From Autopista Nacional to Zil: A Cuban automotive glossary

Almendrón – Old car with rounded (almond-shaped) styling. See also: Cacharro.

Autopista Nacional – Multi-lane national motorway; extends through much of the island. Started in 1970s and still not complete, although a new 60-kilometre stretch in the central provinces was promised for 2009.

Cacharro – Old heap, jalopy (generally applied to pre-1960 vehicles that remain in daily use).

Camello – Adapted from a tractor-trailer, the “Camel” bus is named for its hump
Camello, notorious for its rough ride.
ed roof and holds as many as 300 people. The harsh-riding Camello (no air-ride suspension here) has given way in Havana to more modern buses, but remains in service in other regions.

Carretera Central – Central Highway, a two-lane, 1,119-kilometre route opened in 1930s.

Carro – Car, cart, wheeled means of transport.

Coco taxi – Coconut-shaped, three-wheeled tourist 

Colectivo – See peso taxi.

Cuidador – Guard for parked vehicles (portion of fees charged are paid to the state).

Fotingo – Ford Model T, from “Foot ‘n Go” for the T’s three-pedal transmission controls.

Gran Car – State-owned company that supplies chauffered classic cars for tourists (also used by Cubans for special occasions).

Guagua – “Wah-wah.” Slang for bus.

Haciendo bottelo – Hitchhiking (“making the bottle”).

Harlista – Owner of Harley-Davidson or similar vintage motorcycle.

Harley Davidson Duo-Glide.

KrAZ – Heavy-duty Ukraine-built truck. KrAZ-257 built from mid-1960s until the1980s remains in wide use in Cuba.

Malecón – Seaside promenade. Havana's Malecón, a seven-kilometre parade of people and cars, is easily the most famous boulevard in Cuba.

Mecánico – Mechanic.

Moskvich 1500 – Built by Moskvitch (yes, the spelling is different), the 1500 is similar to the boxy Lada 1300, but unlike the Fiat 124-based Lada, is built from its own tooling.

Peso taxi – Taxi that picks up and drops off passengers on a fixed route in Havana for a fee of 10 or 20 Cuban pesos.

Radio Bemba – “Lip radio” or word-of-mouth. Helps owners locate parts.

Rutero – Fixed-route taxi. See peso taxi.

Traspaso – Paper that allowed a pre-1960 vehicle to be bought and sold privately. (No longer necessary.)

Via Blanca – Multi-lane, 138-kilometre highway between Havana and Varadero along Cuba's north coast. Construction began in 1945, but Bacunayagua Bridge, the highest bridge in Cuba, was not completed until 1959.

Yutong – Chinese manufacturer that supplies buses to Cuba.

Zil 130 – Soviet-built truck seen everywhere in Cuba.


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