A Car-ful Passion

Bay Of "Rigs": A Look At The Cuban Embargo, And Why Lifting It Gives Car Fanciers In Both Countries Access To Hard-To-Find Parts

Cuba's roads make up an automobile time capsule. For many decades, Cubans were forbidden from purchasing American models and American-made replacement parts. Now, trade restoration is underway between the United States and Cuba, a move that will benefit the automobile manufacturing and restoration industry.

The Early Years

In 1898, the United States took control of the island territory Cuba. The United States granted Cuba its independence, but remained involved economically and politically, helping the island nation fight guerrilla takeover attempts.

Then, in 1959, a Cuban Revolution leader named Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. Over time, Castro's regime, which was rooted in communist political philosophy, took over privatized companies and placed stiff taxes on American imports. Cuba and the Soviet Union (now Russia) became economic and political allies, and the United States responded by severing its diplomatic and trade ties with the island.

Even though the United States helped Castro gain control over Cuba, its relationship deteriorated in the decades following. Cuba's economic condition also deteriorated as a result of the trade embargo. In 1996, the United States reiterated that it would not lift the trade embargo until Cuba introduced democratic elections, released political prisoners, and restored fundamental human rights to its people, like free speech.

Effect of the Embargo on Cuba's Automobile Industry

The trade restrictions placed on Cuba in the 1960s had a very unique impact on one particular industry: automobiles. New American-made models were unattainable for Cuban citizens, but this was not the only impact that the embargo had on car owners and fanciers. Like all cars, the existing American models on Cuban roads suffered wear and tear, but Cuban car owners were unable to find replacement parts for their broken vehicles.

Thus, over the decades, the American cars in Cuba turned into "Frankensteins" because Cubans had to get creative when fixing their cars. They replaced broken items with parts made for other makes and models, or constructed the necessary parts themselves.

Changing Tides

Only Congress can lift the embargo that the United States has placed on Cuba. In 2015, the Senate introduced a bill that would repeal the trade embargo and restore import and export relations between the two countries.

Without an embargo, Cubans can once again buy the American-made cars that they have admired. They will also have access to replacement parts for existing American cars, many of which are classic models.

The benefit is not one-sided, however. American classic car fanciers will finally be allowed into Cuba and have access to the thousands of older American models there. Many of the Frankenstein vehicles have had so many patch-jobs and alterations that they are not suitable for restoration, but even these cars have value because they still boast working original parts.

All in all, the climate of car restoration will change with the lifted embargo. Furthermore, Americans and Cubans will both have access to a wealth of original car parts once off-limits. Talk to places like Brighton Automotive Inc for more information.