Amazing Old Cars on the Roads in Uruguay – Everywhere

Uruguay has long held the reputation as a paradise for classic old car enthusiasts. Not that long ago European dealers in these collectors items, were known to source some of their stock in Uruguay. We’ve learned that there are now some restrictions in place regarding the export of historic vehicles.

Nevertheless, driving around Uruguay you can still spot countless old vehicles on the roads. The majority date back to the 60s and 70s, but some are much older. You could compare Uruguay’s vehicle stock with Cuba’s famous old colourful automobiles, except that you find more European than American classics.

You do see some old US monsters but the larger number of family vehicles are European made brands like the

  • English Austin, Rover, and Ford
  • French Peugeot, Citroen, and Renault
  • Italian Fiat

and all major German marques:

  • Volkswagen, Opel, Mercedes,
  • and the longtime discontinued DKW.
 
This old FORD truck is probably the oldest vehicle we have spotted on the roads of Uruguay. In other countries this would be locked away in a climatised collector's garage.

This old FORD truck is probably the oldest vehicle we have spotted on the roads of Uruguay. In other countries this would be locked away in a climatised collector’s garage.

However, when it comes to pick-up trucks, the American brands dominate the picture. You see plenty of old Ford, Chevrolet, and some Fargo pick-ups of various ages. Many are still in use for a small business, and only a few are lovingly restored as collectors’ items. With new trucks this market has been taken over by the Japanese and Volkswagen with their (Argentinean made) Amorak.

This old FORD truck still earns its keep for a small freight (fletes) business

This old FORD truck still earns its keep for a small freight (fletes) business

Not everyone needs a large ¾ ton pick-up with a thirsty V6 or V8, and a curious thing I noticed in Uruguay were small utilities (that’s what we call them in Australia, or ‘ute’, for short) from the 70s. A normal sedan was converted to a shorter cab and a smallish load tray added on the back. You see old Renault 4 conversions, Opel Kadett, and some larger sedans like Peugeot 403 and 404 models.

You see some weird pick-up conversions in Uruguay. Top: a Opel Kadett from Germany, which usually looks like the one at the bottom right. The cabin was shortened and the rear converted into a load tray. Bottom left: a similar conversion on an old FORD 17M (also of German origin).

You see some weird pick-up conversions in Uruguay. Top: a Opel Kadett from Germany, which usually looks like the one at the bottom right. The cabin was shortened and the rear converted into a load tray. Bottom left: a similar conversion on an old FORD 17M (also of German origin).

I got the impression that these were actually converted in Uruguay because I’ve never seen them elsewhere. Nowadays utes made in Brazil fill this gap. Volkswagen Saveiro , Fiat Strada Working , and Chevrolet Montana all offer such vehicles, and they are still very popular…

Old Jeeps are also popular in some parts of Uruguay. Top left: a classic US army jeep. Top right: a classic Willy's jeep with pickup tray in very good condition. The vehicle at the bottom is called 'Indio'; I can't find much about this other than that it is an 'Uruguayan built car from the seventies'.

Old Jeeps are also popular in some parts of Uruguay. Top left: a classic US army jeep. Top right: a classic Willy’s jeep with pickup tray in very good condition. The vehicle at the bottom is called ‘Indio’; I can’t find much about this other than that it is an ‘Uruguayan built car from the seventies’.

Excuse me for adding so many photos of Citroën Méharis . Many years ago this was one vehicle I really would have loved to own. Actually, in and around our home town, which is close to the beach, it would still be perfect: a no-frills beach car, fibre glass body (no worries if you throw a surf board, wetsuit and towel, all wet with salt water, in the back – the car won’t rust!), reliable Citroën 2CV technology with a simple 2-cylinder engine.

This is one of my favourite vehicles (I always wanted to have one) - hence so many photos. This is a Citroen MEHARI based on a 2CV.

This is one of my favourite vehicles (I always wanted to have one) – hence so many photos. This is a Citroen MEHARI based on a 2CV. It has a robust fibreglass body – one reason you see them so often near the beach in Uruguay. They don’t rust from above.

During our stay I certainly didn’t photograph every vehicle I came across, but I still managed to come up with a considerable collection of classic cars to share here. One thing that surprised me: FORD is the single brand I took the most pictures of. Although we certainly saw more old Volkswagen Beetles and Renault 4s, but these two models were just too ‘common’…

We spotted this beautiful English Austin pick-up truck when walking the streets of Montevideo.

We spotted this beautiful English Austin pick-up truck when walking the streets of Montevideo.

Fancy paint job on this classic Chevrolet pick-up truck spotted in Colonia.

Fancy paint job on this classic Chevrolet pick-up truck spotted in Colonia.

One of the old FORD trucks still in daily use. It had an almost new box on the back and and added 'swan' hood ornament.

One of the old FORD trucks still in daily use. It had an almost new box on the back and and added ‘swan’ hood ornament.

Where ever we visited in Uruguay we always noticed lots of old American pick-up trucks in various states of (dis-)repair. All these were still in use, except the first one top left, which I noticed on a used vehicle sales yard.

Where ever we visited in Uruguay we always noticed lots of old American pick-up trucks in various states of (dis-)repair. All these were still in use, except the first one top left, which I noticed on a used vehicle sales yard.

They are actually cute but we liked to make fun of the tiny Fiat 600 (a big brother of the Fiat 500). In the top right a Peugeot 504 pick-up; this was a popular vehicle in France and in Africa (almost a predecessor of the Toyota Hilux).

They are actually cute but we liked to make fun of the tiny Fiat 600 (a big brother of the Fiat 500). In the top right a Peugeot 504 pick-up; this used to be a popular vehicle in France and in Africa (almost a predecessor of the Toyota Hilux).

This rusty FORD "Deluxe" was waiting for a buyer in a sales yard. Worth restoring?

This rusty FORD “Deluxe” was waiting for a buyer in a sales yard. Worth restoring?

A little beaten up but still in daily use: an Austin panel van spotted driving around in 25 de Agosto.

A little beaten up but still in daily use: an Austin panel van spotted driving around in 25 de Agosto.

An old English Ford sedan for sale in Jose Ignacio

An old English Ford sedan for sale in Jose Ignacio

Old Volkswagen vehicles can be found everywhere in Uruguay. The T1 Kombi tray-back was in VW workshop. We spotted the green VW Beetle in a residential street of Maldonado. The colourful hippie Kombi advertised a restaurant in Montevideo. The nice blue Beetle was parked in a neighbourhood of Montevideo.

Old Volkswagen vehicles can be found everywhere in Uruguay. The T1 Kombi tray-back was in VW workshop. We spotted the green VW Beetle in a residential street of Maldonado. The colourful hippie Kombi advertised a restaurant in Montevideo. The nice blue Beetle was parked in a neighbourhood of Montevideo.

You see quite a few rare old Mercedes on the roads of Uruguay. Top: a 70s S-class Coupe and a late 70s 380 SL Hardtop Coupe. Bottom row are South American Chevrolet cars, same body (with different lights and grills) as the German Opel Rekord of the mid 70s.

You see quite a few rare old Mercedes on the roads of Uruguay. Top: a 70s S-class Coupe and a late 70s 380 SL Hardtop Coupe. Both are certainly worth in excess of $20,000. Bottom row are South American Chevrolet cars, same body (with different lights and grills) as the German Opel Rekord of the mid 70s.

We spotted this classic Mercedes on our first trip in Uruguay. I guess it's a late 50s 220 model.

We spotted this classic Mercedes on our first trip in Uruguay. I guess it’s a late 50s 220 model.

Somehow classic cars still featured hood ornaments with some character. Now they are banned because of the injuries they can cause to pedestrians.

Somehow classic cars still featured hood ornaments with some character. Now they are banned because of the injuries they can cause to pedestrians.

A beautiful classic FORD wagon - spotted in Concordia.

A beautiful classic FORD wagon – spotted in Concordia.

 
Many of the classic cars on the roads in Uruguay are rather rusty but still been driven daily.

Many of the classic cars on the roads in Uruguay are rather rusty but still been driven daily.

An old beauty waiting for her rescue. I can't say what sort of car this is...

An old beauty waiting for her rescue. I can’t say what sort of car this is…

Are you like me and notice rare or classic vehicles when walking or driving through a town?
Or are you more like Yasha – who can’t give a …?
Tell us in the ‘comments’ below!

Juergen

webmaster, main photographer & driver, second cook and only husband at dare2go.com. Freelance web designer with nearly 20 years of experience at webbeetle.com.au

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24 Responses

  1. Christian says:

    The green car not Opel but a Grumett SL. The blue pickup is serrana not a Ford 17M Taunus.

    Grumett it is a completely Uruguayan vehicle. The bodywork is completely fiberglass, the resemblance to Opel is by its bodywork inspired by the design of Opel but the rest has nothing to do with it – the mechanics are English Vauxhall.

    Serrana It is purely a local Uruguayan vehicle body and chassis. Like what you see are the accessories that were imported from Ford as optical and grill.

    History pages on Uruguayan automotive industry facebook (AUTOMOVILES, OMNIBUSES, TRICICLOS Y MOTOS FABRICADOS EN URUGUAY)
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/297064200428594/?fref=ts
    geocities web (http://www.geocities.ws/autosuruguayos/)

    • Juergen says:

      I stand corrected! But I’m still more than just a little confused, as I noticed in both many parts familiar from the models I recognised them as…

  2. Wonderful! I have to share this post with my brother. He is a old car freak and will love it. #wkendtravelinspiration

  3. Nancie says:

    What a great photo collection! My favorite is the lime green Peugeot. Thanks for linking up, and sorry I am so late getting around. I’m in the middle of my teaching semester, which equates to grading hell :) #TPThursday

    • Juergen says:

      Thanks for visiting. I know what it’s like to keep up with posts. For us travelling (and no internet) often get into the way of keeping up with online stuff. [Just give everybody an ‘A’ – you’re done and everyone will be happy.]

  4. jill says:

    My husband went to Venezuela for business and was amazed at 2 things – how beautiful the Venezuelan women are and how many old cars that he saw there. Very interesting!

    • Juergen says:

      Was your husband also aware of the fact that Venezuela is the capital country of plastic surgery? I know that in Venezuela you can find many old US-American gas guzzlers because the one thing which is still cheap is fuel.

  5. Corinne says:

    Juergen, I would also be taking photos of all the old trucks and cars. I have a similar post on Iceland. There’s something about those bubbly bodies! Love it.

    • Juergen says:

      Somehow these old cars seem to have more character and flair. I always think new cars all look the same. But then: if you see lots of classic cars of the same vintage lined up you notice that this applies to vehicles of all ages; the same style elements seem to get repeated across the various models and brands.

  6. eileen g says:

    Fun photos! i hope most are kept around as antiques. I’d hate to be sharing the road with all of these very old cars…

    • Juergen says:

      Why would hate to share the road with the old cars? Are your afraid to damage them or do you think they are not safe to drive? For us it was a joy to see them around us every day…

  7. budget jan says:

    I do take photos of vehicles that interest me but I have never seen such an array of old vehicles. I knew they are still in use in Cuba, but these are amazing.

    • Juergen says:

      Yes, somehow Cuba is famous for its old cars and Uruguay kinda flies under the radar – not only in this aspect. We believe Uruguay is truly worth a visit and we have tried to capture some of the reasons in our recent blog posts.

  8. Love the old VW photos! I had no idea so many old cars were in Uruguay, I’d love to see them in person. :)

    • Juergen says:

      You’re right: currently they could almost function as an added tourist attraction – before they are all gone. From 2009 (or first visit) to now we did notice a decrease in their numbers.

  9. Linda says:

    I am completely stunned by your story, Juergen. I seriously had no idea that Uruguay had such a fascination with automotive classics. I don’t know much about European cars but no matter, I still enjoyed your photos.

    • Juergen says:

      I think in most cases it’s not so much a “fascination with automotive classics” but sheer practicality and lack of money. New cars are much more expensive than in western countries, Uruguay is small so distances cars travel are short – hence people keep their cars for a really long time.

  10. James Smith says:

    João Pessoa is located on the easternmost point of the Americas How can you not want to have a picture taken there? My condo at 34.5ºW is only about 6 km from that spot.

    • Juergen says:

      Might be another good reason… We live in the most easterly point of Australia, Byron Bay. The problem is that we are driving, and in the given time frame we also have to leave by road! With traffic as it is I usually don’t drive not more than 200 kilometers a day.

  11. James Smith says:

    Thank you for providing these great pictures. Although I have lived in Northeast Brazil (João Pessoa) for 13 years I have never had time to visit Uruguay. These pictures alone encourage me to go.

    If you’re even in Brazil on your travels, I’d be honored to show you around my home city . Send an email. We don’t have many old cars but there are other attractions for travelers like you.

    • Juergen says:

      We might just take you up on that offer but João Pessoa might be too far north for us to reach. We only get 180 days in Brazil and your country is so damned big! Greetings from Florianópolis (you see: we’ve made it into Brazil).

  12. Stewart says:

    Juergen,
    When I working in Lybia back in the 80’s they had Peugeot ute’s, the locals would carry their camels in the back lol.
    Stewart

    • Juergen says:

      I know the Peugeot pick-ups were very popular in Northern Africa, but a camel on the back seems to be a little ‘out of proportion :D

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