Anyone who believes that is going to be sorely disappointed. The hidden benefit for collectors will not be the vehicles themselves, but the craftsmen who keep them running.
During my time there in several cities and on the highways in between, I saw no cars that were rarities and many vehicles that were simply not worth restoring. The American cars that still operate in Cuba are largely boring four-door sedans or average convertibles. Those rides are not worth a whole lot here in the U.S., even in excellent condition. There were no rare Olds Fiestas or Buick Skylarks to be seen.
Many of the Cuban cars are American in body and interior only. That '53 DeSoto sedan might easily have a chassis and drivetrain that came out of a Russian truck. That chrome trim you see from 50 feet away might turn out to be hand-beaten tin. I cruised in a '52 Buick Roadmaster that sounded like the trunk was filled with loose metal bolts when it hit a bump.
Finally, when the time comes for restored Cuban-American relations, I believe a lot of old car owners in Cuba will ditch their vehicles in favor of new ones. Yes, the taxi drivers may want to keep their original rides to charm the tourists, but I think they will find it more beneficial just to import a restored 1950s sedan from the U.S. In short, you may see more average American classics headed toward Cuba than the other way around.
The real benefit to American collectors will be the access to Cuban automotive craftsmen. I saw examples of high-quality, resourceful metal- and paintwork on some of these old cars. I would not be surprised to see the creation of a classic car restoration industry in Havana (similar to the one that has risen in Vietnam) that could easily satisfy collectors in the southern U.S. at bargain prices.
In the meantime, please enjoy our Gallery of Cuban cars. In the near future, we'll feature a virtual tour of Havana's auto museum, including vehicles that played a significant role in the Cuban revolution.