Over at Small Dead Animals, Kate has posted something interesting. An internal memo from CNN regarding how Fidel Castro's "retirement" is to be handled. Kid gloves is not an unfair description. So I thought I'd provide some coverage of Fidel's leave taking from a uniquely gearhead perspective.
Friends and family have been to Cuba over the years. I haven't as a matter of both principal and penury. Formerly penury, lately principal.
They uniformly state that while the beaches and hotels are lovely and the staff friendly, if you wander off into town things go rather downhill. If you wander far enough a nice man in uniform with an AK47 tell you to please go back to your hotel.
Most cars are wonderful American 1950's customs, hand built and beautiful.
Which is great, until you think about it and realize those cars are still running from the 1950's, not rescued, restored by avid hobbyists and running again. Because relics of '50s American iron is all there is to drive.
I just happen to have a chunk of old American iron. 1947 Ford 2 1/2 ton COE.
My experience with it tells me that Cuba probably has the greatest masters of fixing cracks in cast iron in the entire world.
I've got two of those ancient Ford flat heads out in my driveway right now. Here's the first one being torn down. See all the crud on there? There's nasssty things hiding under it.
This is one of about 10 or so cracks I found in the block. This one is no big deal, but even by itself it would eventually lift the head gasket and get coolant in the oil pan. Probably one of the reasons they parked the old bastard in the first place. There's nine more like this one, some in the valve area, some headed for the cylinder walls. That's just on the top of the deck, I don't know what's in the lifter valley because we stopped cleaning when this lot showed up.
I found a guy in the next town over who had a flat head for sale, managed to score it off him for $50 bucks. Great score!
But, one problem. Flat head blocks are known for cracking. They pretty much always crack. If both blocks are like this I'm going to stick a late-model fuel injected Ford engine and transmission in my 1947 truck and be happy. Drive it on Sunday. Why? Because I can, of course! Hope mine turns out as nice as this one.
But what about the Cuban guy? His block is going to be as trashed as mine is.
The Cuban guy is going to fix all the myriad cracks with screws, by hand. He's going to get the resulting block back into service as quick as he can, Why? Because that truck is his only ride. Without it, he has no job. And no lunch. Those people who needed him to move something with his truck? They are all S.O.L., because its the only truck in town.Here's the Cuban guy's truck on the job. Note all is not well under the hood.Note that this truck has 8 lug wheels. Note that Cuban guy has only 4 wheel nuts. If you look real close you'll notice he only has 7 wheel studs. You want to carry a couple ton on that wheel? Me neither.
Why can't the Cuban guy buy wheel nuts? Or a new engine? Hell, why can't he buy a new truck? Oh, the American Embargo? Ok, why can't he buy a German truck? Japanese? Indian? Russian? Chinese?!!!
Fidel said. That's why.
Here's another Cuban truck.And here's a 1959 Buick. There's 11 people in that thing.
Viva Fidel. What took ya?