• Lynn Lundstrom Belles

The Classic American Cars of Cuba

When we disassemble Communism one of the parts that we find is Freedom! We found freedom under the hoods of those Classic American Cars of Cuba!  Some people that we were traveling with took a Classic American Car “private cab” to the Hotel National De Cuba, some to the Tropicana….  and some just for a hot joy ride!  Did I say “HOT”?  Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat! But hold on to it if you choose a convertible!


Classic Convertible Taxi

When we travel we always do so with a boat load of curiosity, an open mind and open eyes!  That way we can think of questions to ask the local people and are open to any perspective that we might receive in reply to our questions.  We love to actually pay attention to what is happening around us and bring it back to share it with YOU!  Our recent trip to Cuba was no different – the guide on the bus was talking but we captured this car load – looking out the window!

Everyone who knows we went to Cuba asks about the Classic American Cars!  To answer your question – the cars are among the first things you see even before disembarkation from the ship in Old Havana!  But wait….. if you want to be free to hire one of these Classic Cuban Taxis you have to check the correct box on the affidavit form!

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Rob and I were always under the impression that Classic American cars were all the Cubans had….  I suppose we were taught that since trade with Cuba was shut down by the Embargo in 1960 the Cuban people were stuck in time and forced to keep the now classic cars in running order, because they had NO choice. OMG – Americans have such big EGOs!  As usual – we learned that we were once again – dead wrong!  There are plenty of cars in Cuba!  There are Korean Cars, Russian Cars & please watch the video to see what other kinds of cars you can identify!  If you recognize one state the make, model and approximate year in the comments below!


The truth of the matter related to the Classic American Cars is that they are for the most part an asset that the Cubans use to make extra money through Tourism!  and I will share more about that with you in a moment, but right now you might be thinking – what tourism???  Until just recently Americans were forbidden from visiting Cuba by the U.S. Government.  This is just another tidbit of misinformation – because there are 12 reasons that we are and have been allowed to visit Cuba – but the process for doing so was laborious and lengthy, full of paperwork and red tape.  Thanks to President Obama and an executive order the process has now been streamlined opening the doors to what used to be an unlikely vacation destination.  Learn more about Charting a New Course with Cuba here! – www.whitehouse.gov

Rob and I just returned from Cuba last Sunday.  We were on the second sailing of a Fathom Travel Cruise out of Miami in over 50 years – right now the ONLY Cruise Line to sail there.  We enjoyed Cuba in its humble state – and sincerely hope that tourism dollars offer them some relief from their depressed economy.  We were really grateful that we were visiting Cuba on a Cruise because we really didn’t see any place we would have wanted to stay.  The five star environment on the ship was an excellent way to wrap up each adventurous day that we spent “Traveling Deep”.  You know, we never really appreciate reliable water for showering & drinking until we have to think about going without it, or other things like power for air conditioning and our connectivity to the world through the internet!  The Fathom Adonia, our floating hotel, became our best friend during our 7 day journey to three Cuban destinations, Havana, Cienfuegos & Santiago De Cuba!  Each day when we returned we could wash the culture off!!  lol…..

Rob and I discovered that the Affidavit passengers are required to sign by the U.S. Government offers an additional check box on the form, for a deeper travel experience.  One where you are not required to stay with the Group! If you check this box you are allowed to go out on your own to do things like ride in one of these Classic American Car Taxis! This is VERY important to know because you have to sign the Affidavit at embarkation.  They will hand it to you, ask you to read, check appropriate boxes, and sign.  You are required to keep a copy of it with you.  I suggest also photographing it!

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We recommend checking the second and third boxes on the form “b” and “c”.   Both boxes appear under the first category EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES.  Box (b) is: 515.565 – People to People Exchange arranged by a Sponsoring Organiazation……   and  Box (c) is: 515.565(b). Self-Guided People to People Exchange: I am traveling on a “self-guided” people to people exchange program, and my travel (1) is for the purpose of engaging while in Cuba in a full time schedule (at least 8 hours a day) of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, resulting in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba; (2) the predominant portion of activities to be engaged in will not be with individuals or entities acting for or on behalf of a prohibited member of Government of Cuba or the Cuban communist Party as those terms are defined in the CACR; and (3) I will maintain records demonstrating my compliance with these requirements for a period of no less than (5) years.

Use your smart phone features to track your experience. Take photos of people and signs and other things that indicate where you went and what you did.  You could even record conversations with people or track your path with Google maps. Then save it all to your computer when you get home!  Who knows when or if anyone will ever ask for it – but you will want to be prepared!

Many people who checked the right boxes on the form enjoyed a ride in one of the Classic American Car Taxis!  We had fun photographing them!  You can tell which of the Classic Cars are taxi’s by the license plate number.  A private Taxi will begin with a “P”.  Expect to pay $50/hour for a hot ride around Havana or another exotic Cuban destination!  Cutting a deal for your expected destination and Fare is a MUST before climbing in!  Otherwise you might be asked for way more than you want to pay at the completion of your ride! It’s not that the Cubans are dishonest – but they are creative and thrifty – and if you make the mistake of not agreeing on the fare – they feel you deserve to pay extra for it!   Oh!!…. and don’t forget to ask your driver what his real job is!   read on to learn why……

We were told by the Cubans we met that the favorite saying of the people in Cuba is “The Government pretends to pay us so we pretend to work” – and we also learned about what this means!  It’s a unique concept and you might just have to take a trip to Cuba to see for yourself but here goes…..  Since everything in Cuba (well almost) is owned and operated by the government. Everyone is a essentially a government employee.  There are many meaningless and insignificant jobs that people are assigned to do – well because you have to do something to earn your ration, right???  So here is what some people do….  They clock into their job each morning……  and then leave to go do something else through which they can earn a little extra!  Some focus on their art or craft talents at home.  And no worries – they can’t get fired because they are required to have this job that they have been assigned to do!  We were told that the government looks the other way while some motivated Cubans hit the streets in their Classic American Cars when ever tourism is particularly high.  After all – it makes the experience that tourists have richer and makes Cuba itself look better!  It made me question who was “free-er” those of us who have to stay at work to earn necessities or Cubans who can leave while still getting paid their necessities and being allowed to do and earn more!

Tourism is really the only thing supporting the upkeep of these cars.  Many have had the engines completely replaced and of course new paint jobs and upholstery making these Classics very appealing – everyone wants a ride!  We are told that the Cubans make parts for their cars because they can’t get them from us or even at all…  Fathom Travel has a people to people destination in the planning stages where travelers will be able to visit a Classic Car repair facility, and even view these cars up on a hoist!  (we learned this from Jason, our inside line at fathom travel) Stay tuned for a future announcement – when this experience becomes available you will want to take your whole car club!

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But don’t wait too long because the Cuban economy is in a state of desperation and as soon as trade opens up between the U.S. and Cuba again – these cars will bring a high ticket price equal to at least five years of a Cuban income and don’t think for two seconds that that kind of money won’t motivate some Cubans to sell their cars.

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When taking a Fathom Travel Cruise out of Miami – a nice dinner and a sea night of sleep away – Havana waits!   You won’t be disappointed if you are a car buff or a photographer!  If you really believe in consumerism be sure to spend some money on those extra goods the Cubans are producing to share your culture with them!  Through this People to People Cultural exchange we can teach them the monetary value of going above and beyond what is merely expected.  I mean why do something extra if not for the money – – right ????

Don’t forget to post a comment with the make and model of car you identified in the photos or video above!  Or even something thought provoking or controversial – (challenge has been issued)!

Did you learn something from our Classic American Cars of Cuba post or just enjoy it?

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