been free to trade with the other 195 countries in the world. With the cost of shipping from the other side of the world (say, China) extremely low, there is virtually no difference between them trading with the U.S. and trading with the rest of the world. Not only that, but anything made specifically in the U.S. can get to Cuba by just transhipping it via another country. The biggest impact of the embargo has been Cuban access to U.S. financial markets, for which there are many other alternatives out there.

          • by dryeo ( 100693 )

            The problem is that the way the American law is written, any company that deals with Cuba becomes illegal in America so companies have to make a choice, give up the American market for the Cuban market or don't. Seems that most all companies value the American market more then the Cuban market

            • Only U.S. companies were impacted like that, not companies in other countries, including multi-nationals with different companies in different countries.

              From an anti-embargo article in Forbes [forbes.com]: "Moreover, since Europeans, Japanese, and Canadians can travel and conduct business in Cuba unimpeded, the sanctions are rather toothless. The State Department has argued that the cost of conducting business in Cuba is only negligibly higher because of the embargo. For American multinational corporations wishing to

              • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

                oh that's why Finnish companies were free to trade high quality steel products to Cuba and Soviets at will and that's why USA didn't block further sales of advanced deep operation submarines to soviets. ...except USA pressured them not to when they felt like it. USA has been meddling with other countries trades with soviets and cuba since the WW2, making it practically impossible for anyone in the west to trade sufficiently advanced products to the eastern block(including cuba).

                yes. the americans would medd

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          If you've never been, go. Pretty soon direct flight will be possible and they're even going to send a cruise ship in a few months (end of June, I think?). Go to Canada, put a piece of blank paper in your passport, and fly to Cuba. Go visit now, see them before they're more heavily influenced by America. Cuba will be resigning themselves from the list of communist countries - but not until after Fidel is dead. He's already admitted such as far as I'm told. Go, before they are no longer the Cuba that they are

          • Just put on your cigar smoking lungs, your music listening ears, and your best rum bib.

            I'm a leave the cigars alone, but I do a mean mambo.

            I was able to go some time back, thanks to the fact that I also have a (legal) Italian passport, since my father and grandfather were born there. Went through Montreal-Trudeau. After the air fare, it cost little more than two weeks camping. I had a blast.

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              Excellent. I can only go by what you choose to share so I figured it'd be something you might enjoy. I'm glad you got the chance to go and I wish more people had gone - it's so not anything like many people expect. At least not people in the US. We've been blasted with propaganda, from our own media, for a very long time and it's really nothing like that. No, it's not idyllic but it is enjoyable and it was fairly unique.

              And no, you're supposed to smoke a cigar or ten. They won't kill you - unless you keep s

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        Communism, or embargoes?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        "That is until glorious revolution happened, and communism made everybody equally poor." Everyone hate the commies... until they need something from the local fucking Walmart.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's somewhat hard to think that in the 50's, Cuba was a somewhat wealthy country. That is until glorious revolution happened, and communism made everybody equally poor.

        Yeah, no poverty in Cuba back then, right?

        The fact is, before the revolution, Cuba was a US plantation, growing sugar and tobacco, with estates and casinos for the rich. For the poor? Prostitution and destitution.

        But you don't care about that.

        • After the communists took over Cuba and murdered everyone who resisted, the Cuban people were actually poorer than before. Where did Castro go when he needed medical care? To one of the vaunted Cuban doctors? No fucking way, he went to Spain and saw a real doctor. Under communism, everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Modern cars will last as long as these did. I say "did" rather than "have" because even as TFA notes, if you were to look under the hood you probably wouldn't even find original parts in them anymore. That is, other than the body, these practically are no longer the same cars that they once were in the 50's.

        The reason why modern cars don't seem to last as long in first world countries is because once they break down to a certain point, the labor cost is so expensive that it's cheaper to just get a new car.

      • The reason why modern cars don't seem to last as long in first world countries is because once they break down to a certain point, the labor cost is so expensive that it's cheaper to just get a new car. However in Cuba, the labor price is typically lower while at the same time it's harder to get a hold of new stuff, which means reusing stuff becomes more practical than just making a new one.

        Of course, they'll all eventually be running aftermarket fuel injection (e.g. Megasquirt) and other electronics becaus

      • Yes, Cuba was indeed "somwhat wealthy" in that 99% of the country was poor while the top percent had all the power and wealth. Oh and let's not forget the brutal dictator running the place. But dictatorships are cool as long as the dictator is pro-US right?

        • But dictatorships are cool as long as the dictator is pro-US right?

          I think its a sad truth that some countries aren't really ready for a democracy. In most islamic countries for example, a western like democracy is impossible. The moment the parliament votes for more rights for women, the imams will preach against the government, and by Friday the government is overthrown. The arab spring in syria helped perhaps russia get a weaker position, but mostly it promoted islamic radicalism, which is in my eyes far worse. Assad is a dictator, yes, but at least he kept the state se

        • 99% of the country was poor while the top percent had all the power and wealth. Oh and let's not forget the brutal dictator running the place.

          You're talking about Cuba today, right? Because you just described the place to a T.

          But dictatorships are cool as long as the dictator is anti-US right?

          Cuba is a dictatorship today. You know, what bothers me the most about this post is the total lack of self-awareness. Is the poster genuinely ignorant of what Cuba is? Or is fully aware and just blanks out t

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        So extremely wealthy for a tiny minority and grinding poverty for the majority is better than everyone being poor (but having excellent health in fact better health care than some very, very close first world country, for the majority of course, that first world country also the main reason for them being poor in fact done so specifically on purpose).

        As for cars, seriously, cough, cough, hint, hint, the current world price of oil and the need to sell as much as possible as fast as possible, should be a s

        • So extremely wealthy for a tiny minority and grinding poverty for the majority is better than everyone being poor

          Of course it is. The rich are our betters and we should all grin and bear it when they piss on us so that their opulent lifestyles don't get interrupted.

      • It's somewhat hard to think that in the 50's, Cuba was a somewhat wealthy country.

        Sorry, what?

        In the 50s Cuba was pretty much ran by a corrupt government, who was giving US corporations the rights to build huge hotels and mansions, while the locals were basically cheap labor ... you know, pretty much still the same as colonialism, but with mobsters instead of an occupying country.

        That is until glorious revolution happened, and communism made everybody equally poor.

        Sorry, but they were already poor, living u

        • Really. So explain to me why the general population was able to afford to import foreign cars back then, but they can't now? They don't even need American cars, they can import Japanese or European cars if they want to, as neither country has an embargo against them. However virtually none of them can afford to do that now. Instead they rely on inheriting the 50's era cars from their grandparents.

          • Really. So explain to me why the general population was able to afford to import foreign cars back then, but they can't now?

            LOL, are you that clueless?

            The general population wasn't importing them, the rich Americans running hotels were.

            Honestly, read some damned history instead of just making up stupid shit about stuff you don't understand.

    • When new regulations are passed, old cars are grandfathered in, and I don't think Cuba will be an exception to this. The safety regs are for manufacturers. Individuals can ride anything they want if they can build them - even in the States (though you may have to work to get it registered). If anything, there will be more leeway for the old vehicles because of its cultural importance and their part-for-part nature as Cars of Theseus.
  • >> These aren't sitting in showroom-like garages of wealthy collectors....yet.

    FTFY. The free market will ensure that the best of these cars make into collector's hands quickly. And I wouldn't cry for the Cubans who sell them to the "stupid Americans" for 5x their value in Cuba - they'll each be laughing to the bank with their relative wealth.

    • Don't worry, US progressives will soon pass laws to end this price gouging and exploitation of the Cuban proletariat by capitalist oppressors! A bit of common sense regulation will ensure that Cubans who sell their classic cars will receive a fair price and protect them from the evil corruption associated with the US dollar!
  • You'll see these classic cars all over Havana. They are often used as taxi's and are fun to ride in. Most owners take great pride in maintaining them, too. These guys were hacking these cars before the word came to mean what it does today---they had to learn to improvise since they couldn't get parts. (You should see what they do for TV antennas!) Most of the modern cars you see there are Chinese.
  • by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <treboreel@live.com> on Monday February 15, 2016 @09:47PM (#51516517) Journal

    My Dad and I both are gearheads, it is something as a much younger man I did not really get into, but as I got older I purposely made myself take an interest in as an excuse to find time to spend with the oldman. One of the networks (TV) is running a show about how a 'master' mechanic in Cuba keeps these so-called Frankencars running with scraps, bailing wire, and pure 'engine-nuity'. I think it would be so-cool to gather up a boatload of what we would call useless scrap parts and take them to Cuba for donation to those folks and see what they could produce. A Dodgsel, with a chevrolac rear end.

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