There are two countries that are paradise to lovers of vintage cars. The most well known being Cuba where a large proportion of the cars on the roads are classic cars from the 50’s.
Cuba’s “love” for vintage cars was forced on them when President Fidel Castro banned the importation of foreign cars in 1959, and since then the island’s drivers have been stuck with whatever vehicles they owned. Their dependence on what they had was proliferated by trade embargoes imposed mainly by the USA. Cuba’s ban has been relaxed since Fidel retired, with new, often previously-owned cars now arriving in the country, mainly from China.
Lets fly 7,000 km southeast of Havana to Uruguay, the second smallest country in South America and the third least poor on the continent. All over this small country, you will find many vintage cars, and the reason is very different than in Cuba.
During the 1940’s and 50’s the people of Uruguay became prosperous due to their exports of wool and beef, and with much disposable income they imported many cars from Europe and the United States. However, a lengthy economic downturn brought their fortunes to a halt by the late 50’s, and since then they have been forced to keep, and maintain, whatever vehicles they had. After many years the Uruguayans realized that they prefer old sturdy cars!
We took a ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the small town of Colonia Del Sacramento in Uruguay, and then drove 80 km northwest to Carmelo, to check out the cars on the roads.
We found them. Many of them! Ford, Chevy, Plymouth, Studebaker, Opel, Austin, DKW’s, tiny Fiats, and even horse carts!