Aging kings of the road

For Americans, the most familiar and surprising sights in Havana—apart from the former parliament, the elegant Capitolio, an almost exact replica of the US Capitol—are the old American cars. Fords, Plymouths, Studebakers and many more, most from the 1940s and 1950s, are still going, if not always going strong.

The seventh in a series of blogs about Semester at Sea, a round-the-world voyage with 600 students.  David Mould is the author of Postcards from Stanland: Journeys in Central Asia (Ohio University Press, 2016) and the upcoming (2109) Monsoon Postcards: Indian Ocean Journeys. Read excerpts at (Travel Blogs) or Facebook /PostcardsFromStanland/


During the Batista era, when there was heavy US investment, most cars were imported. After the revolution, trade ceased, so for decades Cubans have tried to keep their aging cars—tailfins and all—on the road. Cuban mechanics must be among the most inventive in the world, constantly retooling old parts or fashioning new ones in small machine shops. From the 1960s, Soviet-made cars including Ladas, Moskvichs and Nivas, started arriving, and many are still on the road; so too are Russian-built motorcycles with sidecars. Now Cuba is importing European and Japanese cars. But it’s the aging American giants that still add an air of faded elegance to the city’s roads. 


Next week: Is today a B-Day?