Cuba’s automotive community is a unique culture to explore, born of the country’s isolationist political agenda.
It all started when Fidel Castro rose to power and became the leader of Cuba in 1959. One of the most impactful political measures he brought to the Caribbean nation, at least for car enthusiasts around the world, was the prohibition of imported cars.
The ban resulted in what we see today, the majority of vehicles on Cuban streets being pre-1959 models. Old Cadillacs, Buicks, Studebakers, and amazing gems like the Merc Gullwing lying rusted and abandoned that we highlighted a year ago are strewn about the country. There is no other country in the world that can provide such a unique look into the history of car manufacturing.
Piotr Degler, a professional photographer and good friend of Top Gear, dreamt for years of exploring around the small island nation of the Caribbean to photograph the nostalgic feeling of the motoring landscape.
Degler explains that, “Unwittingly, [Castro] bequeathed us a full pre-revolutionary treasure.” Piotr underwent his life-long dream and finally went on his journey into Cuba last year, travelling around from the smallest villages to the big cities like Santiago in hopes of giving life to a forgotten world of classic cars. During his exploration, and what must have felt like a walk right into the past, Piortr ran into the infamous abandoned 300SL, in what looked like an unrepairable state.
Degler also says that, “Beyond the American classics, Cuba put me face-to-face with some of the most iconic cars of the automotive history.” Piotr turned his collection of over 25,000 pictures during that month in Cuba into a calendar. He recently also put them into an organized book through Kickstarter. He named the book, Carros de Cuba (cars of Cuba).
He explains that, “On the one hand, you’ll see photographs showing the human side. The people, the environment; cars maintained with inventiveness and necessity for decades. On the other hand, you’ll find obsolete cars showing hints of what they once were.”
Cuba has recently eased up on the ban of imports, which will eventually cause a rush of newer material and cars to come into the country. Until that day comes, take a look through the amazing gallery of classic cars and take a peek here to support Degler’s photo book.