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Showing posts from January, 2011

Geely. Prounced Jee-lee. Or in Cuba, Heely

Reserve a rental car for your Cuban holiday, and chances are you'll find a Geely waiting for you.
   A product of China's largest independent automaker, the Geely has become Cuba's fleet car of choice. Since 2008 Geely has supplied nearly 5,000 sedans to replace the island's much-travelled Hyundai taxis and rental cars, and its purely ancient Lada police cars. The manufacturer reports that it has orders for more cars, these with automatic transaxles, and has set up a parts depot in Cuba to support its growing presence.
  Geely is meant to be pronounced with a soft "g," as in Jili, a Mandarin word meaning auspicious or lucky. In Cuba, however, you're more likely to hear it as "Heely" — not to be confused with those kamikaze roller-shoes of a few years ago.
  Geely is scarcely older than Heelys. Founded in 1986 by entrepreneur Li Shufu to make refrigerator parts, it expanded to motorcycles in 1994 and cars in 1998. Today, billionaire Li is among t…

A Cushman, no, a Cusman, in Cuba

Pretty scooters come from Italy. For those who instead wanted a rugged scooter, the source for three decades was Lincoln, Nebraska, home of the Cushman Corp. factory that turned out tough, reliable two-wheelers between 1936 and 1965.
   Cushman's most famous product? The Military Airborne Model 53, a foldable, lightweight scooter designed to be dropped with parachute troops in World War Two. It didn't work out so well on the battlefield, but is much valued by collectors today.
  I saw the above step-through Model 52 or 54 Cushman — never mind the missing "h" — in Varadero. Built, as it says, in 1948, it's had some reworking over the years. The tube-style forks and front disc brake, for example, would have been later additions, and the cowling has received some well-executed aluminum patches. I couldn't tell if that cowling concealed the original 221-cc, 4-horsepower engine. The bucket, I figure, serves as storage compartment.
  The Cushman name lives on as a …

The sweetest '55 in Cuba

Maybe it's because we share a birth year, but I've always thought of the 1955 Chevrolet as the first car of the modern automotive era. Certainly, it merits landmark status for the eager small-block V-8 it introduced; descendants of that engine can be found all over, including under the hood of my 2009 pickup.
    But to me, it's the balance of the 55's proportions — the roundness of its profile and the squareness of its stance — that sets it apart. Look at it, and you see more of the cars that arrived later than those that came before.
For collectors, the '55 Chevy to have is the two-door Nomad station wagon, of which just 8,386 were built. But for my money (and I'd need a lot of it to buy one), the Bel Air convertible is nicer yet. Chevrolet made 41,292 of the ragtops, and you know every one was a smile-producer.
   Like this example parked at Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport. From bright grille to period-perfect Continental kit for the spare tire, this was a show-qu…

Same 'Vette, different view

Tony Robertson's image of a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette in Havana (Dec. 6, 2009: "Another Corvette in Cuba") continues to draw interest. This undated photo, supplied by a friend of CARISTAS, shows what is almost certainly the same car.