I had to mull this post over.
I asked myself: was a photo-essay showcasing the sexy (and perhaps not so sexy) classic cars that I saw while on my photo tour in Cuba too cliché?
My conclusion: Probably, but what the hell.
I’m not a car person. As far as I am concerned, they’re just a mode of transportation; a means to an end. Yet on my trip, I found myself drawn to the colorful silhouettes and sensual curves that were zooming around Havana at lightning speed. (I’m not kidding, lightning. They drive crazy there.)
I realized that in addition to being incredibly photogenic, the cars represented far more than an iconic promo for holidays in Havana, they are a metaphor for the Cuban people: Colorful. Stylish. Resilient. And Vibrant, in both heart and spirit.
Cuba’s fleet of classics is a source of pride and accomplishment and a symbol of resourcefulness. Every day, I photographed Cuba’s citizenry tinkering with their wheels on side streets and along the avenues, modifying spare parts that weren’t meant for cars. The island is populated by a sea of McGyver’s working miracles with bits of steel, rubber, and wire.
So cliché be damned. They’re worth a salute.
I bring you Cuba’s Classic cars!
Just before sunrise in Havana Central.
Stopping for a light near the capital building.
I saw this bouquet on the street in Havana Central but it was the hotrod behind it that really grabbed my attention.
A little worse for wear, but just looking at this car you know it must have been stunning in its day.
I love this sexy wooden hood ornament. Just gorgeous.
View from the roof of the Parqué Central hotel.
I saw a lot of this walking around town. Parts of people jutting out from their cars as they worked on them.
How cool is this baby? It was parked in what looked to be a bombed out lot.
A green machine in Old Havana.
One of the main drags in Central Havana.
This man has a lot of work ahead of him.
This poor guy just couldn’t get his car started, so….
He asked another guy with a truck to pull it with a rope (see it on the lower left of this image) and then he revved the engine.
A glimpse of the inner workings.
I loved this hood ornament.. snazzy!
A park in Central Havana where a lot of taxi drivers hang out in the a.m., their cars all lined up in a row.
I loved the way this classic car looked through the rain and a bus window.
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~I took these photos while an invited guest of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop: Seeing Cuba: Discovering the Culture and People of Cuba
117 thoughts on “Cuba’s Classic Cars: So Much More than Postcard Fodder”
Wow woman your photos are incredible! They tell the whole story..
Your perspective is brilliant. Your work here strongly corroborates the point that silence speaks. Photos are mere a still unlike the motion pictures photos are open to individual interpretation and learning.
So, absolutely brilliant and yes indeed the thirst for all of this is Insatiable
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. :)) Please come back again.
Absolutely amazing photos! I love old classic cars so much so this post was very fun for me to read. Cuba looks beautiful !
I’m so glad! Thank you for letting me know. 😀😀
I’ve always dreamed of visiting Cuba just for the collection of incredible cars! I am a car person thanks to my dad dragging me to car shows when i was younger. I dream of owning an early 50s Chevy. Or anything from that era! Thanks for sharing!!
What I loved was that the experience was real, not some major car show. The cars were held together by band aids but absolutely amazing. While I’m sure they’d love to have access to newer models, I’ll be bummed when the time comes that they give up those old gems. Glad you liked the post. Please share if you think friends or family will enjoy. Have a great weekend. 🙂
You have some awesome photography skills. Enjoyed reading as well.
You are very kind, Rebecca. I hope if you have some time you’ll check out some of the other pieces I did on Cuba. Thank you for sharing your time. 🙂
I most certainly will and you are so very welcome.
Amazing and glorious
Just found your lovely blog! It is fantastic that the cars still exist so documenting them is by no means a cliché! We hope to visit soon, too.
Welcome! So glad you enjoyed the piece. I hope you return!!
At the beginning of March, I was in Cuba for ten days. We moved across the island with four taxis of the 50s. It was the best way to live the true essence of the island.
This reportage is gorgeous. I would like to go back to Havana to make more photos.
Wow! that sounds amazing!!!
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Love the fotos, my fav is the one with the hood ornament from the front.
One of my favorites too! Thank you.:)
Ha, loved how some of those classic cars have 1990s/early noughties steering wheels. Mind you, it smacks of desperation to be resorting to use a Peugeot steering wheel for your car but, hey, better that than no wheel!
I’m more a Russian car fan but I really liked your shots and the views of Old Havana, Susan. Some remarkably beautiful buildings there.
You are much more of a car person than I. Thank you so much for your kind words. 🙏🙏
I love this post. I would love to go to Cuba one day. The old cars are really attractive and I am not really into cars. Bucket list item for sure. ‘visit Cuba’ 🙂
Yes! It’s a wonderful, interesting place. I think you’ll love it!
beautiful pics 😀 and Cuba looks … just wow! hope to go there one day, amazing…and do you know that in Cuba Fiat126p is a quite popular car (like in Poland long time ago) and they call it ‘polaquito” 😀
I didn’t. Such a great detail. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Beautiful pictures! 🙂
Thanks a million!
Fantastic photos — I’m not usually a car person either, but I love classic cars for some reason!
Thank you so much!
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Oh, brilliant….and I do have some cliches of my own, I now realise!!
I sailed to Cuba from the US back in 2008. I’m sure it is a very different country now that it has opened up.
It’s really not that different from what I hear. It’s been open to the rest of the world all this time. There’s only been small incremental changes from what I hear from the Cubans.
I’m dying to visit Cuba since I was a child but I don’t know where I can apply for a visa. 🙁 🙁
I LOVE YOUR PICTURES
Where do you live?
I live in Dubai
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Omg! I am fascinated by cuban cars and cuban culture in general. Great work 😍😍
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the piece! Please share . 😀
Wow! Wonderful pictures!! ^_^
Thanks so much!!
I’ve been to Cuba several time. Very interesting car culture, indeed. And very friendly people to boot.
Couldn’t agree more!
I love it
So glad! Thanks for letting me know. Please share if you think your friends or family will appreciate. 🙂
Love this post, Susan! Those cars are amazing and well worth showcasing through your beautiful photography 🙂
Aren’t they amazing. It’s a surreal experience to see them tooling around Havana and know it’s not some vintage drag race but real life. Glad you like the post. Thank you very much for letting me know!
A moment completely stagnant in time, how incredible! I’m very glad you decided to post these!!! x
Crazy, right?! I find them fascinating. 🙂
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THANKS FOR SHARING!
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Love these! I’ve never taken as many photos of cars as I did in Cuba.
It’s kind of impossible not to. They’re so darn photogenic!
Beautiful! I love the interior of the Peugeot, it looks like a sunset – so gorgeous.
They are truly special. They’re kept together with chewing gum and dental floss but they sure are pretty. 😉
I like cuba and vintage cars ! So, I love this pictures 😉
A perfect combo! Glad you liked it.
What is it about classic cars? We’re like moths to a flame. I love all the bold details and curvy bodies. The chrome! And bench seats!! The grills. Details, not electronics. Nice post.
I know!! I’m really not a car person but those sexy wheels in Cuba really had me captivated.
Cuba is on our list to go too. Thank you for the post. Cheers!
Thank you, I hope you have some time to take a look at some of the other posts as well on my adventure. Have a great day.
I absolutely love your blog! I am a car enthusiast, I attend the Iola Car Show every year in Iola, Wisconsin. Reading this blog about Havana is breathtaking you made all the pictures make it seem like I was there on how realistic it is! The use of the cars too is truly authentic. Awesome post, I will be following you!
Thank you! I’m afraid I won’t have much more on vintage cars but hopefully you’ll like the upcoming Cuba stuff. :)))
Havana is such a beautiful place and those colorful cars made your photos even better! Great post!
Thank you, Heather. I really appreciate it. More to come. Next post tomorrow!
Lovely cars..I think we get the best vintage cars in Cuba..Any particular reasons for it?
Yes. The country was frozen in time in many respects in the 50’s when US relations ended with Cuba. We didn’t ship any more cars there. Only Russia and a few other countries, but our sanctions kept most automotive companies at bay. The cars have been kept going out of pride and practicality. Individuals don’t have the resources to buy a fleet of new cars, so they make due with what they have. It’s not a tourist act, though many Cubans make money by using their well kept vehicles as Taxis for travelers. The use of the cars is truly authentic, whereas everywhere else it’s a nod to nostalgia and collectors.
Feel free to check out my blog maybe you will find it interesting
Did you tried to car pool ? Because it suposed to be quite common over there. my preference is the red car with the wooden hood ornament.
Yes. It’s definitely popular and easy to do.
I love vintage cars
Me too apparently. I think I appreciated them more in Cuba because they weren’t a hobby or on display at a car show. They were suspended in time like the rest of the country. Their use was real, not just for show.
Yer please check out our blogs
Amazing cars, I love your pictures!
These photos are wonderful!
Thank you very much!
Beautiful. You pictures tell such a story of the country and its people. A story of struggle, resilience and survival
I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you.
Great portfolio, Susan. One of the charming aspects of these cars is how their owners have transformed them over the years into a kind of “mixed breed.” A car that orginally was a Buick might now have a Cadillac rear fender, an Oldsmobile tailight, a Peugeot steering wheel, a Pontiac hood ornament, etc. In essence, each is “one of a kind.”
Such a good point Robin. They definitely are a melange of cars made whole. I just love them.
Beautiful! I loved the metaphor in this piece!
Thank you so much.
Enjoyed this post
I’m so glad. Thanks for letting me know
Makes me want to visit Havana.
It’s a wonderful place!
What’s the best time to visit?
Dear Susan, thank you for the fantastic fotos. I like your peek inside the interieur of peugeot, the oldest european carbrand. BR
These cars are brilliant! Love ’em. I really like the one just viewable in the rain!
Thanks Julie, I had fun shooting them
I bet 😃
Absolutely wonderful, photo essay! Fantastic shots Susan – so much colour in those classic old cars. Thanks for sharing.
Quite lovely chronicle… and perfect panning. Seeing those amazing machines would make me drean in noir movies, a city of detectives and stories.
Thanks very much.
Fabulous shots! These old cars are a Transportation life line for the everyday Cuba and many of them are “Cuban Taxi”s” with an extra set of seats in them to get in a many people as comfortably possible! A Bus Service of sorts if you will 🙂
These are wonderful pictures of classic cars.
I so enjoyed your posting. Loved to see the sights of Havana and it’s sexy old cars. So colorful and classic like the people who drive them.
Yes they are. Thank you so much for commenting. 🙂
I’m pretty clueless about cars but I appreciate the aesthetics of good design even in vehicles. You also brought back memories – fond ones actually – of being dragged to vintage car fairs by my Dad. All the images are wonderful and fascinating. Of the selection, I’m drawn to the portraits of cars that have really worn paintwork. They are characterful because they are battered.
These photos are amazing. And those cars! Great work with the motion blur 🙂
Thanks a million Julia!
very nice susan. your motion blur africa experience set you up perfectly for havana cars! love what you captured!
You’re so right Patricia. All that panning practice came in handy!
The white car is my favourite
Kinda sexy ain’t it. 🙂