Every time I watch a news snippet of Cuban streets, I see all the cars I grew up with. I can identify by sight instantly every car from 1949- 1960----- practically the entire automotive inventory of
Cars were my life when I was a kid. Every September I would ride my bike a mile on
Whitney Avenue and stand in front of
Ekblade Oldsmobile’s show room hoping to see the new model Oldsmobile for next
year. Sometimes it took days of wasted bike trips before the new car appeared
in the showroom. But once it did you had
a preview of four other GM cars which were variations on the theme of
Oldsmobile, up or down: Chevy, , Buick, Cadillac. The
same went for DeSoto: Once you saw that
new model, the rest of Chrysler models were simply variations on the
theme: Pontiac , Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial. Plymouth
I understand that
producers each year purchase and save ten samples of every car and every model
of car going back to the 1920’s. Scenes
in the 1974 Robert Redford film The Great
Gatsby for instance used those cars on the actual Riverside
Drive, a block of which New
York’s Mayor’s office closed for a day or two for Hollywood filming.
Sixty years ago my brother and I, constantly chauffeured to one place or another in my parents’ second-hand, 1954 Nash (which happily I still see today on Superman re-reruns) would play the game of “Name the make and year of that car” as the traffic drove by: ’49 Chevy stick shift; ‘53 Buick, with dynaflow automatic transmission that almost growled (we called it super-slush it was so slow) ; ’55 two-tone Ford with the long chrome check-mark, on fenders and door dividing the colors (white and turquoise was sweet);
If you owned that Cadillac it meant you were “rich”, driving what was sort of an American royal carriage back in 1959. It also had two chrome “Mae West” front bumpers that really bumped. Today they would be politically incorrect.
The 1958 Oldsmobile---a bomb even when it was new --- was the most chromed up car of all time : It seemed it had a musical score sheet minus a G-cleff sign in chrome on its fender and doors, making it look it so heavy it could barely move.
That’s why I suggest that we baby boomers well into our nostalgia-years create a new living, moving, chugging, sputtering, clunking museum called the Cuban Automotive Preservation Society (CAPS). It would be a kind of Car Disneyworld of Cuba, complete with dents and smog. Like Disneyworld, you would have to pay an entry fee, and then, like Uber, you could order by cell phone a driver with the car of your choice: a ’49 Nash stick-shift, or a ’56 Desoto, with pushbutton drive; or a ’59 Cadillac convertible with its machete–like fins. Of course Ralph Naders seat belts would have to be added for safety. even if they are an anachronism.
Take a vacation to
and ride real dinosaurs from
my childhood. Walt Disney: Where are you when we need you? Cuba