A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles
photos and text Christopher P. Baker
11 3/4" x 10 1/2" • 208 pages • full-color
ISBN 9781566565462 • hardback • $29.95 •
WINNER OF THE 2005 LOWELL THOMAS AWARD, "TRAVEL BOOK OF THE YEAR"
"This is the most beautiful, most sympathetic photo book about Cuba I have seen for years. It's terrific!"
— Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park and Havana Bay
More Reviews »
This unique homage to Cuba’s astonishing wealth of antique cars is also a paean to the extraordinary people who keep their weary cacharros running with resourcefulness, ingenuity and great good humor. In a collection of vibrant images, Cuba Classics reveals the time-worn splendor of classic American automobiles spanning eight decades. From Model-T Fords and ’40s-era Buick Roadmasters to late ’50s Edsel Citations and Chevrolet Impalas with fins sharp enough to draw blood, this book evokes the nostalgic and seductive world of Cuba’s car culture.
Blurry action shots of moving cars...scenics with backdrops that celebrate the island’s beauty...close-ups of hood ornamentation, grillwork and dashboards, illustrate the subject magnicently. This rich array of photographs, complemented by captions that provide fascinating anecdotal detail while celebrating the four-wheeled survivors of a bygone age and the passion of their owners.
This magnificent portrait of today’s classic cars is also an exploration of the island’s tumultuous history. Tracing the evolution of motor madness in decadent pre-revolutionary Cuba, the author surveys the tough realities of caring for vintage cars in the modern age of embargo and shortages. These challenges have produced exceptional skill and inventiveness among the owners and mechanics who somehow keep a legion of gas-guzzling leviathans on the road.
In a dynamic photojournalistic essay that traces the long love affair between Cubans and the U.S. automobile, Christopher P. Baker also celebrates Cuba’s landscapes and colors, his images putting the beloved cacharros within a tropical setting both sensual and surreal.
Written in the lively, engaging style that has won the author numerous literary awards, Cuba Classics draws upon memoirs, museum records, personal interviews and Cuba’s own dusty archives. Mixing history with present-day impressions, technical detail with personal observations, the evocative text proves both absorbing and richly entertaining.
Baker’s volume captivates everyone from armchair travelers to classic car connoisseurs with powerful imagery that reflects the beguiling other-worldly charm of Cuba, the Caribbean’s most compelling and intriguing isle.
Christopher P. Baker’s passion for Cuba and the open road inspired him to write Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba, winner of the Lowell Thomas Award "Travel Book of the Year" and the North American Travel Journalist Association’s Award of Excellence. He is also the author of the best-selling Moon Handbook: Cuba, plus Moon Handbook: Havana and National Geographic: Traveler Cuba, as well as numerous other travel guidebooks. His work has appeared in publications as diverse as Newsweek, National Geographic Traveler, Saveur, and Elle, and in books by the National Geographic Society, Time-Life, the Discovery Channel, and Writer’s Digest. His many other awards include the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s "Travel Journalist of the Year." He lives in California.
Click here to view a selection of photographs from this book.
"In this paean to the vintage car, Baker, who has also provided the photos, juxtaposes American autos against the backdrop of Cuba to great effect...the photos effectively capture the beauty of the vintage cars themselves as well as the country that keeps them running. This photographic history is a nice companion to Baker's award-winning travel memoir, Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba."
-- Publishers Weekly
"Travel writer Baker has been to Cuba 20 times to research books, and one of the more fascinating aspects of contemporary Cuba did not escape his notice: it is the "largest American car museum in the world." Before Castro, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, Cuba imported a vast number of cars from the U.S, but since the embargo, no more cars can be brought across the Florida Strait. Consequently, the islanders are left to make do--to repair and relish the cars they owned before the embargo. Baker's lively text and rousing photographs give a palpable sense of the "time warp" experienced by tourists to today's Cuba as they, say, spot a 1952 Ford Victoria, catch a glimpse of a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker, or closely observe a 1959 Studebaker Lark. The photographs are the major draw here, for Baker catches these prized vehicles, most held together only by a creative use of spare parts, in full-length profiles, up-close details, at rest, or zooming by on street and road."
"Cuba. The word by itself brims with connotations: the Cold War, missile crisis, refugees, dictatorship. What this book does is replace all those notions. It takes readers back to a time when American cars were each unique in their design and symbolized the good life as defined by shiny chrome and elegant hood ornaments. With images and text, the author shows readers a Cuba they never expected, while at the same time offering a nostalgic journey to a past often forgotten by this SUV generation."
-- Silver Award/Best Travel Book category, Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Awards
"Chris Baker is the preeminent travel writer covering Cuba today. His guidebooks for National Geographic Traveler and Moon Publishing are biblical Baedekers for anyone traveling to the island. Mi Moto Fidel, his book-length journey around the island on a BMW motorcycle, reads like a Hemingwayan novel -- and has garnered prestigious writing awards. Now, with Cuba Classics, Baker has taken his already impressive act to a new level, displaying his skill as a photographer, which is nothing short of artistry. His stunning photographs of vintage American autos -- so plentiful in Cuba -- are not only wonderful depictions of cars not seen in the U.S. for decades, but are the subjects of photos that demonstrate a photographer's instinctively artistic command of format, color, tone, and lighting. Settings for the autos often speak to the greater issue of the Cuban landscape, both urban and rural. It's a must book for car buffs, for anyone interested in photographic artistry, for anyone enamored of beautiful writing. As a long-time fan of Baker's journalism, I have found myself asking what else could he possibly do to present another aspect of this island country he knows and loves? Cuba Classics is the latest answer to that question. Kudos."
-- Tony Tedeschi, editor, naturaltraveler.com
"Baker has done a remarkable job in visually capturing the elusive sense of place that is the goal of every travel photographer and yet which very few ever achieve.... This is the real Cuba photographed with a directness that has a refreshing lack of artifice. Whether your interest is old cars, Cuba, or good photography per se, this exquisite coffee-table book will not disappoint. A better book on Cuba would be hard to find. For a writer of Baker's ability to demonstrate equal talent as a photographer is an enviable accomplishment. Cuba Classics will become a classic in its own right."
-- Robert Holmes, twice recipient of the coveted "Travel Photographer of the Year."
"The complexity of relationships between the U.S. and Cuba, from the vantage point of old automobiles, is a fountainhead of insight for anyone who cares enough to think about it. There is pain and comedy there, as well as beauty and pathos. Christopher P. Baker's images evoke all that: the restored beauty of the vintage cars is utterly Cuban now, but the sheen and light that shines from them and from the Cubans in his pictures, hides other worlds. Cuba is a photographer's dream and nightmare: she is pathologically photogenic. Only the best artists can simultaneously pose and question her. I think Baker does."
-- Andrei Codrescu, contributor to NPR's "All Things Considered" and author of Ay, Cuba!
"Christopher P. Baker's Cuba Classics is the history of 20th century Cuba told through its love affair with the automobile -- an enduring symbol of its inventive and resilient spirit.""This is the most beautiful, most sympathetic photo book about Cuba I have seen for years. It's terrific!"
-- Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential: Love & Vengeance in Miami and Havana.
— Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park and Havana Bay
Submit a Review »