Cuba's "yank tanks" show power of vehicle maintenance

July 27, 2012 12:00 AM

Changes to United States policy have made it easier for people to travel to Cuba, and those who take the opportunity to go should be sure to check out the fabled "yank tanks" lining the streets of Havana and other cities.

"Yank tanks" refer to old American-made vehicles that are still on the road today. It's not uncommon for one to visit Cuba and think they've stepped into the middle of an old car show, with '57 Chevys driving down the street as if it was 50 years ago. The tale of these old cars is tied into the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo, and the power of auto maintenance and repairs to keep these ancient vehicles running.

Due to the fact that Cuba cannot purchase cars from America, along with internal restriction keeping Asian and European automakers from selling in the country, most Cubans are left to use vehicles they purchased before the revolution. These cars are legal, but keeping them in working order is a different story. Over the years, Cubans have found innovative ways to keep their cars working, whether it's adapting them to use Soviet diesel engines or configuring household appliances to serve as makeshift parts.

It may seem unusual to Americans, who are used to getting a new car every ten years or so. Yet by keeping up with their auto maintenance, Cubans have been able to keep thousands of decades-old vehicles in working order for the length of the embargo.

Back to news