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Published: April 18th 2017
"I sat in his lap in that big of Buick and steered as we drove through town"/ My Hometown
Cadillac, Ford, Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, Dodge and DeSoto
Yank Tank is a nickname for large American cars made in the 1950-ies and 60-ies. For anyone who likes those cars visiting Cuba must be like coming to heaven because there are many such cars in use there.
One of the things we knew about Cuba before we set off on this trip was that many of the cars they drive are American cars from the 1950-ies. Before the Cuban Revolution in the 1950-ies almost all cars in Cuba were Made in America. After the revolution United States put a trades embargo on Cuba. The embargo stopped American car makers from selling new cars to Cuba. Another result of the embargo was that the Cuban economy plummeted. So they could not afford to buy new cars from other countries.
During the following decades Soviet shipped new cars to Cuba. But those cars were Soviet made. It's not a coincidence that the Moskvitch cars and the Vaz Lada cars never made it big west of the Iron Curtain because they were rubbish. Since the Cubans couldn't afford to buy many new cars and that the
Yank Tank is a nickname for large American cars made in the 1950-ies and 60-ies.
quality of the cars was inferior to the ones they were used to they took care of the cars they had before the revolution. Today, almost 60 years after the Cuban Revolution, thousands of these cars are still in use in Cuba. Some of them have been repaired beyond recognition but many of them are in surprisingly good shape. Most of those cars actually look better after running the Cuban roads for well over half a century than the German car Ake's family used to own looked like after running only 20 years on Swedish roads.
How can those old cars still look so good? The explanation is probably that the national hobby in Cuba is to keep the American cars running. They take extremely good care of them.
The large number of 50-ies era American cars makes Cuba resemble a time capsule. We sometimes felt like we had been warped back in time to United States in the year 1958 or like we were starring in a remake of American Graffiti
As we mentioned above, not all cars in Cuba are Yank Tanks. But a large percentage of the car fleet
For anyone who likes 50-ies era American cars visiting Cuba must be like coming to heaven. A reader identified it as a Plymouth probably 1957 or 58. Another reader says she is sure it's from 1959
is. To give you a more balanced picture we have to this blog entry added a short film taken in Havana
When we looked at what Wikipedia had to say about Old American cars in Cuba
we found something we would like to comment. "Of Cuba's vintage American cars, ... most bear the marks of decades of use" - surprisingly many of them do not
bear the marks of decades of use. Quite a few look like they did more than half a decade ago.
Since we have dedicated an entire blog entry to the Yank Tanks it is obvious that we loved them. We don't speak much Spanish but we understood that the Cubans love the 50-ies era American cars as well. When we couldn't see which brand a car was we sometimes asked. The owner would answer "Ford Fairlane 1957" or "Cadillac Eldorado 1956". They always knew not only the make but also the model and the year it was built and they always said this with great pride in their voice.
We would like to make clear that we may love old American cars but we know very little about them.
"They haunt this dusty beach road In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets"/ Thunder Road. A reader has identified this as being from 1957
In the photos we have tried to identify which car make it is but we failed just as often as we succeeded. If you know the brand of any of the cars, don't hesitate to tell us. If we got one or two wrong, don't get angry. Just point out our mistake and we'll fix it.
After we published this blogger Lorraine Brecht enlisted the help of her brother Gil Bourassa and her brother-in-law Roger Lapierre, both classic car aficionados, to help identify the make, model and year of most cars. We would like to send a big thank you to all three for your help.
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