The Streets of Havana, Cuba are filled with vintage classics! If you’re a classic car buff, Cuba is just about the greatest place on the planet. It’s like one big car show, where autos from the 1940s and 1950s motor along the streets and highways. There are Chevrolets, Fords, Pontiacs, Buicks, Dodges, Plymouths, and Studebakers. The cars run the gamut from mint condition to downright dilapidated. Well-preserved cars have exteriors that shine with chrome and new paint jobs, while the worse-off autos are held together with odd parts and scrap metal.
American cars were imported into Cuba for about 50 years, beginning near the early 20th century. After the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. embargo was erected and Castro banned the importation of American cars and mechanical parts. That’s why Cuba is the way it is today—essentially a living museum for classic cars. The old American autos are often kept running with parts and pieces that were never intended for them. It’s not uncommon to find a beautiful 1950s Chevy with a Russian engine—something that would be considered sacrilege to serious car collectors.
Of the cars imported since 1959, Russian-made Ladas are the most common. You’ll see these small, boxy cars everywhere you go. More recently, Chinese Geelys, Citroëns, and Nissans have entered the scene. The Geelys are a popular rental car, and you’ll see tourists driving them around most of Cuba. The cars look and drive fine, but they are somewhat unreliable and not very durable.