Why Does Cuba Have So Many Classic Cars?

September 5th, 2023 by

Why does Cuba have so many classic cars?

Updated: May 3, 2024

When you think of Cuba, what comes to mind? Beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and…classic cars? That’s right, Cuba is famous for its abundance of vintage automobiles, and there’s a fascinating reason behind it. 

While many countries have moved on to sleek and modern vehicles, Cuba remains stuck in time with its iconic collection of classic cars. These vintage beauties have become a symbol of the country’s unique charm and resilience, attracting tourists from all over the world. We can tell you all about the Classic Cars in Cuba all the way from Milford, MI.

But have you ever wondered why Cuba has managed to preserve so many classic cars? The answer lies in the country’s complex history, economic limitations, and resourcefulness. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating story behind Cuba’s love affair with classic cars and how they have become an integral part of the Cuban identity.

Cuban Revolution and Import Embargo of Automobiles

To understand the present, learning about the past is best. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba instilled their new leader, Fidel Castro. While having been one of Cuba’s most infamous leaders in recent history, this quickly led the US to no longer see Cuba as an ally.

As a result, the US implemented a global import embargo. The implementation of that embargo meant that Cuba, as a nation, could no longer import any goods from the US. Household products suddenly became scarce, and the automotive industry came to a screeching halt nearly overnight. After the embargo was instated, any American products or goods already in the country would be the last of its kind.

But even then, the Cuban people knew they needed to do what they could with whatever they had on hand.

Classic American Cars: Revival Through Necessity

As the years waned from the embargo, the Cuban people showed a deep appreciation for the classic American vehicles they had left over for a different era. As means of transportation, they also served to remind people of a different time in history. Like most other vehicles, they needed repair eventually, but without a supply of parts available, this is where creativity took form. With little to no trade happening on a global scale, citizens turned to what was around them to keep cars running. Using wires from broken electrical devices, retrofitting parts from washing machines, and even reports of rebuilt carburetors using coffee filters, the population did what they could to keep these vehicles running into the 21st century.

If you’ve ever had the joy of restoring a vintage car, you can only imagine how difficult it could have been without the right tools or parts. Any lover of classic and vintage cars can appreciate the work done to keep these cars going throughout the country. At times things like paint were not readily available, so it’s not uncommon to hear locals crafting their own car paint of oils, herbs, and other plants around the country.

In the 1990s, the Cuban government declared tourism a priority and even began prioritizing the restoration of classic cars. This led to fully guided tours around Havan in pieces of American history and proved to be quite a success.

Ongoing Use of Cars in Cuba Today

Today, there are still private tours given in these classic cars for tourists willing to pay. In the 1990s, these vehicles were government-owned, whereas today, many of these vehicles now operate as businesses independent of the government. Private owners have taken the initiative to extend beyond the capital city of Havana. In fact, there are even private taxi services to and from small towns around the island.

If you see a Chevrolet Bel Air on the road in Havana, there’s serious doubt it’ll have its original engine. This is because to keep these vehicles running, most times, if the engine didn’t need to be fully taken apart and rebuilt using whatever was found around the home, it needed to be fully scrapped and replaced with whatever was found at the time. If you want a truly classic American car with true American parts, we might have what you’re looking for in stock.


Unveiling Timeless Treasures: Classic Cars at LaFontaine Classic Cars

If you’re looking to buy, trade, or sell classic or muscle Cars, take a look at our inventory. While Cuba has classic cars, we can assure you that you can find ones with fully rebuilt engine blocks, complete overhauls, or fully modernized builds. At LaFontaine Classic Cars, we’re more than happy to help you find what you’re looking for or even help you sell what you have. Contact us today to find out more!

Image Credit: Suzanne Tenuto / Shutterstock

Posted in Classic Cars