A reality show based on car restoration might not seem like the most groundbreaking idea you’ve ever heard, but Discovery’s new show Cuban Chrome represents so much more than that. The new series follows the A Lo Cubano Car Club, a group of antique car enthusiasts who were granted unprecedented access to film on the island.
The new show had been in the works well before President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced relations were restored between the countries, making filming the show a far-fetched idea at first. Production was on hold for two years while the network lobbied the U.S. government before the show could start filming last summer. Even after approval, it took Cuban Chrome more than a year to get permission to go into Cuba.
Cuban Chrome centers around antique car enthusiasts known for restoring classic American cars — technically the only type of American cars there since the U.S. embargo took effect in 1961 stopping the shipment of new cars to the country. The embargo also stopped shipment of auto parts at the time — thus making restoration of the vehicles practically impossible. Mechanics had to resort to an underground black market infrastructure for acquiring new parts.
Discovery follows A Lo Cubano as they hunt for the hard to find parts, at times resorting to making them themselves or modify existing parts to get the job done. At some points in the series the crew even resorts to putting boat motors in a 1934 Model A hot rod. Executive producer Craig Piligian of Pilgrim Studios tells FOX411 the improvisation viewers will see on the show is like nothing they have seen before:
“As the season unfolds, you will see some incredible ingenuity,” he said. “You look at it and go, ‘How did they do that? They don’t have the parts. They don’t have the machines that we have here.’ It is really amazing how these guys have figured how to keep them on the road. Your mind is blown.”
Discovery touts Cuban Chrome as a show that will take viewers into the heart of Havana, giving them an authentic look into a culture few have seen this way through the camera lens. The island’s fascination with American vintage cars has been widely shown in films before, but the passion has never been shown in such real-time detail. “Our show is about cars, but it’s really about looking at Cuba through the lens of cars,” says Craig Coffman, Discovery’s executive producer for Cuban Chrome.
Cuban Chrome airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. The show will air in 220 countries — just not Cuba, where Discovery is not distributed.