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Media post: Cuba’s Classics

Vintage-American-car-Cuba-by-Teemu-R

The roads in Cuba are just packed with classic cars. Most of them are American cars from 1950s and 60s Why is this? It’s simple, since Cuba has effectively been isolated from the west for over 50 years, certain features of its society are effectively locked in time. When it comes to cars, the supply got shut off in the 1960s so the existing cars in Cuba were kept on the road. Vintage car buffs are going to wonder: Is this a gold mine just ready to be tapped? Where else could you actually buy a 1955 Chevy that has been running continuously since, well, 1955? We asked the guys at Suburban Chrysler of Farmington Hills, MI, a Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer, what they thought and here is what we were told.

Friends again

Americans have not been allowed to do business in Cuba for the last 54 years. The reason, of course, was due to the Cold War, we have not had a political relationship with the island nation since 1961. However, the Cold War has been over for a long time now. Brewing for a few years, a new relationship seemed to be a good idea for both parties. The result was that US opened its embassy in Havana, and Cuba opened its embassy in Washington, DC, this year.

Not the cars you are looking for

So now that relations between Cuba and the United States seem to be on the mend, classic car collectors are salivating over the thousands of still running America classics on the roads. Is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for car enthusiasts? Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it. The reason: while some of these classic cars are in somewhat original condition, most aren’t even close. These are classic cars that have been heavily modified and patched together for over 60 years now. They are known to be patched up via all sorts of crude methods and few original parts are still on the vehicles. Virtually none of them have their original drive train. While some of them look nice from a distance, look inside and you will see that they are “Frankenstein” cars.

Not valuable?

How can a running 1950s American car not be valuable? Well, car collectors will tell you that in the US, the intrinsic value of vintage cars is in the originality of its parts. If there is any doubt that this is the case, just look at the value of classic cars that have “matching numbers.” If a car has the original drivetrain (with matching numbers), it is far more valuable than a car that doesn’t. And, as we learned above, Cuba’s cars are nowhere near original. Their probably are just a few matching number cars on the entire island.

Some exporting may still occur

We suspect that some exporting of Cuba’s classic cars will still occur. If a particular model isn’t available in the states, some collector will likely still want it; especially if it is affordable. Perhaps the greatest export interest, though, isn’t to car collectors but to Cuban exiles who are proud to buy a car that is quintessentially Cuban.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. I was in Cuba last year, great place to visit.
    I was talking to people driving these old cars, and, for most of them, apart from the body, nothing is original. Typically, they use for instance, a Hyundai truck engine, paired to a Toyota gearbox, break from another manufacturer etc. So they would not qualify as classic cars..

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