Experience Cuba in a classic car.

Three Classic Cars that Define Cuban History

Three Classic Cars that Define Cuban History

By Lucy Wyndham. 

The entire country of Cuba is an antique car museum rolling on wheels. Wherever you look, you’ll be greeted by an American vintage car cruising down the street. Although many Americans would pay thousands of dollars for these once glorious cars, to Cubans, this is simply everyday life.

The state of the automotive industry in Cuba has a frozen-in-time type of feeling. In 1960, after the Cuban revolution, there was an embargo put into place by President Eisenhower that banned certain exports to Cuba. Therefore, the cars that were in the country remained in the country and there haven’t been any new exports since. Now there are an estimated 60,000 pre-1959 American cars still flying through the streets that you can still admire, glorify, and even take a ride in. If you’re part of the gearhead community and have a chance to visit Cuba, see if you can spot these three classic cars that have defined the history and culture of the beautiful island.

Chevrolet Bel Air

These cars, known as cacharros or bartavias tend to come from the 1955-1957 time period. You can see many Chevy Bel Airs cruising down the streets of Havana and they are now seen as a representation of the time capsule the state is stuck in. Many of these have mismatched parts and a tri-colored body that directly symbolizes everything the country has been through in the past couple of decades. According to many auto magazines, the 1957 Chevy Bel Air is the king of the Cuban road.

Ford Fairline

Ford sedans constructed during the first half of the 1950s are one of the most common classic car in Cuba. The original Ford Fairline was designed as a family vehicle, but has since evolved to include many different convertible styles. The car also has a reference in the movies. In Die Another Day, James Bond navigated around Cuba in a 1957 Ford Fairline, which has further increased the popularity of the vehicle and strengthened its link to Cuba.


A 1957 Plymouth was involved in the kidnapping of racecar driver, Juan Manuel Fangio by Fidel Castor’s Cuban rebels. On the eve of the Cuban Grand Prix, Fangio was confronted by a man with a gun who shoved him into a black Plymouth. The kidnapper and his accomplices were able to get away in the Plymouth because it was a generic car driving along the Cuban streets. Although Fangio was eventually released, the Plymouth still rules the streets.

With the renewed relationships between the US and Cuba that came about in 2014, we may start to see an increase in the number of car exports to Havana. Therefore, you should check out these cars before they once again, become a part of history.