); Cuban cars: License plate secrets and ingenious ideas | Visit Cuba

Vintage Cars

Cuban cars: License plate secrets and ingenious ideas

By Caterina Wallace / Posted November 15, 2012

Like no place in the world, Cubans adore their cars and like snowflakes, no two are alike. The supply of vehicles has been, and continues to be sparse so the pride of ownership and the personal involvement with maintenance is limitless.

Parts for old American cars are hard to find even in the US, but in Cuba they are all but non-existent.  This photo shows how a trunk lock has been brilliantly replaced with a door lock – a surprisingly common sight on vehicles in the country. You might never notice, but it’s a tribute to innovation. Nearly every one of Cuba’s huge fleet of 40s, 50s and early 60s vehicles is cobbled together from odd parts, Russian tractor mechanisms and home hardware.  It makes them even more fun for those of us who love old cars.

License plates

If you take a moment, you’ll notice many different coloured license plates on the backs of Cuban cars. Every colour tells a story and once you know the code, you can almost tell who’s driving.

Cuban plate colours and their meaning:


Black – diplomatic

Light Red – rental

Yellow – private owner

White – government ministry

Blue – government vehicle

Green – military

Dark Red – tourism

Orange – foreign companies and churches

It’s ironic that the US car has become an emblem of Cuba. Today, you will see many more recent model cars from many countries including Mercedes, Hyundais, Peugeots and Cherys but it’s the ’57 Pontiac that really says “welcome to Cuba!”





To visit the VisitCuba Vintage Car Photo Album, click here!

Caterina Wallace