Havana is famous for its 1950's cars. Some of the Urban Sketchers gurus have done some wonderful studies of these industrial design marvels. At first they were fascinating, but then I started to think of them as a cliche, at least in terms of sketching. That, and the best locations to draw them, at taxi stands, were out in the hot sun with nowhere to sit in the shade nearby.
We did have several rides in these old beasts. Yes - beasts. The tourist convertibles were in prime condition and I was left wondering if US relations are ever restored that they might get bought up and repatriated. Maybe Jay Leno will buy up 30 or 40 of the best convertibles some afternoon. The rest - as you might expect they are in rough shape, incredibly noisy and belching clouds of blue smoke. And it's not just riding in them - the noise and fumes, even though the traffic is sparse, made walking along main roads very tiring. And our ride in a collectivo taxi to the beach from Vinales was nothing short of exhausting, from the noise alone.
I was also left with many questions, as I was about the country and its history. How in the world had they kept these machines running without replacement parts? - I've given up on cars less than 10 years old. What is the cost of gas? Those cars were gas hogs 60 years ago when new, and with sloppy cylinders what are the miles per quart of engine oil? The radical, jet plane, styling must have been extremely expensive for Detroit to re-tool from year to year. A golden age of marketing.
There were newer cars on the road - more in Vinales that Havana, and I wondered how they would be serviced in this age of electronic components and proprietary dealer computers. There is a huge market opportunity for simple, easily repaired, Chinese or Indian vehicles growing in Cuba. Or, better yet, bicycles, in Havana.