What was your first car? If you were born before 1960, or your first car was an old one, you might find one like it in Cuba today.
Of all the things Cuba is famous for — Communism, cigars, music, beaches, night life — none seems to equal the emotional response that vintage cars evoke. A friend sent me this excellent photo essay by a professional photographer who traveled the whole island for a month after waiting and planning ten years for the opportunity to visit Cuba. He’s now writing a book.
Having devoted a whole chapter to cars, “Mennonite in a Little Black Convertible,” in my memoir, I was secretly hoping to find a black Studebaker convertible. No such luck. But I did find all of these. How many can you identify? Each photo has a Roman numeral. You can make a list.
I loved cars so much I looked for artists who painted them. I found Jorgé in Santiago de Cuba, and now we look at his painting every day in our kitchen “gallery.”
The question this post raises — why do we love old cars so much — has many answers.
One that I recognized for myself was that they remind me of Daddy, who died in 1980 and who could express love for cars almost better than love for his family. One night, lying on a single bed in an almost-air conditioned room, I listened to Garrison Keillor singing a song he wrote called “My Old Dad.” The lyrics pierced me as I recognized a relevant truth:
“The living leave. They move away. But the dead are with us every day.”
I had brought Daddy with me to Cuba in my heart and in my eyes! That’s why I peered out the window for every old car I could see. That’s why I could hear him and Uncle Ken in my mind discussing the merits of hood ornaments and chrome and lamenting the lack of whitewall tires, recalling their own dream cars.
That’s why I wanted to bring back paintings of cars I could hang on the wall. I wanted to remember Cuba. But all along, I was remembering Daddy.
Do you love old cars? Have a memory to share? Want to try to identify the ten models above? I’ll be asking Don Warnick to chime in on the comments section at some point. He helped me take pictures and can identify most of the cars.
Leave a comment below and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World where you can read more about that Studebaker and the Daddy who bought it for me. No need to get 100 percent on car identification!
If you want to read more about my trip to Cuba October 21-November 4, 2015, check out the last three posts in the right-hand column. This is the last in a series of four.