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Gallery: amazing photos of the amazing classic cars of Cuba
One man spent a month trawling Cuba for great motors. Here's what he found
Borne of a unique political climate and laden with nostalgia, Cuba’s motoring landscape remains to this day, something of a marvel.
It all began, of course, with Fidel Castro’s ascension in 1959 to leader of the Cuban republic. The most interesting of the raft of sweeping measures Castro brought into the small Caribbean island just south of Florida - at least to petrolheads - was the banning of imported cars.
Which means a lot of the stuff you see on Cuban roads to this day, some 50-odd years later, is pre-1959. We’re talking Buicks, Cadillacs and Studebakers, alongside that rusted Merc Gullwing we showed you last year. No other country on earth offers such a time-capsule of automotive history.
Photographer, and friend of Top Gear, Piotr Degler had for years dreamed of roaming the island to capture the essence of its motoring diaspora.
“Unwittingly, [Castro] bequeathed us a full pre-revolutionary treasure,” explains Degler. He finally made his long-awaited pilgrimage to the island last year, scouring the towns and cities from Viñales to Santiago de Cuba in search of a forgotten motoring world. Amongst his travels, and after what must have felt like a ghost hunt, he found that abandoned 300 SL in considerable disrepair.
“Beyond the American classics, Cuba has put me face-to-face with some of the most iconic cars of automobile history,” Degler says. He curated some 25,000 pictures taken over that month into a calendar, and now, he’s finally putting them all into a book via Kickstarter. It’s called, unsurprisingly, Carros de Cuba (cars of Cuba).
“On the one hand, you’ll see photographs showing the human side. The people, the environment; cars maintained with inventiveness and necessity for decades,” he explains.
“On the other hand, you’ll find obsolete cars showing hints of what they once were.”
With Cuba relaxing the ban on imports, the tide will, inevitably, begin to turn the other way to allow for newer metal. Until it does, have a click through the gallery of images, and click here to support Piotr’s book.
Photography: Piotr Degler