Puffing 1956 Oldsmobile sedan still has its "88" decklid badge.
With this collection, we reach the end of the line on the rutero topic. The fixed-route taxi in which I'd most like to ride? No question. The magnificent 1954 Cadillac Series 62, below. Even with a front bumper from an earlier year, it's still the King of Cabs.
Peso taxis, or ruteros, emerged soon after the revolution to ease Cuba's overburdened public transportation system, Richard Schweid writes in Che's Chevrolet, Fidel's Oldsmobile. With no replacement parts available, buses were harder than cars to keep on the road. To help citizens get about, the government put private vehicles on designated routes under the administration of the Servicio de Transporte Popular. Cuba has more buses today, though not as many as it needs, so the ruteros remain. For Schweid, they offer "a cheap way to get from old Havana to Vedado and enjoy a ride in some car that I never anticipated riding again for the rest of my life: a 1953 Dodge, four of us crammed in the back seat and two in front with the driver; or a 1954 Ford station wagon with two back seats, the extra welded into the carryall space ... " For the author, an added delight is to watch the driver work the gear selector mounted on the steering column, right arm pus…
Last entry, I suggested avoiding peso taxis unless you have a reasonable grasp of Havana geography and can communicate in Spanish. Support for that advice comes in this account by Canadian blogger Ze'ev of a not-so-merry ride from Old Havana to Vedado. Fortunately, it didn't end too badly.
MANY visitors think that the peso taxis are only for Cuban citizens. In fact, anyone can use them, the Cuba Junky website reports in this useful article on the taxi colectivo Habana. Cuba Junky provides a route map and a list of do's and don'ts to help you avoid paying more than the standard 10- or 20-peso fare (Cuban pesos, not convertible). Still, it's more complicated than hopping in a regular Havana taxi and naming your destination. I wouldn't recommend a peso taxi to a first-time visitor or anyone without at least some Spanish.