Book Review: Cuba’s Car Culture

Everyone that loves old cars is intrigued with the photos they have seen of colorful vintage cars running around the island nation of Cuba.  Although it is only 90 miles away from Florida, it seems like a distant land from the past.  In some ways this is true.  Questions about the cars in Cuba come up in car enthusiast’s conversations all of the time.  How many cars are there?  How did they get there?  How did they keep them running with no extra parts?  Are there any rare treasures hidden on that island?  Can I buy one and take it back to the United States?

All these questions, plus many more are answered in a new book entitled Cuba’s Car Culture, Celebrating the Islands Automotive Love Affair  by  well known automotive writer Tom Cotter and Bill Warner, writer, photographer, racer and founder of the prestigious Amelia Island Concours.  This is more than just a coffee table photo book.  The authors have visited Cuba multiple times and dig deep into a Cuban automotive history and culture of importing, selling, manufacturing, collecting, and racing cars from the beginning through to today.  The history of Cuba is shown through an automotive lens, giving the reader a full understanding of Cuban history and how the automobile fits into it.

One of the more interesting parts of Cuban automotive history is the Cuban Grand Prix races that were run from 1957 to 1960.  The book covers these events in detail and features many high-quality period photos of the race.  Did you know that the famous driver Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped just before one of the races?  It is worth the price of the book just to read the about Fangio!

As most people know, soon after Cuba fell to the rebels in 1959, the United States placed an embargo on all products coming in and out of Cuba, including cars and parts.  Many things became difficult and challenging for people in Cuba after that, and even more so for car owners wishing to keep their vehicles running.  The determination, ingenuity, and perseverance of the Cuban people is magnified and brought to the forefront in the pages of this book.

I highly recommend this book.  Cuba’s Car Culture is available from Motorbooks, Amazon and at book sellers. It is hardcover, 192 pages and features 160 color and 38 black and white photos.

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