A quest for Corvettes in Havana

So I just led a trip to Cuba for car freaks auto enthusiasts! We had a number of activities related to cars – like a meeting with the Nostalgicar auto club. This is a group of owner/drivers of meticulously maintained vintage cars from the U.S., imported before the Cuban Revolution. Nice bunch of people.

As we rode back to our hotel in these crazy vintage cars, our cab driver spun some fantastic story about a secret Corvette. There are only 5 Corvettes in all of Cuba, so a sighting is extremely rare. But supposedly this driver knew where to find one of these Corvettes, locked up tight in a garage somewhere.

One of my travelers is a Corvette owner himself, and he was instantly hooked. Wanted to go see it. So as most of the group went off to enjoy some down time, a couple of us got back in the cab and began our Corvette quest.

We ended up at an apartment building right on the ocean. It had a small parking lot in back and a closed one-car garage. We spent some time yelling for the owner, who was upstairs in his apartment. (Yelling from the street is like the Cuban equivalent of ringing a doorbell.) Luckily, he was at home, and he was good enough to come down and indulge us.

The owner of this red Corvette tells us his story

The owner of this red Corvette tells us his story

My car freaks enthusiasts got to see a real beauty – a cherry-red 1958 convertible in gleaming, near-perfect condition. They spent some time oohing and aahing as we chatted with the owner, a friendly guy and former Olympic athlete. We talked cars for a while with him and heard what it takes to maintain his car in such good condition. He then invited us up to see his ocean-view apartment. It’s great. (photo below) He must have done well for himself as an athlete.

But wait – there’s more. Our cab driver then revealed the location of a second Corvette! This one wasn’t in such great condition; in fact, it was at an auto shop for repairs. Our driver was affiliated with the shop and said he could get us in for a visit. My car lovers were excited to see the car, and maybe even more excited to see what a private Cuban auto shop looks like… so off we went!

A black Corvette sits in a private mechanic's shop, Havana, Cuba

A black Corvette sits in a private mechanic’s shop, Havana, Cuba

The auto shop was somebody’s backyard, fenced in and with a couple bays where the cars live. We hung out there for a while with the homeowner and his dog. They told us about their creative efforts to make this garage a success. They’re trying to organize a group of cab drivers to make this their go-to repair shop.

The place wasn’t exactly well-equipped – but somehow they get the job done. That’s typical Cuba. What they don’t have in resources, they make up for in ingenuity. I’ve heard Cuban mechanics are the best around, as they have to be able to repair anything rather than just ordering spare parts. We’d all been wanting to see one of these little independent shops, and I was thrilled we got the chance.

Anyways, this is the kind of experience I live for. I’m all about the detours – seizing a random opportunity and having a unique, personal adventure! I know none of us will ever forget it.

We visit the apartment on the ocean. I loved the front wall of windows, which isn't vertical... It's angled down, overlooking the street and sea below.

We visit the apartment on the ocean. I loved the front wall of windows, which isn’t vertical… It’s angled down, overlooking the street and sea below.

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