Get Hollywood on the phone, quick.....
February 7, 2004 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Coast Guard pulls over floating, propeller equipped '59 Buick driving to Miami - manned by Cuban refugees. "For four of the 11 people on board, it was not the first thwarted attempt to leave the communist island in a bizarrely converted vintage vehicle." (from ABC news) Last year, they tried to do the same thing in a converted '51 Chevy Truck: "The crew members of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter could not believe their eyes...Chugging along at a steady 13 kilometres per hour in the Straits of Florida was a bright-green 1951 Chevrolet truck...." (link to story, as reprinted in Free Republic, alas ) Sadly, the Coast Guard sunk the Buick - which looked a bit like a WW2 amphibious landing craft. Here's a picture, on the blog of a Christian Evangelical (scroll down for story) who argues that the refugees are worthy of a special exception to US immigration laws, for their pluck and innovative brilliance.
posted by troutfishing (25 comments total)
Says the Christian evangelical : "When I owned a Buick I was afraid to drive it across town, much less across the ocean. If you have the brains and the guts to take an old car from from Cuba to Florida then I think you deserve to become a citizen. I’m normally for a strict immigration policy but......"
posted by troutfishing at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2004

Why did they sink it? There must be a museum for this type of thing. I know there's one on Germany for the creative escape attempts across The Wall during the Cold War. Wonderful piece of history, perhaps it will be salvaged.
posted by stbalbach at 11:04 AM on February 7, 2004

they should have sold that buick on ebay.
posted by dabitch at 11:30 AM on February 7, 2004

Frankly, if I were a boatyard owner in Florida, I'd be getting hold of the Coast Guard and telling them that I'd hire those Cubans next time they try it. These guys obviously have a talent for marine work.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 12:05 PM on February 7, 2004

Dipsomaniac - You've put your finger on it! - From what I recall, these refugees can at least get Green Cards if a business will offer to hire them and also testify that they have skills which are not readily available from the US work force.

There can't be too many people around who know how to make a car or truck amphibious. That's a specialized skill.

dabitch is right, too - what a waste.

stbalbach - I agree. I would think that the amphiibious buick could even have been the flagship of a Miami equivalent of the "Duck Tours" that are springing up in many cities around the US. The Miami cuban community would love it!
posted by troutfishing at 12:37 PM on February 7, 2004

If nothing else, they'd be a shoe-in for Junkyard Wars. Someone should email them the link to apply for the next season.
posted by Zonker at 1:08 PM on February 7, 2004

I can't tell you how beautifully surreal I find this. They should be awarded citizenship on the basis of their creativity alone.

There were just so many reasons the Coast Guard should have let them go. For example:

"What the f*** is that? A Buick? No way, man, screw it. I've just been smoking too much of this confiscated hash."

Not too mention the Guard should have been laughing too hard to give pursuit.
posted by Shane at 1:32 PM on February 7, 2004

who argues that the refugees are worthy of a special exception to US immigration laws, for their pluck and innovative brilliance.

The refugees already are part of a special exception to US immigration laws, a complex concept known as "being Cuban."

Their technical skills would have been irrelevant, as Cubans are automatically allowed asylum if they manage to make the shore, a rule to which no refugee from any other country is given.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:25 PM on February 7, 2004

Anyone else think of PJ O'Rourke's old 'give them Green Cards and we'll send Cuba our Palm Beach divorce lawyers' line?

Legends afloat. With ingenuity like that it won't be long before they make it to the USA!
posted by dmt at 4:16 PM on February 7, 2004

Straight out of "Monster Marina." They even painted the bow-appendage to match the car.
(Green car... green card... there's a song in this somewhere.)
posted by Tubes at 4:34 PM on February 7, 2004

Yeah, I'm not really sure why these people think they should have "special privalages" because they already have special privalages. Anyone who makes it here from Cuba can become a citizen, no questions asked, if they make it to shore.

These guys will probably find another car and try a third time and eventualy make it. Perhaps next time they'll make a submarine.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on February 7, 2004

Holy shit, clavdivs, that was some fantastic fucking photography you linked to. Thanks!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:09 PM on February 7, 2004

Now, you'd think that Cuban authorities may figure out who these guys are.
posted by RobbieFal at 7:41 PM on February 7, 2004

Why, oh why, are we turning away people who want to come here?

I can only imagine what the Pilgrims would have faced had there been a Coast Guard or INS back then.
posted by tommasz at 8:24 PM on February 7, 2004

Why, oh why, are we turning away people who want to come here?

Shut up, you fool. The $1.50/hour landscaping market is hard enough as it is. I worked hard enough for my degree in underpaid fruit-picking without having to enter a job market saturated by illegal immigrants.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:36 PM on February 7, 2004

Why, oh why, are we turning away people who want to come here?

Probably for the same reason England, France, Germany and other countries turn away thousands of potential immigrants. If I somehow converted an old AMC Matador and drove it across the ocean to Germany, would they automatically offer me asylum? Or would I still need to provide proof of employment, or be a "highly qualified" person to gain residence? Why is the US automatically expected to suspend immigration laws for any bozo that pulls a "Jackass"-style stunt to get here?
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:08 PM on February 7, 2004

Oriole Adams - I think you may be overrating the jackasses and underrating the Buick refugees.

It doesn't take much to pack humans - or three toed sloths, for that matter - into a shopping cart which is then pushed down a steep hill.

But turning a 1950's car into a seaworthy craft would be a challenge, even, for a team of MIT students.....and these were Cuban refugees with limited access to modern technology and materials, working in secret - beyond the prying eyes of Castro's secret police.

There is another backdrop to this, too - Cuba has an enormous fleet of vintage cars which are kept running by brilliant engineering hacks. Cuban mechanics are masters at keeping these cars going despite a lack of spare parts.

So - in short - the jackasses are elsewhere. This was a life-endangering bid for freedom.

As for the fact that these refugees would have been granted citizenship, had they reached the US......well, all the more reason for the vigilance of the US Coast Guard.

In general I dislike Christian evangelicals - but in this case I must concur.
posted by troutfishing at 11:12 PM on February 7, 2004

But turning a 1950's car into a seaworthy craft would be a challenge, even, for a team of MIT students

not for Kettering students (small dig)

great post trout, I saw this story and agree with the consensus, let them stay on ingenuity and spirit alone. (they probably will) But it does not take a MIT staff to convert a car into a boat. Your right though, the materials gathered and all the construction could have been discovered by fidel and co.

then again, if i caught them, i may be inclined to turn my head, smile and whistle, saying a little prayer for the safe journey.
posted by clavdivs at 9:11 AM on February 8, 2004

If you have the chance, go see "Balseros", a documentary made by catalonian journalists that has been nominated for the Oscars.
posted by samelborp at 10:48 AM on February 8, 2004

samelborp - I will

clavdivs - Yeah, that was a bit of hyperbole, though the Cubans don't have much to work with. ( That's the real miracle of innovation here. )
posted by troutfishing at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2004

you do hyperbole well. (unvle clav humbly suggests some brevity to what i call the Hartung effect)

the the people of cuba know a good car when they have one. Plus, Buicks rule (d) ((little peaved they moved Buick HQ from Flint but i understand with staffing and jobs and all that NAFTA SHIT))
posted by clavdivs at 12:34 PM on February 9, 2004

For those in the audience who might want to do a little four-wheel floating and have more money than time: Buy Your Own Amphibicar. Cars from $14,5. Extra bonus: amphibi-camper. All-in-one two and camping solution. $9,995.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:49 PM on February 9, 2004

should read "All-in-one tow", even after preview.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:50 PM on February 9, 2004

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