Robaina's plantation

Thursday 11 February 2016

Chasing Cuban Chrome (Havana)

                As described by the Discovery Channel website; Cuban Chrome is a groundbreaking new docu-series that explores the fascinating time warp that characterizes Cuban car culture.
                When this series came out last year I couldn't wait to see it and I wasn't disappoint. Sure some of the stuff that went on in the show isn't the way things normally go in Cuba but the show had to move along, most of the things that weren't likely were money related. The show itself, the goings-on in Cuba or Cuban life were close to how things really are over there. Cubans are very approachable regardless if they're famous or not and I wanted to meet these guys on my next trip.
                The first encounter took place rather by chance, sometimes things are meant to be. Walking towards 'The Maine' monument on a Saturday evening, I remembered that the Car Club that Alberto Gutierez (one of the main characters) is President of holds a show once a month on this spot and it happened to be on this day. I met Alberto Gutierez on this day as well as his son Dayan Gutierez (another character). He told me of a Car Show and Competition that was being held the next day at the Tropicana Club parking lot and that another one of the characters would be there, Fernando Barral, the mechanic with the hot rod.
                 I went to the Car Show near the end when the competition was already done but did get a chance to talk with Alberto and Fernando. They're both like kids in a candy shop being able to play with all these toys, in this case it's cars. Fernando had sold his hot rod for a lot of money he says and now he bought and is working on an early 60's model Oldsmobile Delta 98. With drinks in hand and smiles on their faces, they seemed to be living the life. Whether or not that has to do with any added wealth brought about by the show, I couldn't tell you but I believe these guys were living the life before the show. Being able to indulge yourself with your hobby and have the financial means to be able to do doesn't get much better than that. While speaking with Alberto I was able to get the address of Ricardo Medel, the expert mechanic who was working on the Austin-Healey in the show. By the end of the show his restoration was complete and when I went to visit him at his house it was parked out front. He was an absolute gem of a person, extremely hospitable he invited us into his house and if I hadn't left I would still be talking to him now. He loves to talk and is extremely intelligent and serious about his cars. He was very happy to be doing what he does, repairing cars. Near the end of the Series it shows him making a house call to see about a car that was having problems with it's brakes. The car was a one of a kind in Cuba, only 50 were made in total by the Donald Healey Motor Company in England. The Healey Silverstone D10 was in his garage undergoing repairs when I went to visit him, you can see it in the pictures below.
                 I asked if there was going to be another season of the show but the answer was a definite maybe. If you haven't already seen season one and you love classic cars and/or Cuba, you gotta check it out. I'm hoping they do a second season and who knows, maybe when I go to visit them next time I'm lucky enough to catch them while they're shooting it. Below are pictures of the show at the Tropicana and my visit to Ricardo Medel's house.

Alberto Gutierez with friend

Alberto Gutierez and I

Fernando Barral and I

Ricardo Medel next to the Healey Silverstone D10 that he was working on


  1. Great post..... They don't make them like that anymore. :0)

  2. As Usual Matt in the thick of things. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Hello Matteo, please check your gmail Inbox and read the email that I sent you earlier today (4/25/16)regarding our 1955 Ford Thunderbird that we left in Cuba when we emigrated in 1960. Thanks