We already know that in Cuba lots of old cars have been restored and modified in a unique manner. But the Cubans do more than just keep old cars moving, they also modify them to fit their personal requirements. So today we show you some Cuba-cars that have been adapted, modified and rebuilt for a specific task or to match the taste of their owner.
The practical pick-up
This here is a good example. The basis of this car is the 1949 Ford, the Shoebox. Ford was not the first one to build a pontoon-style car (Studebaker was ahead of them in 1947) but it was the first car in this body style to be produced in really large quantities.
Quite a few of these Shoeboxes have survived in Cuba. These two have been turned into pick-up trucks. The orange one looks bright and shiny. But the green car has had a tougher life. It seems that it was locally made on Cuba, but there was some sort of production line, as the two cars look identical.
For a while, the only new cars in Cuba came from Russia. Now a Moskvitch is a far cry from an all-American luxury sedan. But at least you can make the Moskvitch LOOK like an American luxury sedan. And that is what has been done to these two. Apparently, they both look the same, using the same parts to change their appearance.
The name on the windscreen hints to the long forgotten American car brand Nash, and it looks like these Russian sedans are both equipped with the front end of a Nash Rambler of the latter half of the 1950s. Look at the grille, the shape of the hood and the air intake on top of it. Even the round headlights of the Nash are there. The rear lights also seem to come from the little Nash. According to the ad, the interior has been upholstered new and with that also a wooden dashboard was fitted.
The unswedish Saab
Maybe we should call this a folly on wheels? There are all sorts of cars in Cuba, even Saabs. This 93 is from 1959 and has been totally rebuilt so that there is literally nothing Swedish about it anymore. Technically it is a Lada now. But that is not the most important thing. What really matters is the awesome look of this thing! Most of the body is made of fibreglass, the seats are from Audi, headlights originate from Kia and the grill, of course, is from Seat. Furthermore, the car is equipped with a big sound system and even… electric windows.
The stately stationwagon
A similar construction like the Studebaker is this 1947 Cadillac, it probably started its life as a Fleetwood. Like with the Studebaker, the design is based on stretching the roof backwards from the B-pillar and then filling the gap between the roof and the rear wing.
The original car was a four-door, judging by the size of the front door. The rear door ended up narrower than the original. According to the vendor’s description, the engine is by Avia, a Czech firm that first built aviation engines and after World war 2 decided to move to trucks. The chassis is Mercedes-Benz, the drivetrain is by Chevrolet and the gearbox is by Nissan. If that isn’t international cooperation, I don’t know what is!
We all know that the Renault Dauphine is a rear-engined car, right? Well, look again, cause this one is completely different. The ad says that it has engine and gearbox of a Lada and drivetrain of a Moskvich. That means that the engine is in the front, driving the rear wheels. Can you imagine what a job it must have been to rebuild this car? And remember, people in Cuba did not do this for fun, but because it was the only way for them to get a means of transportation.
The orange Renault 4 has been rebuilt in a similar way, but it still has the engine in the back. Only this time the engine is not by Renault but by… Volkswagen. And some other VW-parts have also been used, can you spot them?
Another people-carrier is this large stationwagon. It may take a few moments before you realise that we are dealing here with a 1948 Studebaker, probably a Champion. Cuban craftsmen have stretched the roof backwards and mounted windows between the roof and the still recognisable Studebaker rear wing. Not only the back has been altered, but the front also has gone major surgery. The reason for the new front was probably because of a shortage of the original chrome parts. So this Studebaker ended up with a smaller radiator grille with a Hyundai-logo in it. That was the air intake got smaller, but the opening in de hood makes up fort hat.
It is clear that over the years, the folds and creases in the body panels have all been rubbed out, what is left is a slick, but amorph shape in which the original car can hardly be recognised. But it is a functional passenger car and after 71 years it is still around. The seller wants CUC 30,000 for it.
CUC 25,000 is the price of this 1959 Chrysler Imperial people-carrier. Again, some skilful Cuban craftsman has been very creative building this. The rear half of the car has been removed and a fibreglass cube has been put on it. That way a roomy car was created, offering space to at least 8 passengers.
The lid of the spare wheel, that is normally in the middle of the trunk of the Imperial, is now placed vertically to the back end of the car, like an ornament. Our special admiration, however, goes to the way the left rear door was welded into the side of the car, while that door on the right now is the entrance to the passenger compartment. If it wasn’t a people carrier, this would make a great camper van!
This car has not been transformed into something different, but … into itself. That is to say, it really looks like this car started its life as a Peugeot 504 Break, probably built in Argentina. But over the years a large part of it has been rebuilt and that makes it look like Renée Zellweger after her facelift. It’s the same car and yet it is different.
We’ve put in a picture of an original Peugeot 504 Break for comparison. The stance of the Cuban Peugeot is different as if it is on the chassis of a completely different car. The windshield is too high. The rear side window is not in line with the door windows. There should also be a fold in the roof about where the C-pillar is. And that front end… the left front wing looks… well, just wrong. The car is for sale in Havana for CUC 52,000. The seller tells us that the car has Hyundai-engine and Kia gearbox. And probably quite a few other strange parts…
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is without the shadow of a doubt one of the most beautiful cars in the world. No wonder that so many people would want to own one. And if you can’t buy one, you simply build one yourself! That must have been how this car came to life. It is being offered for sale as being a VW Karmann Ghia and it does resemble the famous design.
But now look again. Look closely. See? The dimensions are completely off. This car looks shorter than a real KG, it also looks higher. And the windows are bigger, in fact, the windscreen looks as if it comes from a Volkswagen Beetle 1303. Now that you mention it, the side window also comes straight from a Beetle. So the guy that sits so proudly behind the wheel, probably built this car himself. We don’t know if he built it from steel or fibreglass or whatever. But we do know that he did a wonderful job.
You can only wonder how a car like this was created. Maybe the cab driver replaced his beloved 1956 Ford Fairlane after many years by a relatively new Mercedes-Benz Vito and wanted to keep a token of his old car?
Mind you, the coachbuilder that created this did a great job, the old Ford-nose fits almost naturally on the Vito. And the rear lights of the Ford have been integrated perfectly in the otherwise boring body style of the van. It helps of course that the car has been painted in sparkling and shining yellow paint. This Mercedes Vito is being offered for sale, but it’s not a bargain. The price is set at CUC 100,000.
Which is your favorite?
So there they are, 10 examples of the creativity and skill of the Cuban people. Remember, they can only be sold within Cuba, as a foreigner you can not buy a car in Cuba and take it home. You can look, but you can’t touch. So tell us, which of these 10 is your favourite?