UPDATES FOR 1949 CHEVROLET

Posted By : havanacustoms/ 122 0

We have been driving our 1949 Chevy Deluxe for the past few months, and along the way have had to do some running repairs, and as many upgrades as time allows. The exhaust manifold was removed, and split, so that we now have dual outlets on the factory exhaust manifold. The factory front brake master cylinders were replaced with new ones that were purchased from Ecklers. All four brake pads were reconditioned, and all four shocks replaced. One day in late December the water pump started leaking and on the same day one of the front bearings went bad. The four front bearings had been modified sometime in the cars past, and now take a small Russian Lada bearing, and a large Russian Volga bearing. The rear axle is from a Volga 24, and uses Russian Volga bearings. All the wheel bearings were replaced in early January, and hopefully we will be able to modify the front suspension so the original bearings can be installed.

The day the car was getting its first lube job we noticed the fuel tank was leaking, so it too was replaced with one that we had ordered for the 1954 Chevrolet 210. It is a handmade stainless steel unit made in Havana, and cost $120. We took advantage of the tank replacement and installed a sending unit, and we are going to try to repair the original fuel gauge. Yes, in Cuba there are electricians who repair those parts. There are shops in Havana that specialize in reconditioning spark plugs! The valve cover and the oil pan were replaced with some old ones I had found that were in good condition, and new Fel Pro gaskets are helping to keep the oil inside the engine. The old stovebolt 216 was leaking oil like crazy! The original vacuum operated wiper motor stopped working, so now that’s on the “to get” list.

The 1954 210 is almost out of the body shop. Next up for that car are new windows and hardware, door locks, and paint. The engine is being rebuilt, most of the parts are already in Havana, including a custom-made fuel injection system from Hamilton Fuel Injection. Stay tuned for out February update!

By Frank Gonzalez

1949 Chevy Deluxe & 1954 Chevy 210 MARCH 2017 UPDATE

Posted By : havanacustoms/ 129 0

1949 Chevy Deluxe & 1954 Chevy 210 MARCH 2017 UPDATE


The engine rebuild of the 1954 Chevrolet Two-Ten has been proceeding at a slow pace. The exhaust valve guides had too much play and had to be replaced, new ones were purchased from Summit Racing. The steering column and steering box were removed and disassembled. A rebuild kit was ordered from Ecklers, and new bearings from obsoleteautoparts. The steering column shaft worm was badly worn, this probably had something to do with the fact that the steering box didn’t have any grease or fluid in it when the car was purchased.

The engine needed some new parts as well, since the previous rebuild over twenty years ago was not done to specifications. The rocker assembly was worn out, and in bad shape, but I found a new old stock one on E-bay, and have since brought it down. The face of the crankshaft lobe was worn, and babbit material was poured in to bring it back to original specs. The bolts and washers on the bearing caps were not original, and I have placed an order for new ones from ARP. New rims were purchased on eBay, they are five spoke, 15×7 in front, and 15×8 in back. I plan on putting Cooper Discoverer AT 225/70 on the front and 255/70 on the back, they are aggressive SUV tires, but they are the tires the roads in Havana, and the rest of Cuba deserve! The front and rear bumpers were taken to a shop just outside Havana to be restored and re-chromed.

The 1949 had all its brake cylinders replaced with new ones, the original Chevrolet in front, and Russian Volga 26 in back. The brakes are much improved from when the car was purchased, and while the car does not stop on a dime, it does stop on a half dollar! Next up will be a new master cylinder, ordered from National Chevy Association. The new ignition coil went bad one day, fortunately I had a replacement laying around, and have since ordered a new Accel coil for improved spark. The fuel tank was replaced when the old one developed a leak, and then the new one also started to leak. The new one was made in Havana, and it is of terrible quality. I may have to bring one from the U.S.! The 1954 210 will be getting a Hamilton Fuel Injection system with dual GM TBI units, and a custom program. It will probably be the only classic Chevrolet in Cuba with an original engine that is fuel injected.

As you can see, restoring a car is not easy in Cuba. None of the auto parts stores sell anything for American cars, new or old, and finding parts in general is difficult. The only cars that are relatively easy to find parts for in Cuba are Russian Ladas, and other Russian models. Anyone looking to restore an old Chevrolet or Ford must bring everything from somewhere else, and Cuban customs charges exorbitant duties on these parts.

Please stay tuned for more updates as the restoration of these American classics continues at a slooooooooow Cuban pace!

By Frank Gonzalez

BTR 60

Posted By : havanacustoms/ 164 1

BTR 60 Cuban variant in Revolution Plaza, Havana, Cuba.

1949 CHEVROLET STYLEINE DELUXE

Posted By : havanacustoms/ 135 0

We bought another Chevy in Havana, this one’s a 1949 Styleline Deluxe in running condition. The body work is in great shape for the age and use. The engine is the original 216, and the previous owner swapped out the rear axle and transmission and replaced them with Russian units. And as is common practice in Cuba, the carburetor is from a Russian GAZ. The car starts and drives, has most of its original chrome trim, original seats, and dash, and runs ok. A serial number check revealed that the car was assembled at the Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan. Who would have thought in 1949 as this car rolled off the assembly line in the U.S. Midwest, that 67 years later it would still be driving around Havana, Cuba?

The car starts relatively well, the engine sounds ok, leaks oil from most gaskets, but with no major problems. However, the engine, 4 speed transmission, and rear end do not work well together, and the engine sounds like it’s redlining as soon as you put it in gear. First gear does not work, the previous owner says it’s geared too low, and that he just takes off in second. However, it pops out of second and reverse, so there is obviously something wrong with the transmission. The rear end is supposed to be from a Volga car, but may have the ring and pinion from a UAZ military jeep. Whatever the cause, the car just doesn’t run right, and this will be the first thing fixed. The radiator is huge, and is from some kind of Russian military truck. Overheating has not been an issue at all, which may be due to the extra-large radiator.

Some of the original gauges work, including oil pressure and voltage, and there’s and aftermarket temperature gauge that works. The headlights and driving lights work, and the windshield wiper works. The passenger wiper is completely missing, and the driver’s wiper works with the original motor! These old Chevrolets had wiper motors that were powered by the engine vacuum. The Volga rear axle has 14” rims, so the car has the original Chevrolet 15” rims on the front, and 14” Russian rims on the back. The original split windshield has been replaced by a single piece windshield, both rear windows are cracked, and both front windows are plexiglass.

This will be my daily driver for the immediate future, until the ’54 is finished. The plans are to restore this car as well, and try to get it close to its original appearance. I already have a Saginaw 4 speed in Havana which will be a good replacement for the Russian Volga 4 speed. The rear axle will be replaced by a 1955 or later Chevrolet axle with 3.7 rear, or an original 1949-1954 axle, which have 4.11 gears. An aftermarket vintage air conditioning system is a must, and since leaded fuel is still sold at the pump in Cuba the engine will be rebuilt to close to factory specs. Unlike our ’54 Chevy, this car will be driven every day, with repairs and upgrades done as time allows. Please watch for future posts to see how this American classic is returned to its original glory!

Cadillac Escalade

Posted By : havanacustoms/ 150 0

Cadillac never made Escalades until 1999 , but in Havana, Cuba there is a 1958 Cadillac Escalade! This one was parked at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.