CARISTAS contributor Michael R. Roy photographed this rather rudely converted 1957 Dodge Custom Royal and its bemused-looking owner, who was perhaps waiting for a part or simply taking a mid-repair break. Many Cuban Dodges are reskinned Plymouths, the so-called "Plodges" that Chrysler sold outside the United States. But Chryslerclub.org tells us that the Custom Royal that was built in Canada, source of Chrysler's export models, was the same as the U.S. car, so this example is all Dodge. Or it was, until the family-truckster top was substituted for the graceful roofline with which this four-door hardtop was originally equipped.
As mentioned, not every Cuban station wagon conversion is a vehicle of beauty. This 1951 Studebaker Commander (though wearing the full chrome '50 bullet nose) could never pass as a factory original – even if Studebaker had offered a wagon that year, which it didn't. Grafted-on bustle aside, however – OK, those industrial-strength bumpers also aside – it appears to be quite presentable. This one-of-a-kind Studebaker was for sale a while back on the Revolico classified ad site. Forget the asking price, but seem to recall it was hefty. Still, maybe not a bad deal for a buyer more concerned with function than style.
From a quick gander, this could be a successor to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, maybe with some Chevy HHR tossed in. Same marriage of retro-round fenders and modern oblong passenger compartment. Closer study, however, soon reveals a majority presence of 1951 or '52 Chrysler, largely cleansed of chrome and with the addition of a blocky, late-model roof. Old-new wagons like this are common in Cuba. I suspect they are former sedans, their passenger capacity boosted by the addition of upper sheetmetal that in this case might have come from a Soviet-era utility vehicle. Some of the conversions are awkward; others, like this, are remarkably well executed. Check the clean transition between the Chrysler's rear fenders, body and liftgate, and the deftly reworked rear-door window frames.
Of course, maybe this has always been a wagon, its rear quarters revised for who-knows-what reason. That would be a shame. The original rounded tail on an early-1950s Chrysler wagon is as sweet as…