THE CARS OF CUBA [AUTOMOTIVE DOCUMENTARY]


When you think of modified cars around the world, you might think of a drift car in the mountain roads of Japan. Or you might think of a V8 muscle car blasting down the quarter mile in the USA. A jacked-up four-wheel drive or ute in the outback of Australia. But when it comes to the ratio of modified to stock cars and the sheer resourcefulness and ingenuity of car owners and their mechanics, the number one place in the world for modified cars is Cuba. [MUSIC] MIGHTY CAR MODS CUBA Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean. 200km east of Mexico 150km south of the United States, and is home to around 11 million people. We are in Havana, the capital city, which features a unique and thriving car culture, which was used as an iconic location in ‘Fast and Furious 8’ So we’ve decided to come here to delve deeper into the unique car scene. We’re going to drive some crazy cars, plus meet the people who own them and keep them on the roads. From backyard workshops to Jungle mechanics, Cuba does cars, like nowhere else on the planet. Cuba’s car culture is a fascinating blend of crazy 1950’s American excess, and 1970’s Soviet Utalitarianism. Colored by the local’s can do attitude, to keep their aging cars on the road. Thanks to Cuba’s proximity to Florida, it became a holiday destination for wealthy Americans in the 1940’s and 50’s. With fleets of American land barges cruising the streets. It wasn’t long before a young chap, called Fidel Castro, rose up and brought the government down with a revolution. Taking over control, from the 1st of January 1959. This meant the supply of American cars and parts dried up overnight, due to Castro’s communist government and links to the U.S.S.R. With America’s export ban in place Cuba turned to their Soviet friends for vehicles, Buying Ladas, Polish Fiats, and even the odd GAZ or Zil luxury car. The trade restrictions meant Cubans couldn’t bring in parts if something on their car broke, so they became experts at keeping their old cars going by any means necessary. This has lead them to become probably the most resourceful modifiers of cars on the planet. Due to the trade embargo, Cubans had no access to the huge U.S. classic car aftermarket parts industry. So many of the American classics have been refitted with cheap Kia and Hyundai diesel engines. It’s also not uncommon to find cars being run by tractor engines or even stationary pump engines that have been converted to run a car. Cubans are especially proud of their cars, because they’re a symbol of hard work, and the vehicles become family heirlooms. It’s not uncommon for families to pass down cars over decades and decades, with various different engine configurations and modifications keeping the car on the road. So let’s hit the road, drive some cars and find out how against the odds these resourceful car enthusiasts keep rolling in Cuba. But firstly. How are we going to get around? Well we’ve got our hands on this. This is a 1955 Chevrolet 150 Sedan. This is the up-spec Bel-Air, and back in the 50’s, this could cost up to $2750 depending on which of the nine body styles you chose, and how you customized it. There were hundreds and hundreds of options on offer. While you could get a straight-six engine, the big news in ’55 was a brand new turbo fire 4.3L V8, known as the small block. Still in production today, some people say, over one hundred million small block V8’s have been made since 1955. A unique feature of the ’55 model year engine, was that oil filters were an optional accessory. But none of this applies to our particular car, Because powering us on this trip, is none other than a Toyota Diesel truck engine from Japan It can be tricky to navigate your way around the unique automotive culture in Cuba,