Cuba’s Frankenstein Antique Cars


Hunting for Antique Cars in Cuba

Cuba Cars

They’re iconic, beautiful, historic, and may contain more spare parts than a local landfill. These are Cuba’s classic cars from the 1950’s – covering the streets of Havana in a nostalgic glow and making antique car-lovers drool just to get a closer look. Called Frankenstein cars because their cobbled-together inner parts often resemble more monster than machine, these vintage Cubans may just be more famous than the cigars.

Cuba Cars

Antique Cuba Cars

Stepping Back In Time

With the US/Cuba embargo still firmly in place, purchasing replacement parts for these gorgeous Chevy’s and Pontiac’s just isn’t possible. Fifty-five years is a long time to keep an old car running, so resourceful Cuban car owners learn make do. A muffler from an Isuzu, an engine from a Peugeot, pistons from a washing machine…yes, even old appliances are called upon to donate organs for classic car restoration in Cuba. Hence, we have what are commonly called Cuba’s Frankenstein antique cars.

Antique Cuba Cars

Antique Cuba Cars

Antique Cuba Cars

Driving through the streets of Havana truly feels as though you’ve crossed a time warp…over 50 years have passed since these machines were shiny and new…but even today the shiny still remains. Hot pink convertibles cruise the Malécon, while taxi drivers pose proudly with their prized sedans and swinging fuzzy dice for pictures with tourists.

Cuba’s Frankenstein Antique Cars – Investment In The Future

These old cars mean more to the Cubans who care for them than just a mode of transportation. It’s an investment in their family’s future. Owning a classic from the 1950’s can bring in much-needed income when used as a private taxi. The average salary for a state job in Cuba is around $30 per month, while a taxi driver in high tourist season can expect to earn $30 a day. For the owner of a classic car, $30 to $50 an hour is not uncommon for a ride through the historic areas of Havana and, of course, a stop along the magnificent seaside Malécon. Automobile aficionados also frequent Cuba looking to purchase a piece of the past. The asking price for a well-kept piece of automotive history in Cuba could be as high as a hundred thousand dollars to the right collector!

Antique Cuba Cars

Antique Cuba Cars

Antique Cuba Cars

Our Experience On The Road

After an evening in the historic district, we wandered through winding streets and found ourselves near the crashing waves of the Malécon. Lines of beautiful cars stretched along the curb and moonlight gleamed from shiny chrome. We had our choice! A sweet older man approached and offered his baby blue 1959 Chevy Impala to be our chariot home to the hotel. The doors creaked open with a painful groan and the seats sagged into rusty springs, but it was evident she was a well-kept classic. He was so proud! Inside, the car smelled like sea air and musty books. I can only imagine the wonderful stories it could tell!

Cuba Cars-0026

From the backseat of our glorious Cuba Car!

Which Cuba Frankenstein car is your favorite? I’m a bit partial to the lime green 53 Chevy myself 😉

For more articles on Cuba and planning your own trip, please check out our CUBA DESTINATION PAGE HERE.

Happy Travels!







About the author

Lisa is a traveler, photographer and pharmacist. She and her partner Cheryl MacDonald enjoy sharing inspiration and good health with fellow travelers!


Leave a comment
  • What fabulous pictures! I especially like the guy on the bike who appears to be over-taking the man in the pink convertible. I’m really looking forward to seeing these myself!

  • What a glorious selection of car photos. I can’t get over the colours. I wonder how long they’ll be around now that US-Cuba relations are thawing.

  • These cars are AWESOME and it’s obvious from your photos that the the owners spend enormous amounts of time and devotion caring for these beauties and work hard to keep them on the road. I’d love to have my picture taken with each one of these!

  • What amazing cars! Darrell has been wanting to visit Cuba for that reason alone, so we hope to go soon. I didn’t know you could actually ride in them too!

  • They are all so fabulous-how do you choose? I’d have to go with the pink. I’m curious to see what the future holds for these cars with relationships warming up. Will collectors scoop them-or will they remain a part of the landscape? I’m so glad you had the chance to take a ride.

  • “Frankenstein cars” is a new term for me too. I really hope i have the opportunity to visit Cuba before the page turns and she re-enters the good graces of the US and people all start driving the same cars we do. It’s great that these cars are probably worth enough to pay for a retirement in Cuba.

  • Great piece! Loved all your photos of the “Frankenstein” cars. During our visit we spent our last few hours just admiring the cars from a downtown spot in Havana. Although there are now a few new cars in Havana it will be interesting to see how the car culture changes as more people visit.

  • Wow, that is cool that these Cuban cars are kept running for so long! I love that they are able to keep these classics running. My favorite would be the red convertible at the beginning. Thanks for the post!

  • why can cuba just build their own cars, that would be cool to see what kind of new cars they would design and build.

  • Oh wow, those are some pretty cool cuban cars that were created and built. I wonder how much time it took the builders to do the auto restoration on those vehicles. It sure looks good and something that I would want to find out more about.

  • I bet it would be really fun to put one of these cars together with spare parts. My grandpa has a classic car from the 50’s in his backyard. Maybe he would let me have it if I found the right used auto parts.

  • I love Cuba Cars because as you said easier, They’re iconic, beautiful, historic, and may contain more spare parts than a local landfill. Haha! So great, Lisa Chavis

  • I love the photos of these old cars. It’s the first time I’ve heard them called Frankenstein cars. It’s been over ten years since my visit to Cuba, but I remember the cars in Havana adding a surreal feeling to the entire experience.

  • It’s so awesome to see the ways in which people adapt to the conditions forced upon them by governments. Without laying blame on one side or another, the ingenuity that the embargo has brought out of some Cuban people is truly inspiring!

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