I returned last night from Havana and a week filming with acting-singing legend David Soul (most famously Hutch from the 1970s cult TV show Starsky & Hutch).
What a fabulous experience as we followed the trail of Ernest Hemingway’s long-lost 1955 Chrysler New Yorker convertible, the “discovery” of which I reported in my May 6, 2011 blog post: “Hemingway’s Chrysler to be Restored in Cuba”. Back then things looked promising. Various yanks, not least Bill Greffin of the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, had promised assistance.
I made several more visits, each time bringing Ada Rosa, of the Museo Hemingway, useful documents such as a CD of the original maintenance manual for the 1955 Chrysler New Yorker. The Chrysler Corporation even offered support.
Then things went south. Killed dead by the U.S. embargo.
Enter stage left David Soul…
David has been a decade-long cubaphile, and the island has held an allure for him since as a boy he became enthralled by Hemingway’s Nobel-prize-winning novel, Old Man and the Sea. On his travels around the isle, David has recorded with the country’s top recording artists, such as Buena Fe and Eliades Ochoa. He also befriended Ada Rosa, who in September 2012 told him of her problem in sourcing replacement parts for Hemingway’s near-derelict Chrysler.
She threw her hands in the air in despair over the paltry U.S. aid filtering through the embargo… and at her urgent need to secure the hard-to-locate parts necessary to restore the car in time for the 14th International Hemingway Colloquium, to be held in Havana, June 20-23, 2013.
Ada Rosa asked for David’s help. “Sure, I’ll do it!” he said, although he knew absolutely nothing about restoring an automobile. Fortunately, as a full-time British resident and British citizen, David could source and send the parts legally. He contacted the U.K. magazine, Practical Classics, who’s editor, Danny Hopkins, got enthused. Hey presto! Financing was soon forthcoming and parts were located and secured.
Meanwhile, last October I arrived home from researching my Moon Handbooks Costa Rica to find a message from David. He had read and fallen in love with my coffee-table book, Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles.
He wanted to meet. “By chance, I’ll be in London next week,” I replied.
We met in London, where David invited me to partner in a documentary film about the restoration… and the stage was set.
Cut to Havana and David cruising down the Malecón in a banana-yellow 1952 Chevrolet Bel-Air while waxing lyrical about his passion for ‘Papa’ Hemingway and for Cuba… and David looking on, jaw-agape, as he gets his first look at the deteriorated 1955 Chrysler and the primitive conditions under which the resourceful Cuban mechanics and chapistas (panel-beaters and welders) are now at work, applying their renowned ingenuity and wizardry in a battle against paucity, the elements and time.
The story of the car’s restoration and the legends surrounding its disappearance will be the narrative around which we have begun to build, through the documentary Cuban Soul, a fascinating insight into contemporary Cuba—an irresistible isle of eccentricity, eroticism, and enigma, in which Hemingway is considered a national treasure, serving alongside the beloved Detroit classics as ambassadors of an abiding affection that still binds the two nations together.
This promises to be an exciting documentary, to be produced by award-winning London-based Red Earth Studio, and filmed in awe-inspiring cinematic style by Adam Docker.
Meanwhile, we have secured the support of Cuba’s Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (National Heritage Council), which has guaranteed us exclusive access to the restoration project and files.
To make this documentary a reality, however, requires sponsorship—an unparalleled opportunity for promotional branding as part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to document something unique.
Images and blog reproduced with kind permission from Christopher P Baker. Copyright © Christopher P Baker