The Prince of Wales got behind the wheel of a classic British car as he embraced Cuba’s love of vintage motoring.
With the Duchess of Cornwall sitting beside him, the heir to the throne drove a black MG TD from 1953 to a rally in Havana featuring other lovingly restored vehicles from the golden age of British sports cars.
The sight of American motors from the 1940s and 1950s on the streets of the Cuban capital is known the world over but there is also a group of hardcore fans dedicated to UK cars from Triumph, Austin-Healey, Jaguar and others.
Charles was loaned a car once owned by Britain’s ambassador to Cuba in 1957 – two years before Fidel Castro’s revolution brought communism to the island.
The MG’s owner today is Eduardo Bermudez, 47, who has been in love with British cars since he was a boy. He found the MG in a terrible condition in a garage, bought it and had it restored.
He said: “If you want something original and different you should buy British. In the 1950s everybody had American cars but the best sports cars were from England.”
Charles, the owner of an Aston Martin DB5 Volante convertible, had a practice run in the MG on Monday.
Mr Bermudez said: “It’s just like my baby, you cannot drive it all the time,” but added: “To have my car driven by somebody like him – it’s in safe hands.”
Charles later said it was quite tricky getting used to the MG, telling one classic car owner: “The one I was driving is the most beautiful car.
“It has an incredibly powerful accelerator. It is incredibly close to the brake so you have to be careful you don’t press the wrong one.”
Camilla described how her husband was in “his element” as she watched him chatting to the car owners, adding: “He’s never going to leave, he loves his cars.”
Classic British motorbikes were also on display, with the bikers proudly showing off their machines from Triumph, BSA and Norton, and leading the group was Lazaro William Gonzalez Ruiz, head of the British Classic Motorbike Enthusiasts, wearing a bandanna and sporting leathers and metal jewellery.
The couple also went on an impromptu walkabout, meeting residents living in the nearby dilapidated 19th century mansions found across Havana.
The rally was staged at a park named by residents after John Lennon, as it features a statue of the Beatles star unveiled by Fidel Castro in 2000.
Popular with tourists, the artwork by Cuban artist Jose Villa Soberon features the musician sat on a bench and was commissioned by Cuba’s ministry of culture in recognition of the annual concerts to British rock staged in the park since 1990.
Charles at first posed by the seat with his wife and when asked to sit by the press, said “there isn’t room for two” but eventually sat down.