by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Rambling through the streets of Havana, one is likely to see hundreds of vintage cars running around as living antiques of the first half of the 20th century.
Whether in classic convertibles for tourists painted with eccentric colors or the so-called "botero," used by thousands of Cubans for their daily transportation, these old cars are now an enduring part of the Cuban landscape.
The first Classical Car Contest 2018 hopes to gather the best exponents of the country, with some 200 of these vehicles expected to be displayed on the streets of Havana in December.
The event is organized by the five-star Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel together with the "Amigos de Fangio" project, a club that brings together over 300 owners of vehicles manufactured between 1919 and 1960.
"This competition is intended to uncover the extensive tradition of classic cars Cuba has on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the first vehicle to the country and the 500th anniversary of Havana," said Maria Barrera, Iberostar's marketing director in Cuba.
According to the organizers, the first gathering of all cars manufactured before 1960 will be presented at the event on Dec. 1, and will be evaluated by experts.
The best 200 will be chosen based on their technical conditions, originality, external and internal appearance, operation of the electrical system and other parameters.
On Dec. 15, the cars once again will take to the streets of the Cuban capital for the competition, in which an awards ceremony will be held for the vehicle in the best state of preservation, as well as being the most popular among participants.
"There will be a parade along a route that covers the three Iberostar hotels in Havana and the famous Malecon (seawall) avenue led by a 1948 Packard Clipper car," said Barrera, the representative of the Spanish company.
At the end of the big caravan, the cars will gather at the famous Paseo del Prado boulevard in Old Havana at the entrance of the Iberostar Grand Packard Hotel.
"We believe this will be the largest gathering of classic and vintage cars in history," said Barrera, adding that this event aims to spread the automobile heritage in Cuba.
Cuban vintage car clubs were founded in Havana 22 years ago by Lorenzo Verdecia, a lover of these relics that thanks to the ingenuity of locals still roll through the streets of this Caribbean nation.
A lack of spare parts mainly due to the U.S. economic embargo on the island has made the owners of these vehicles become true innovators.
"If it weren't for the inventiveness and creativity of many people over these decades, we wouldn't have so many of these automobiles in good condition today," said Verdecia.
However, he added that keeping them running has been very expensive and not easy.
"We consider antique cars manufactured before 1940 and the ones that arrived in Cuba between 1941 and 1960 as classics. The latter are the ones that proliferate in our country," said Verdecia in a recent press conference to announce this unique event.
Meanwhile, Pablo Alvarez, head of the technical commission that will inspect the vehicles, said there is a great variety of vintage cars in Cuba, so it will be difficult to choose the best 200 vehicles.
"It will be a very close competition, antique cars are already part of our cultural heritage," he said.
"Each automobile had its own line and style, there are no two alike," Alvarez added.
Car brands such as Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Pontiac and Ford, among others, will participate in the competition to highlight the life and memories of the island.