Need For Speed in Havana

I’ve never rode in a convertible before. So it was extra special to do it in Havana in a good ol’ American car.
Meet our beautiful Chevy Bel Air. She’s a mature lady but looks nothing like her age. Born in 1957, she’s seen so much over the years. But a recent makeover worked its magic on her.

It’s nice and shiny under that heavy hood. I’m not a car expert, but just from the cleanliness of the contents, I’m guessing nothing original is left in there. Likely, when it comes to cars, being old and new at the same time isn’t such a bad combination. Wouldn’t you agree?

Her owner Raul (fellow in a hat) is the third generation caregiver. His grandfather purchased her from his American business partners when the newly placed embargo made them abandon their enterprise in Havana. Raul’s whole livelihood depends on his Chevy and so he treats her like a lady.

In Havana forest we stopped for a smoke break

Don’t get confused by the following pictures. We didn’t get to drive her and this all is just shameless posing. For one thing, I would hate to scratch the beauty. Plus, her speedometer – together with all the other useful car gadgets – was missing. Raul lifted a towel to reveal a hole in the dashboard. He said a mechanic is fixing it up as we speak. Meanwhile, not knowing the actual speed wasn’t detering him from driving a bunch of tourists around the city day after day. Let’s just say he has a good feel of her. 

For 30 convertible pesos ($33) she’s yours for an hour. And you get to see the parts of Havana that you would probably never venture to by foot – like Havana forest or Cuban Beverly Hills, a rich neighbourhood for government officials and military heads. Coincidentally or not, the police were following us the entire time we spent there. “Populas’on – wan million. Police – tu million”, grinned Raul turning to us.  

To find Raul and his buddy-slash-sales-representative Pablo, you just need to make your way to Havana’s Capitol building on the edge of the old town. There they will be waiting for you together with a bunch of other drivers. You may have to haggle a bit, but believe me (and other travelers) – 30 pesos is a fair price. They will try to take you cigar shopping or Havana Club tasting, but if you just say no, they won’t insist. 

Enjoy the ride!

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