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Traveling to Cuba, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve been transported to a crazy alternate reality of the 1950s. American travelers often report that the stylish, vintage U.S. Cars are the first things that stick out when visiting the nation. Since 1960, new American cars have been a no-go under the trade embargo. Until 2013, Cubans weren’t even allowed to buy cars manufactured outside of the country. Either way, only the wealthiest of Cubans can buy new cars.
However, although many of the vehicles look vintage on the outside, not all of them are classics through and through. In fact, it’s quite common to have many of the vintage car parts exchanged, particularly their engines. These substitutions have come around because the U.S. Embargo actually banned replaced car parts as well as new vehicles. These kinds of bans have caused a lot of inventive re-engineering.
Surprisingly, vintage American cars aren’t the only classic vehicles on Cuba’s streets. Skodas and Ladas from Czechoslovakia and Russia respectively, came into the country during the time period in which the Soviet Union was a serious economic supporter. These cars have not aged particularly well, mostly because they were not made well from the start.
Anyway, vintage cars have become one of the main symbols of Cuba. Don’t expect them to be replaced by sleek new American models anytime soon. President Obama has eased the relationship between the two countries but Congress will most likely not lift the trade embargo in the near future. Also, travel companies see these classic cars as tourist magnets and would hate to see them disappear.
Old car buffs shouldn’t get too excited about Cuban classics coming up for sale. The embargo still prevents Americans from purchasing one of them. At any rate, car experts say all the auto replacement parts stop these cars from becoming actual authentic collectibles.