Here's further proof that not every old car in Cuba is powered by an engine from a Lada or a Volga. This 1960 Buick Le Sabre (like the Buick in the CARISTAS logo, but in better shape) was photographed by Michael Roy. Inside the nicely detailed engine compartment can be seen a 364-cubic-inch Buick "Nailhead" V-8. OK, maybe the carburetor isn't original, but that doesn't take away from the authenticity of this 50-year-old daily driver.
For hire: 1950 Buick Super convertible. Some of Cuba's finest old cars are running up a lot more miles these days. The reason? The island's 2010 relaxation of rules about self-employment. Of 178 activities newly opened to those willing to give capitalism a whirl, private taxi operator seems to have been a popular choice. And more than one neophyte cabbie appears to have quickly twigged to the appeal of a desirable classic car in securing big-tipping tourist fares. These private cabs, seen today in every resort area, are not to be confused with the handpicked antiques of the government-run Gran Car service, or the plodding Havana sedans and wagons that serve as fixed-route collectives. These are family cars — often heirlooms handed down through generations — and until recently in private service (at least as far as the government was concerned). Today, they're very much in the public eye. Visitors to Cuba will like this. Now they're more l
(December 2012 note: See update link, below.) GUESS I'LL have to set aside my search for the younger Batista’s 1956 Corvette. An even tastier trophy has emerged – a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, better known as the Gullwing. Even on the Island of Surprises, I’d be astounded to come across one of these rare beauties. But in a brief section on Cuba in Automobiles Lost & Found (Haynes Publishing, 2008), I see a photo of a battered 300SL observed by author Michael E. Ware outside a private garage near Havana. The Gullwing, unmistakable lift-up doors in place, is dented and rusting and missing its engine, yet still would be prized by collectors the world over . . . if only they could extract it from Cuba. Restored, the Silver Metallic example with Lipstick Red interior might be worth more than $700,000 U.S. Reached in England, Mr. Ware tells me he was holidaying in Cuba when an acquaintance brought him to an unnamed community to see the car. “I never asked whe