Forty years after the United States enforced a trade embargo on Cuba, automobiles like Hudsons, Edsels and Chevys still trail throughout the streets in Havana. Trade embargo, which inflicts government prohibition against the shipment of certain products to a particular country for economic or political reasons, is the reason why antique cars are less apparent in the U.S. Cuba's astonishing affluence of antique cars exposes the traditional magnificence of classic American automobiles that spans eight decades.
Vintage 1950s Chevrolets, Fords, Plymouths and Buicks add so much color and tourist appeal to the island. Unfortunately, few Americans have thought of the old gas-guzzlers as a business opportunity. Cuban owners of antique autos would represent a good market for U.S. spare parts if U.S. firms were free to do business with Cuba. With the exception of newer automobiles belonging to diplomats, American cars have not been shipped to Cuba since 1960, when Eisenhower?s administration imposed a ban on all U.S. exports to the island following Fidel Castro's rise to power. U.S. antique-auto enthusiasts are the ones at loss because as many of the old cars are in Cuba, with more of a capability to be restored, they seem to be growing more scarce in America.
Allowing the U.S. to be involved with car restoration would enable the actual parts to be used, rather than imitation parts. Without access to spare parts, Cubans have resorted to dissecting other vehicles and shaping their own parts out of obtainable materials. Romanian diesel engines idle under some hoods; many are brightened up with a coat or two of house paint; a broken brake light is covered with red plastic from a drinking glass; or brake fluid is homemade from detergent, rubbing alcohol and tree sap. Several of these cars are heirlooms, kept in families for generations, their odometers turning over many times.
Antique cars seem to be an emblem of early progressive technology, where beauty meets the eye of how good a car can look. They are special, especially when they become limited. Cruising down the street in Cuba people often yell out, ?Chulo!?, meaning pimp, to let the fortunate driver of the car know how special he or she is to be able to ride in such a great piece of transportation. Antique automobiles are ultimately cool, and American car enthusiasts can only hope that their favorites don?t see their last light of day in Cuba. We want to appreciate them, too.