Showing posts from January, 2015

The Gullwing's topless sister – and, perhaps, a Corvette clue

Though not as coveted as its coupe sibling – few cars are – the convertible 300SL produced from 1957 to 1963 is a beautiful car in is own right. And this example, with removable hardtop in place, is notable for a couple of reasons:
● Unlike its Gullwing companion, it might be fixable. Though much reworked over the years and with a Chevy V-8 in place of its original inline six-cylinder engine, the car looks reasonably intact, bodywise. In the hands of one of Cuba's master bodymen, it could become quite presentable. ●That Chevrolet engine is said to have been lifted from a Corvette. From photos at This European Life, we can see that the valve covers do not appear Corvette-correct. Still, maybe the engine did come from one of the few Corvettes we know to have been in Cuban hands, and maybe the donor car was the '56 owned by the younger Batista. If so, the big question is – where's the rest of it?

The light burns brighter

  THE RENEWAL of U.S.-Cuba relations, however tentative, has been a tonic for Rick Shnitzler of TailLight Diplomacy.    Shnitzler is a co-founder of the Philadelphia group, which has long pressed for closer ties between vintage car owners in the two nations. But by 2013, with the political divide seemingly as deep as ever, the effort was sputtering, Michael Matza reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
   That changed with December's surprise announcement, and an invigorated Shnitzler now has a new proposal: bring a select number of Cuban cars and their owners to the United States – and perhaps other countries too – for a friendship tour.
Organizing such a car-culture exchange would be a huge task, of course, going beyond even Shnitzler's earlier call to include Cuban cars in Detroit's yearly Woodward Dream Cruise. But the "inveterate dreamer" is undaunted as he talks up the idea with government, media and the antique-auto community.
  And at a time when Cuban and Amer…

If I had a Volga, I'd name it Olga

   NO. 4 on Ramon Rivera and Jay Ramey's list of10 cars to see in Cuba is the GAZ Volga 2410, a Russian-built sedan. What you see here is the 2410's predecessor, the Volga 24. But as a Cuban mechanic might say while transferring a bumper from one to the other, "Close enough!"    The Volga 24 entered full production in 1970, but its mid-1960s lines – with nods, shall we say, to the Chevy II, Plymouth Valiant and Ford Falcon – bear evidence of a long gestation. A fullsize car by most of the world's standards, its mechanical arrangements were typical for the era with front coil springs, unit-body construction and a live rear axle suspended from leaf springs. The engine was a 90-horsepower, 2.5-litre four-cylinder, linked to a four-speed manual transmission.
   After a moderate facelift and a boost to 100 h.p. in 1985, the 24 became the 2410 of Rivera and Ramey's list. It and later variants would stay in production until 2009, with the final models displaying much …

Ten cars you'll see in Cuba

FOR THE the car-watcher with catholic tastes – that's catholic as in universal, not Catholic as in Popemobile – it's the mix of vehicles that makes Cuba so fascinating.    American classic, Soviet workhorse, Chinese arriviste ... you never know what you'll come across next. Cuba, writes Jay Ramey of Autoweek, is the one place "where, if a modern Geely clips your 1950s Cadillac, the traffic police are bound to arrive in a 1980s Lada."
   In an entertaining car-spotter's guide to Cuba, Ramey and photographer Ramon Rivera profile 10 of the island's most popular vehicles. Some, like the 1955-through-'57 Chevrolet, will be familiar to the American buffs who now have hope of finally seeing Cuba for themselves.    Others, such as the Beijing BJ212 or Argentine-variant Ford Falcon, could seem wondrously strange.
  Above and below are three of Ramey and Rivera's selections that I've come across: the Polski Fiat a bit strange, perhaps, the others, I'm a…

55 reasons why Cuba's old cars will keep on rolling

 JUST TWO events would take Cuba's vast stock (30,000? 60,000?) of pre-1960 cars off the island's urban streets and country roads.
One is retirement in favour of more modern vehicles. The other is their sale and export to collectors elsewhere.
   Neither will happen anytime soon – and one might not happen at all. Here are five reasons why Cuba's old-timers have many more miles to travel (I know, the headline says 55, but five should be plenty):

1. The embargo remains   Barack Obama and Raúl Castro can, and did, agree to restore full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, but only the U.S. Congress can rescind the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that fortified trade sanctions ordered by President John F. Kennedy 34 years earlier.
   And the Republicans who hold Congress, and who do not share Obama's desire for rapprochement, will have little motivation to abandon a law that requires wholesale reform in Cuba, starting with the ouster of Raúl and Fidel Castro, before…