Havana‘s iconic vintage cars mark city‘s 500th anniversary

Cubans drive a vintage US car in Havana in April 2008. Photo: VCG

A fleet of polished 1950‘s roadsters and tailfin cars stole the show here on Sunday in celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the city‘s founding.

Members of the local vintage car club “With Cuban Style” drove 52 of their shiniest classic cars, including Chevrolets, Buicks, Fords, Studebakers and Cadillacs, through city streets as part of a regularity rally.

Jose Festari, 77, is the proud owner of a 1930s Ford Deluxe Roadster that featured in the rally.

A retired army officer, Festari looks after his automobile as if it were the love of his life. 

The time and attention he has invested in the roadster has paid off, as these days he can rent it out for photo and video shoots.

Some 98 percent of his vehicle is made up of original parts that rolled off the assembly line of the Henry Ford factory in the US state of Michigan, he said.

Festari bought the car more than 20 years ago from another Cuban who was about to emigrate to Spain. 

He had to sell his previous vehicle, a Mercedes 190 SL, to buy the Ford convertible, and gradually collected the original spare parts he needed to make the car truly authentic.

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Alberto Gutierrez, who founded the club in October 2003, told the Xinhua News Agency that the vintage cars are a perfect fit for the Cuban capital that turned 500 in November, and the rally is a way to acknowledge that.

“Regularity rallies are held in many parts of the world, especially in Europe, and we wanted to bring that style of competition to our country,” said Gutierrez, who is also the director of a paced race, which covers a 45-kilometer route through the city‘s main neighborhoods.

“This is our 15th [rally] already. A lot of people like this kind of competition and it has many fans,” said Gutierrez.

The vintage car club was founded in the parking lot of the Tropicana cabaret, which serves as an informal meeting place for the group, whose members together have more than 100 cars and motorcycles.

The club‘s name – “With Cuban Style” – was given in reference to the local invention of replacement parts when old vehicles had mechanical failures and original spare parts were hard to come by due to the US trade embargo.

Havana‘s classic automobiles are not just a unique attraction for the city, but also a tribute to the resourcefulness of Cubans.  

Newspaper headline: ‘With Cuban Style’


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