Roll with it

For hire: 1950 Buick Super convertible.
   Some of Cuba's finest old cars are running up a lot more miles these days.
   The reason? The island's 2010 relaxation of rules about self-employment.
   Of 178 activities newly opened to those willing to give capitalism a whirl, private taxi operator seems to have been a popular choice. And more than one neophyte cabbie appears to have quickly twigged to the appeal of a desirable classic car in securing big-tipping tourist fares.
   These private cabs, seen today in every resort area, are not to be confused with the handpicked antiques of the government-run Gran Car service, or the plodding Havana sedans and wagons that serve as fixed-route collectives.
   These are family cars  often heirlooms handed down through generations  and until recently in private service (at least as far as the government was concerned). Today, they're very much in the public eye.
   Visitors to Cuba will like this. Now they're more likely to see, and even ride in, the best of the island's vintage fleet. But I can't help feeling a twinge of regret at the thought that all this extra use could bring these beauties closer to the end of their road.
   Churlish of me, I know. Cubans have a right to earn the best living they can. And perhaps overly pessimistic, as well. These cars have survived for more than 50 years.
   They can survive this too.

Toyota engine, transmission have replaced the original straight-8 and automatic.

'Cuba,' the owner said, pointing to the Continental Kit. 'California,' I replied.

See also:
Call Me a Classic Cab

And for more on the bold 1950 Buick:
CubanClassics: 1950 Buick Super 4-door Tourback Sedan


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