25 Jul 2013 13:56
HAVANA, CUBA - For half a century, Havana's roads have been jammed by stylishly painted pre-1960s Pontiacs, Studebakers, Oldsmobiles, Chevrolets and Soviet imports. But after decades of restrictions making it almost impossible to import new vehicles, Cuba finally decided to opening its domestic car market to imports. Many believe this economic reform will put an end to an era symbolized the the country's symbolic vintage automobiles.
While the new law eliminates the need for a permit, it does not allow Cubans to import automobiles themselves. The government maintains a monopoly on the retail sale of cars and remains the only one dictating a vehicle's market value.
Cuba's vintage cars are famous around the world, but maintaining them has become a real burden for their owners. One driver explains that after saving a lot of money, he managed to buy and install a Hyundai engine in his old, red Chevy. “It still gives me problems, but not as many as before,” he explains.
About 150 000 Chevy were in circulation in Cuba when the 1959 revolution occurred. The subsequent embargo saw all car imports from the United States halted.