Batista's fleet, and a doomed airliner

From the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional José Marti.

   A WHILE back, I challenged readers to name the cars lined up behind the 1956 Chevrolet Corvette occupied by Fulgencio Batista and his son Rubén in this August 1957 photo.
   Rashly, I did this before identifying the makes and models myself. And when I sat down to do this, I found myself stymied by the second car from the left. It's clearly recognizable as a late-1950s General Motors product, but while the hood badge looks vaguely like a Chevrolet crest, its grille seems more Oldsmobile or Buick.
   A closer look, however, revealed that the emblem, though obscured by the sun's reflection, is indeed the ringed-globe badge that adorned Oldsmobiles through much of the 1950s. That and the grille shape make this a 1957 Olds, though it is impossible from this angle to know whether it's a Super 88 or the longer-wheelbase 98. Its two-tone paint doesn't narrow it down, since that was available across the line.
   The others were easier. That's a 1955 Oldsmobile four-door sedan on the left, though again, it's difficult to specify model. Odds are, however, that it's a Super 88, which in four-door sedan trim was the best-selling Oldsmobile for 1955 (Oldsmobile's new four-door hardtops also enjoyed strong sales).

GM sales literature example

of Olds badge in 1957.
   The third car over is, of course, a Cadillac – in this case a 75 series limousine from 1954 with the panoramic windshield that debuted that year. This is either the eight-passenger sedan, of which just 889 were produced that year, or the even scarcer (611 built) eight-passenger Imperial sedan, which had a power glass partition separating driver and passengers. These cars carried Fleetwood insignia in honour of Cadillac's coach-building arm, but were not Fleetwood models per se.
   Last, and also readily identifiable, is a 1955 Chevrolet station wagon. It could be a Bel Air, though its blackwall tires suggest it's more likely the 210 Townsman model.
   From the context – and the low-number "official" licence plates – it's a safe bet that these cars formed the presidential motorcade. The Oldsmobiles appear to hold security officers, and the Chevy might have been a support vehicle. The limo, of course, would carry the senior Batista in grand comfort.
   Ah, you say, but what about the airplane in the background? What's its make and model?
I can tell you that – and about the significant place it holds in history. Watch for the next post.




See also:

Young Batista's 1956 Corvette

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