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Hopes ride high for classic car boom in Havana

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - 01:44

Cuba's vintage cars may see new roads ahead as restored diplomatic relations with the U.S. raise hopes of an American tourist boom to see the 1950s 'yank tanks'. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

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Havana is a rolling car museum. These so-called 'yank tanks' are one of the most symbolic images of the communist-led country -- and a major draw for tourists seeking a tour of old Havana. Now that Cuba and long-time foe the US are looking to restore diplomatic ties, owners are hoping it will spark new life in the vintage vehicles. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) OWNER OF A 1959 DESOTO CAR, REGIS DE LA MAZA, SAYING: "Hundreds of tourists will come and all of these cars that sit here all day because there is no work because there is so little tourism -- sometimes I go out just once a day, sometimes I don't go out at all - we won't be able to keep up and we will have work all day long." An estimated 60,000 1950s-era vehicles roam Cuban roads transporting tourists for up to $30 a ride. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ITALIAN MAN LIVING IN CUBA AND WHO DRIVES TOURISTS IN A 1950 CHEVROLET, AMADEO ALLEGRETTI, SAYING: "This car represents the country's soul. I'm not certain, but there were about 30,000 old American cars here being used as taxis. These taxi services are reserved mostly for tourists because they don't have these cars anywhere else. Foreigners go crazy when they see them, you don't even know. They know it is a relic that came from grandparents who gave them to their parents and now the kids have them, so it's been a lot of work. " For international visitors the capital's classic cars are a part of their Cuba experience. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH TOURIST, JUNE TOWNSEND, SAYING: "Lovely, really really really good, yeah, really nice. Thank you, yeah, love it." Even though it will take an act of Congress to lift the embargo with Cuba, these drivers are making sure they are ready if the tourist windfall comes.

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Hopes ride high for classic car boom in Havana

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - 01:44