American Classic Cars as Taxi Cabs in Cuba

In Cuba restored American classic cars – Chevy convertibles from the 50s and 60s – are taxi cabs. Most are relics of the U.S. businesses on the island in the 1950s under the Fulgencio Batista regime before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Now in the capital city of Havana friendly men put these aging cars to work as “gypsy cabs”. They are part of Cuba’s thriving ‘black’ market that the island depends on for survival. Most Cubans cannot acquire the almost unobtainable government permission to buy new cars – permits which are reserved for famous athletes, top political officials, the wealthy, and the government’s taxi service. The damaged and drooping bodies of these old classics have been repainted and repaired uncountable times. Crumbling interiors have been cannily reupholstered. Repairs are done in the street, often on the spot. In many places in Havana you can see people painting cars, doing body work, and repairing engines as passersby move around the mechanics and parts. Cubans salvage what they can from older cars and put parts from several manufacturers together like jigsaw puzzles. This meticulous care has left many in exceptional condition given the years of constant use. Many owners claim that their vehicles have run over half a million miles, although most odometers stopped long ago. Need to get around in Havana? Negotiate the rate and hop into one of these American classics! Some would say these cars represent the diverse reality of Cuba – on the one hand, the romantic, frozen-in-time feeling and on the other, the country’s arrested development.