Cuba's cars are still classy.
Final post in a three-part series.
This post was previously published in 2016. I had fun researching popular songs from the fifties that tell of a North American obsession with cars. Other posts about Havana can be viewed here and here.
"Well mister, I want a yellow convertible, four door DeVille; With a continental spare and a wide chrome wheel..." from Chuck Berry's "Maybellene", a hit song in 1955.
Cars held a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans in the fifties. The songs of the decade are proof of an endless fascination with anything on four wheels including old jalopies.
Each time I read the title of these songs, I can’t help but smile!
“My Buick My Love and I” (1951) Notice the BUICK comes FIRST in that title.
“Your Motor Needs a Tune-Up Job” (1952) How romantic is that?
“Roadside Rag” (1952) Very provocative title…is this in reference to a musical genre or something or someone found along the road?
“Old Jalopy Bounce” (1953) A well-padded derriere is a must for this ride.
“Cadillac in Model A” (1954) When only Model A will do.
“It’s the Mileage that’s Slowing us Down” (1954) Is this ageism at work?
“Ethyl in my Gas Tank” (1954) A precursor for “Put a tiger in your tank” Esso ad of the 1960s?
“Parking Worries” (1954) I love this title especially combined with…
“Woman Driver” (1954)…No worries of political correctness in this decade!…and
“Cadillac Funeral” (1955)
“Rocket 88” (1955) It’s THAT FAST.
“Beep Beep” (1958) …an early Sesame Street recording?
“Flat Tire” (1958) which obviously can be paired with…
“Car Trouble” (1958)
“Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat” (1959) I suppose the next song might be the result of this back seat activity.
“No Wheels” (1959)
It isn’t hard to see that in the fifties, cars were the stuff of dreams for young men in North America.
Above is a 1957 Pontiac Super Chief used as a taxi in Havana Cuba.
Cuba’s old cars are highly prized and why not? They have stood the test of time.
Of course, many if not most of them, have been adulterated with newer hubcaps or hood ornaments or other fixtures. Most have had a new coat of paint and are lovingly cared for by their owners.
The original 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air did not have the angel attached to the hood ornament.
When I came home and started to examine the photos we took and compare them to the photos I could find of the original models, I then realized the degree to which they have been modified.
Most have had body work done as rust, with time, will eventually start to penetrate old steel. Hubcaps that were lost were replaced with whatever could be found as in the car below.
1957 Dodge Custom
In first photo: digital reworking of a watercolour of 1956 Chevy Bel Air in second photo.
However, even though they aren’t truly classic, in the collector’s sense of the word, these vintage cars are still classy.
Their outlandish tail fins and after-burner lights, their wraparound windows, their little decorative turbines on the front grill, their bold flowing design, and of course, all that shiny chrome tell us the story of the fifties.
They are part of the charm of Cuba.