New Documentary Focuses on Tale of Hemingway's 1955 Chrysler New Yorker


  • Cuban Soul Documentary Picture

    Cuban Soul Documentary Picture

    Actor David Soul is helping with the restoration of Ernest Hemingway's car as part of a new documentary film. | April 05, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe Convertible that once belonged to author Ernest Hemingway is being restored in Cuba.
  • A British production company is capturing the restoration process for a documentary film.
  • Actor David Soul is assisting with the project and will appear in the film.

HAVANA, Cuba — A 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe Convertible that once belonged to author Ernest Hemingway is being restored by a museum located at his former home near Havana. Actor David Soul is helping with the restoration, which is being captured for a documentary film.

Hemingway paid $3,924 for the Navajo Orange and Desert Sand car in 1955 while living in Cuba, where he had maintained a residence since 1939. It was here that he penned some of his most famous works, including The Old Man and the Sea.

After the Cuban revolution of 1959, even though he was on good terms with the new government, the author left the island to return to the United States. In 1961, suffering from depression and physical ailments, he committed suicide at his home in Ketchum, Idaho.

Following his death, Hemingway's house in Cuba fell into disrepair, but the author is revered in that country, and it was eventually restored and turned into a museum. Among other artifacts, the collection houses his beloved fishing boat, Pilar — and it will soon include the fully restored New Yorker.

Video: tour of Hemingway's home in Cuba with his granddaughter, Mariel Hemingway

What happened to the car after Hemingway's death reads like a novel. His driver hid it for a time; then the New Yorker ended up with the author's doctor and his family for a number of years. After that it passed through several other owners and disappeared. In 2010, rusted and topless, the car re-emerged, its authenticity apparently verified by information on an insurance certificate in Hemingway's name.

The New Yorker now is undergoing a total restoration in Cuba, where American cars from the 1950s are lovingly maintained by local specialists. The bodywork will be repaired and the 331-cubic-inch Hemi V8 will be returned to working condition. It will then be put on display at the museum, about 15 miles from the Cuban capital.

A British production company, Red Earth Studio, is capturing the restoration process for a documentary film entitled Cuban Soul. It may be no coincidence that the title of the film contains the surname of actor David Soul, "Hutch" of the 1970s TV series Starsky and Hutch. Soul has become actively involved with the project, along with his own company, Kindling Productions.

Video: Film trailer for Cuban Soul: http://vimeo.com/56278911

Soul, now a British citizen, is a Hemingway fan who has traveled to Cuba several times and is friends with the museum's administrators. When the restoration project stalled, the result of difficulty obtaining parts due to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, the museum director, Ada Rosa Rosales, called on Soul to intervene.

Although Cuban mechanics are experts at keeping old American cars running, much of their work comes down to improvising repairs and hand-making parts. But proper restorations require original components, impossible to find on the island. Soul contacted a parts supplier in Massachusetts that specializes in classic Chryslers and found that its proprietor is also a Hemingway enthusiast. Parts problem seemingly solved.

However, despite Soul's best efforts, some parts have been delayed due to customs snags, while others, like a fuel tank, have proven difficult to locate. The plan had been to debut the hour-long film this June in time for the 14th Hemingway Colloquium in Havana, but the delays will result in a later release.

Edmunds says: Here's a restoration project to capture the interest of classic-car enthusiasts as well as fans of Ernest Hemingway, and the film should appeal to both.

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