Imagine walking down the street and the newest car was a decade old. Even your own vehicle would be that old at least. Now, that’s not to hammer on your trusty pickup that continues to rack up the miles, but imagine an automotive world where nothing was ever current.
In the Republic of Cuba, this is life; an automotive universe frozen in time, where the newest vehicle around is from the late 1950s.
For generations, Cuba thrived with American influence, partly from its close proximity to Florida. Following World War II, Cuba was an automotive diamond, with more citizens purchasing vehicles than any other Latin American country. With a strong middle class, influential labor unions, and solid trade, many Cubans enjoyed a lifestyle comparable to the United States.
However, when Cuba emerged in 1959 at the end of the Cuban Revolution, the dynamics changed. The rise of Communism brought about a trade embargo, forcing Cuba’s car culture to get remarkably creative. Owners had to figure out how to keep their vehicles running without replacement parts. Even recreational and competitive Motorsports became an exercise in ingenuity with the rise of drag racing.
Cuba’s Car Culture: Celebrating the Island’s Automotive Love Affair documents Cuba’s pre-Castro car days and racing history. The book examines today’s lost collector cars, street racing, and the challenges of keeping a decades-old car running. Chevy Bel-Airs, Ford Fairlanes, Studebakers, and Soviet Ladas decorate the pages, showing Cuba’s automotive landscape is both unique and endearing in its survival.
For the past 30 years, Tom Cotter has worked on nearly every end of the car business: mechanic, sales, public relations, marketing executive, auto racing authority, historian, racer, collector, restorer, journalist, and author. He has written for the New York Times and Road & Track.
Cotter is joined by Bill Warner, Founder of the Amelia Island Concours and President of H. C. Warner, Inc., an industrial filtration company. He also owns and operates Bill Warner Racing. Warner won the 2002 Meguiar’s Award for Collector Car Hobby Person of the Year.
Cuba’s Car Culture Gallery
Last weekend in the Automoblog Book Garage, we featured the Shelby Mustang.