Inspirational Cuban Keel Hauler Recreated


Picture: Courtesy of Maroone Chevrolet of Miami / Autonation

There's a great story about a one-of-a-kind pickup in the Miami Herald.

In July 2003, a group of 12 Cubans set sail for the United States in a fluorescent green retrofitted with 55-gallon oil drums for flotation and a propeller attached to its drive shaft. The custom keel hauler and its refugee crew made it within about 40 miles of Key West, Fla., before they were caught by the U.S. Coast Guard and repatriated to Cuba. The Coast Guard sent the truck-raft to the bottom of the sea to discourage similar efforts.

The ingenuity of the escape attempt captured the attention of a global audience before eventually sinking from people's minds. However, one of the camionautas (Spanish for "truckonauts"), Luis Grass, kept trying to flee the communist island with his family and eventually made it to the U.S. in 2005, crossing into the country on foot through Mexico. Grass, a mechanic and naval engineering student in Cuba, was responsible for the watershed idea of the converted pickup.

Picture: U.S. Coast Guard

In a bid to honor the overseas crossing, Grass and the management at Maroone Chevrolet of Miami, an Autonation dealership where Grass now works as a mechanic, started a project two years ago to recreate the homemade amphibious pickup. A similar 1951 Chevy pickup was donated by a Florida benefactor, and more than $100,000 was invested to complete the effort. The result is a nearly identical copy of the original truck, and it's now on display in front of Maroone Chevrolet.

Rene Castillo, general manager of Maroone Chevrolet, said the truck will remain in front of the store until there's a sea change in the Cuban government and the old Chevy can freely sail into Havana's harbor.

Picture: Courtesy of Maroone Chevrolet of Miami / Autonation

[Source: The Miami Herald]


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