HAVANA, March 26th (AP) The Prince of Wales got behind the wheel of a classic British car as he embraced Cuba’s love of vintage motoring. With the Duchess of Cornwall sitting beside him, the heir to the throne drove a black MG TD from 1953 to a rally in Havana featuring other lovingly restored vehicles from the golden age of British sports cars.
The sight of American motors from the 1940s and 1950s on the streets of the Cuban capital is known the world over but there is also a group of hardcore fans dedicated to UK cars from Triumph, Austin-Healey, Jaguar and others.
Charles was loaned a car once owned by Britain’s ambassador to Cuba in 1957 – two years before Fidel Castro’s revolution brought communism to the island.
The MG’s owner today is Eduardo Bermudez, 47, who has been in love with British cars since he was a boy. He found the MG in a terrible condition in a garage, bought it and had it restored.
He said: “If you want something original and different you should buy British. In the 1950s everybody had American cars but the best sports cars were from England.”
Charles, the owner of an Aston Martin DB5 Volante convertible, had a practice run in the MG on Monday.
Mr Bermudez said: “It’s just like my baby, you cannot drive it all the time,” but added: “To have my car driven by somebody like him – it’s in safe hands.”
Charles later said it was quite tricky getting used to the MG, telling one classic car owner: “The one I was driving is the most beautiful car.
“It has an incredibly powerful accelerator. It is incredibly close to the brake so you have to be careful you don’t press the wrong one.”
Camilla described how her husband was in “his element” as she watched him chatting to the car owners, adding: “He’s never going to leave, he loves his cars.”
The couple also went on an impromptu walkabout, meeting residents living in the nearby dilapidated 19th century mansions found across Havana.
The rally was staged at a park named by residents after John Lennon, as it features a statue of the Beatles star unveiled by Fidel Castro in 2000.
Charles at first posed by the seat with his wife and when asked to sit by the press, said “there isn’t room for two” but eventually sat down.
Heir’s hair off limits as Charles visits Cuba barber shop
Their historic trip was always going to make headlines, so it of little surprise that hundreds of people flocked to see Charles and Camilla on their visit to the Cuban capital Havana on Monday.
No member of the Royal family has visited Cuba since the 1959 revolution, some in Washington wish it would stay that way to maintain the nation’s decades-long blockade.
But on the streets of Havana’s Old Town the frosty relations appeared to have all but thawed. Charles ducked into a barbers shop to take shelter from the heat, but the heir’s hair was strictly off limits.
A walkabout around the area saw an unscheduled stop for Camilla to listen to a traditional Cuban band playing in a bar.
“They were brilliant, weren’t they?” said duchess. “I loved them.”
Perhaps it was the attraction of the music that brought her there, or maybe the opportunity to avoid the heat and throng of cameras following them on their trip around the capital.