Revealed! The Secret Chevy Workshop


Feigning sleep, carefully trained dog is ready to pounce on intruders.
   My chum Ralphee of CUBANCLASSICS once speculated that a clandestine Chevy workshop must exist near Matanzas, given the number of fine 1950s Chevrolets we've noticed in and around the port city east of Havana.
   It made me imagine some enormous garage, perhaps burrowed underground to elude the spy satellites, where Cuba's most skilled craftsmen shape good-as-new parts for Bel Airs and 210s and Nomads from metals scavenged from decommissioned MiG-21s.
   Too wonderful to be true, I thought.
   Yet today I can report there is a secret Chevy workshop. I have seen it. I took photos.
   I was brought to this place by a man we'll call Alonso, owner of a black-over-white 1956 Bel Air sedan that was purchased new by his grandfather, a farmer near, yes, Matanzas.
   Alonso's Bel Air looked good from a distance, less good up close. But now, he told me, his Chevy was being rebuilt, and he offered to take me to see it. You can imagine how quickly I accepted.
  We headed into the countryside in a borrowed car. As we rounded corner after corner I lost track of our direction. Perhaps we were taking the most direct route; perhaps this was to maintain the secrecy of our destination. All I know is that when we finally pulled up before a modest structure clad in corrugated steel sheets, we were somewhere ... inland.
   Tucked into a lean-to at the side of the garage was a two-tone '55 Chevrolet. Clearly, we were at the right spot. And beyond that '55 was Alonso's car, stripped of front clip and interior, the remainder of its body in mid-repair. I'll show pictures in my next post.
  The proprietor was away, and we could not see into the garage proper. From its size, however, I knew it could house no more than two or three of the big '50s Chevys. This was not the grand workshop of my dreams.
  But then I realized that this told of something far more sophisticated. Why build one giant facility and risk exposure of the entire program should a visiting car buff stumble across it, when you can create a series of one-man shops, all capable of carrying on independently should one or more of their number be discovered?
   The Secret Chevy Network exists. I know, because I have seen one small part of it.

When I spotted the '55 Chevrolet Bel Air sedan, I knew I was in the right place.

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