VINTAGE CAR MECHANIC
Ricardo Medel dedicated many years to rebuilding his Austin-Healey, a beautiful British car. He almost did it completely and was able to recover its initial splendor. Medel is well-known as a Cuban vintage car maestro.
On the island, he says, “there were cars of all the trade names, even European ones. Afterwards many were dismantled for spare parts.” Maintaining the cars set in motion Cubans’ inventiveness, something that was taken to many other fields. “Not only parts were made but also tools to work. They were made and adapted.”
Mechanics and drivers forged a brotherhood around vintage cars and the shortages. They exchanged parts and solutions to the most diverse difficulties in order to maintain their relics. With the boom in tourism, explains his wife Lupe, the awareness about conservation has even reached those taxi drivers who charge in national currency. An aesthetics culture is being developed, something that already existed among those who work with foreigners. “They have been trying to improve their cars. They learn English to relate with the foreigners, because vintage cars are part of Cuban heritage, one of the images that
represent Cuba abroad, which is attractive for visitors,” she says.
Ricardo notes that, with the entry of modern cars to Cuba the auto park is being renovated. Some assess the purchase of a new car as the possibility of improving, something that could condemn the old ones to disappear in a perhaps distant future.
“Many are tired and think that having a modern car will make life easier for them. But here they are going to fall into another trap, because Cuba is still not prepared for that until the day in which the entry of new
cars and new parts are allowed, brought over by the same individual. Others will have the awareness to continue maintaining them.”
“Or they will become collection cars,” Lupe adds.