Forgotten Gullwing

This isn’t for the squeamish. I’ve long been fascinated by the Cuban people’s ability to keep the cars of the 1950s on the road without a steady influx of parts. The ingenuity and determination of Cuban mechanics and their ability to cobble together bits and pieces or wholly create spares that keep those old Dodges and Chevys rolling through sheer force of will is just artistry. Why then, couldn’t one or two devote that masterful ability to this Gullwing? Instead it looks to have been abandoned and cannibalized over her years hiding under a banana tree. It’s heartbreaking.

This car is also featured in Degler Studio’s 2015 Carros de Cuba calendar. If you can bring yourself to look at this for a whole month, you’re stronger than me.

Abandoned Gullwing Mercedes in Cuba

More photos and information at This European Life.

Dropping the Flag at the 1960 Cuban GP

Formula Junior start at the 1960 Cuban Grand Prix

Formula Junior start at the 1960 Cuban Grand Prix

Castro had been sworn in as Prime Minister a year before but the transition to totalitarian regime was slow enough that there was still time for one last Cuban GP. A brief series of races for various classes was held between February 21 and 28, 1960. In a not-too-subtle metaphor for the nation as a whole, the race moved from the bustling and vibrant esplenade Malecón along Havana’s coast, to a closed runway of Columbia Military airport. What a marked transition that must have been for the diehard racing fans that stuck with it through the political transition.

Stirling Moss’ Birdcage Maserati took the win in the featured race. In this image of the Formula Junior event, Stanguellinis ruled the day; taking the first 9 positions. Which sounds incredibly impressive until you realize that they made up 73% of the field.

Via the Nostalgia Forum.

Track Map of the Past: la Carrera Pinar del Rio

Who Needs Umbrella Girls?

de Portago gridding up for the 1957 GP de Cuba

How hard do you think that Alfonso de Portago would laugh if we could tell him that racing teams have models in the pit lane who’s job it is to shield the drivers from the sun? De Portago didn’t need someone to cover his head when it started to rain before the 1957 Cuban GP and he certainly didn’t need it for the sun. A Shell ad wedged in the windscreen of his Ferrari 860 does just fine, thank you very much.

1957 Cuban GP in Color

The Real Cuba’s 1958 Gran Premio de Cuba

Color photography dates back to the 1890s but the cost associated with it, even after “modern” color film was available to the masses, was typically several times more expensive to buy and process. Even as late as the early 60’s, it was much more common to see black and white snapshots from race tracks. It’s just one more reason why these color shots of the 1958 GP de Cuba uploaded to Cuba Green Screen by The Real Cuba are so precious. Those ultramarine waters and blue skies would lose some luster as medium greys—not to mention the Ferraris and Jags.

The 1958 Gran Premio de Cuba will always be remembered as the time when Castro’s rebels kidnapped Juan Manuel Fangio on the eve of the race. Whenever I read of it, I always try and imagine how that must have affected his team and the rest of the field. I struggle to put myself in their position. Or Fangio’s; locked in a bedroom listening on the radio to the race he should be winning, a guard over his shoulder. I wonder what would happen in similar circumstances today. If Vettel got nabbed before the Bahrain GP, how would the teams; the sport; or the media react? Would the show—as it did in Havana 60 years ago—simply go on?

Fangio was returned unharmed after the race, and even befriended his captors in the years afterwards. The events have cemented the ’58 Cuban GP in the history of Caribbean politics as well as the history of sport. Looking at these marvelous photos though, I may start to remember the event for Carroll “Chicken Farmer” Shelby lounging in his Ferrari in a pair of hickory striped overalls getting gassed up.

Click on over for more shots and thanks to Bring a Trailer for pointing the way.

Reader Photos: Cuba ’57-’59

Mandy Alvarez wrote in with some photos he took as a boy in Cuba, and with stories to boot!

“On the 1954 Buick century #20: That was a brand new car owned by Vaillant Motors the Buick distributor for the complete island. Mr. Vaillant was a good friend of my father Raul Alvarez del Corral, and sold him the car right after the race. The car had simple modifications: Lowering springs, open exhaust and they removed the wheel coves. It had the “nail head” 322 cubic inch V8 engine.

It ran in one of three or four annual road rally races held every year, something very similar to La Carrera Panamericana. This one was from Sagua La Grande to La Habana (Havana) a 310 kilometers race. The Buick was victorious in the stock car category covering the distance in 2hs 13 min 14 sec averaging 136.907 kph. The field consisted of 37 cars ranging from Oldsmobile, Dodge, Lincoln,Chrysler, Hudson Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford,Mercury one Panhard and the Buick. The driver was Jose Salazar Cubillas.”

This is the grid from a support race for the 1957 Gran Premio de Cuba. Mandy says,

“This picture was taking in Havana, Cuba on the Saturday before the 1957 Cuban GP (won by Fangio). This is the start of one the four national races held. #70 a 1957 Buick Special won this particular event. The driver Albelardo Carreras.”

Mandy’s lifelong passion for motorsports started early, and he went on to race himself in SCCA, IMSA, and FIA sanctioned events, including an appearance at the Daytona 24 Hours race. Below are several other photos from the 1957 and 1958 Cuban GPs, and other Cuban races taken before he left the island in the wake of the revolution.

Thanks for sending these in, Mandy!

We’d love to share more reader photos with Chicane readers. Drop us a line at