One of the highlights of last year’s Jalopnik Film Festival for me was the documentary Havana Motor Club. The reason is partially to do with the fact that I love anything that involves jury-rigging old American cars with Soviet-era car parts, and partially because I’m actually half-Cuban myself.
My father was born and raised in Havana, the same city where most of these remarkable gearheads call home. Auto racing is technically illegal in Cuba, and even if it wasn’t, trade embargoes mean getting parts and building a racecar is dramatically more difficult than almost anywhere else in the world.
And yet the racers shown in this documentary and the ones who came to the Film Festival to talk to us managed to do it, somehow. Thanks to incredible skills at scavenging, improvising, finding loopholes, and just generally being wildly determined, these Cubans have built a racing culture from essentially nothing.
It’s hoped motor racing will be made legal at some point soon, and if it is, Cubans will have these remarkable people to thank.
I was honored to get to run this little question-and-answer session with the Cuban racers; I think you’ll find it as fascinating as I did.
I really need to get to Cuba someday soon.