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The fascinating tale of Uruguay’s vintage cars

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If you’ve been to Uruguay you’ll know that the whole country has a slow-paced, old-fashioned feel to it. And when you leave the capital, Montevideo, this feeling only intensifies. In one of the old farming towns of the interior such as Durazno or Rocha, you really could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the 1950s or 60s. A lot of this is to do with the vehicles you’ll see on the roads. Uruguayans drive, as their regular cars, trucks and pickups, what would be considered collector’s items in most countries. Even more so than Cubans, I’d say.

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Picture: Jerry Woody

There are two reasons for this. One, Uruguayans like the old, understated life. And two, the country’s economy boomed in the first half of the 20th century (Uruguay was known as the Switzerland of South America) before collapsing spectacularly in the 60s. When the dictatorship took over matters only worsened and many Uruguayans fled the country. Those that remained didn’t have money to buy new cars, and imports all but ceased. So people just drove what they had.

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Studebaker (Picture: Gustavo Facci)

Nowadays many of the priceless gems have already been exported to the US and Europe, but there are still loads of very attractive old cars throughout the country – even in touristy places like Colonia del Sacramento.

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Picture: Jorge S
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