After 50 years of tough economic sanctions, last month the U.S. relaxed trade restrictions against Cuba. This new dialogue between the two countries has classic car buffs back in the States salivating over the thought of some 60,000 vintage cars potentially hitting the collector’s market. Before everyone gets too excited, let’s settle in for a reality check.
Though Cuba has been in a virtual time warp, the classic cars seen on news segments or online reports may not live up to all the hype. Many of these vehicles have been kept on the road by any means available to their Cuban owners. “What you see are a lot of cars that are just kind of rolling hulks held together with duct tape and chicken wire,” says Lance Lambert, host of the U.S. television show, Vintage Vehicles.
Keeping Cuban Cars on the Road
With no access to original parts or high quality fabrications, these cars are often labeled “Frankenstein cars”. The only original part remaining on many is the body. Diesel engines have replaced the original motors, interiors are often handmade and owners paint the cars with whatever they have available, including house paint.
For many Cubans, these rolling pieces of history provide vital income. With the average monthly salary for a Cuban citizen around $20, this explains why there are so many of these antique taxis still on the road. Another reason is that for decades the only cars that most could afford were the pre-revolutionary ones. These are the only vehicles that can be bought and sold freely. All other cars have to be purchased from state run dealerships. Not only that, a brand new sedan costs upwards of $200,000 in Cuba, which makes it almost impossible for the average person to own.
But surely there has to be a few pristine classics sitting in a garage or a shed waiting to be rescued? It appears that a “barn find” would be rare, though. Many collectors from other countries have sought them out and failed. Still, hope springs eternal.
So what happens if you do go to Cuba, you do find that elusive ’57 Chevy hidden in some barn (in near mint condition) and you are able to buy it? What then? Well, you may face yet another unfortunate reality: A 2010 Cuban law bans cars from being taken off the island. Maybe this will change with the proposed governmental policies …
Or maybe you should just buy a lottery ticket.
Seeing all of those vintage Cuba cars on the small screen can get you thinking how you might love to see your own classic ride make its Hollywood début (and earn a little cash in the process). How does one go about getting their car or truck in the movies or on a television show?
Decades ago, Hollywood studios owned their own fleets of cars but as times changed, studio executives realized that this just wasn’t cost effective. Now studios rent the vehicles they need from car brokers, who act as point people for studios when they want to find a specific car for a movie or television show. Many of these agents have an inventory of cars at their disposal ranging from classic models to the everyday variety. The car brokers visit car shows around the country to look for vehicles they might want to represent. Just like talent agents for actors, these individuals contract with a car’s owner to make it available for use by the studios.
Before you go and think – “Wow, I’m going to get rich doing this” – the average rate for a day’s rental on a car is $200. (Think background extra rather than major movie star). It could be more or less depending on if the car in question is a one-of-a-kind model. Subtract the broker’s fee (usually 25%) and you could probably make enough to cover gas and a burger.
Let us not diminish the role cars play in setting the mood of an entertaining period piece. “In some movies, cars are almost as important as the actors,” says Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, CA. Watching an iconic car on the big screen is what ignited many an individual’s desire to collect and restore vintage cars. Thankfully Hollywood will continue to showcase cars as long as collectors are willing to make them available. Just beware of fly by night outfits and stick to reputable companies that have worked in the movie or television business for a while. Soon you, too, may see a Hollywood leading man leaning against your vintage car in the next blockbuster movie.
Just not close enough to scratch the paint.
Count on Classic Auto
Most reputable broker agencies have their own liability insurance to cover the vehicles they lease. It is still a good idea to make sure you are covered with your own policy. Before deciding to rent your vehicle for display or entertainment, have your existing collector car insurance policy reviewed. You may also want to take detailed photographs of your car to have in the event of an accident on set. An expert at Classic Auto Insurance can help you prepare your car for the big screen. Check out our website at www.classicins.com.
Photo credits: www.reuters.com/stringer; www.reuters.com/stringer; www.wilsonauto.com; www.cbs.com/shows/csi/; www.fox.com/bones