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Showing posts from March, 2014

All hail the Tri-Fives

While just about any brand of American car from the 1950s can be found serving as a private taxi in Cuba, Chevrolet is the most popular choice by far.
   Easy to figure out why. Chevrolet, the bread-and-butter line of General Motors, had a strong grip on the Cuban market in the pre-Castro decade, and in the years since, its sturdy mechanicals and the ready availability of replacement parts (even to Cubans, relatively speaking) have only increased its representation in the Cuban fleet.
   Of those Chevy taxis, a favoured choice is any model from the famous Tri-Five period of 1955 through 1957, viewed by many as the epitome of styling and performance in that era. Delving still farther, the '56 seems the most popular Tri-Five entry, followed by the '55 and then the '57.
  Some of these Chevrolets, usually found in tourist spots, are convertibles that would be greatly prized by collectors. More often, though, they are more prosaic four-door sedans that would carry less value…

More from the Cuban cab stand

Need a cab? Take your pick

Another driver does time in Cuba

Add Ted Barnett to what seems to be an ever-lengthening list of Canadians held in Cuba following traffic accidents in which people were killed or injured.
   The 60-year-old from Winnipeg was prevented from leaving the island for six weeks after a scooter he was operating in Varadero (yes, the resort area I described as a safe place to drive) struck a Cuban pedestrian, breaking her leg. He finally arrived back in Canada last Sunday.
   Barnett's enforced stay matched that of Justine Davis, but was well short of the months-long detainments of Cody Lecompte and Damian Buksa. Other Canadians have reportedly been restricted from leaving Cuba for as long as a year while authorities conducted painfully slow investigations.
   These drivers aren't jailed, but must pay for food and accommodation. Barnett told CARISTAS he shelled out as much as $2,500 for his hotel and other expenses during his extended stay.
   And they can hardly enjoy their tropical surroundings as they contemplate the …

Once more 'round Habana

Visitors keen to hit the road in Cuba but reluctant to rent a car have alternatives. There are buses and trains. You could join a bicycle tour.
   But the most comfortable choice is probably one of the private taxis that have become plentiful since Cuba eased restrictions on private businesses.
   You'll find these cabs around hotels. Most are vintage American tourist-pleasers, and most are operated by tourist-reassuring combos of a male driver-owner and a female guide, the latter with a strong command of English and possibly French and German as well.
   We hired this 1956 Chevrolet 210 sedan a year ago to take us into Havana. Its white-over-yellow paint was dull, its body panels rippled. The owner, a man named Ociel, was eager to show us the Chevy's modern diesel powertrain, but what really sold us was the cheerful candour of the guide, Kenya.
   "It doesn't look so good," she admitted of the scarred old 210, "but it keeps going."
   Just like us, we repli…