With shortage in public transport vehicles and dramatic price increase in fuel subsidy, Cubans are reviving the tiny Fiat 126p that was long forgotten after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 24-horsepower car allows middle income families to have access to independent transport while buses and taxis are now taking a backseat.
ABC News reported that approximately 10,000 Fiat Polski 126p were registered in Cuba although many of which are not functional anymore. However, local mechanics like Ramses Fernandez are able to salvage the car through replacement of the disc brakes, new tires, and an upgrade on the engine. The costs are about $5,000 which is fairly affordable considering the long-term use.
"2016 has been the year of the Fiat Polski 126p," confirmed Henry Coba, president of the Havana car owners club Friends of the Car. The 126p type was first produced by an Italian company Fiat until the Polish factory FSO bought its license and manufactured it until 1991 under a variations of name.
The popularity of the mini sedan surged significantly now that oil subsidy from Venezuela suffered from high prices and low supplies.
About 3.3 million units of Fiat 126p were sold from 1973 to 2000 where 2.4 million of which were sold in Poland, according to Deutsche Welle. It became one of the most popular cars because it does not need a lot of gas to power its 704cc straight-two engine. It does not need expensive maintenance making it the most affordable sedan in history.
Like Fernandez, Raul Seoane's family mostly rely on family remittances where they were able to save $2,000 to buy a 1986 model Fiat 126p. As the U.S. lifted Cuba's travel embargo, many Western tourists are expected to flock and be surprised with the revival of the relic car, reported Fox News.
"Foreigners take photos as if they've never seen something like this," Seoane said. "For being an economical car, the Polski has really caught on."