Fidel Castro, one of the world’s most powerful dictators, ironically seldom traveled locally in one of his many limousines which were considered luxurious at that time. Though now that the “Comandante” has been dethroned, his limos now serve the people of Cuba, in a manner of speaking.
A fleet of black, boxy, Soviet-made limousines that for years were at the disposal of the presidency in Fidel Castro’s Cuba are now plying the road of Havana as humble taxi cabs, reported The Wire. The once majestic limos have long since been decommissioned, but apparently they have received a fresh lease on life thanks to the ingenious thinking of a few taxi drivers who procured these vehicles via some clever channels.
The Havana Taxi Cab services has been using these re-purposed limousines for more than 3 years now, but news about them has spread in the tourist community only recently, shared Moises Suarez, 58, who has been behind the wheel of one of the ex-presidential limos. He said, “When I tell (travelers) where the car came from, they sit in the seat back there and… stretch their legs and say, ‘I can’t believe it!'”
It is interesting to note that though Fidel Castro is said to have occasionally sat in one of the limos, he never preferred these vehicles. For his personal transportation, the military man liked to travel in a trademark military jeep complete with camouflage paint job. Nonetheless, Fidel Castro kept these limos in pristine condition and they were often deployed in the service of visiting dignitaries and celebrities.
Though at one point there were over two dozen gleaming limos parked in the garages of Fidel Castro’s many homes, only 14 have survived the years, 10 of which are in working condition. Nonetheless, all 10 limos have been painstakingly maintained by the respective drivers who consider driving them a real privilege rather than earning their bread and butter.
The luxury automobiles were produced by Russian manufacturers GAZ and ZIL in the 1960s and 1970s. Those sent to Cuba reportedly included a ZIL-111 convertible model that was the first of its kind to roll off the assembly line, a personal gift to Castro from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Many aspects of his GAZ-built Chaika — Russian for “seagull” — are still original, from the camel-colored headliner to the radio with its buttons and knobs labeled in Cyrillic lettering. The interiors, however, exhibit age and the upholstery smells musty.
The limos mostly ferry tourists who are interested in experiencing history rather than just knowing about it. The limos seat six comfortably, but can’t be termed as luxurious by today’s standards. A day’s fare to travel in the Fidel Castro Limousine is negotiable, but costs anywhere between $100 and $140, reported Fox News.
[Image Credit | The Times, Greenwich Time]