Tue | Jun 2, 2020

BUSTA'S RIDES - A look at a hero's and his wife love for cars

Published:Sunday | October 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Sir Alexander Bustamante gazes at his official State car - a Cadillac Fleetwood - which was delivered by Unimotors Ltd. It is air-conditioned and is equipped with police radio. At right is Lady Bustamante (floral dress). Between Sir Alex and his wife is the Unimotors representative.
Sir Alex stands by his Buick, back in 1938. - Photo courtesy of Bustamante Museum.
Lady Bustamante poses beside the Cadillac that belonged to Sir Alexander Bustamante.
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Laranzo Dacres, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Jamaica's National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante's passion for his country is well known, but not his love for motor vehicles.

Seragh Lakasingh, a close friend of the late hero and his wife, Lady Bustamante, said Sir Alexander owned a number of vehicles throughout his lifetime.

However, he favoured a 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood, which was the last vehicle he owned before his death in 1977.

"He liked comfortable cars, which he imported from the USA. At that time, the bigger, left-hand drive cars were manufactured there. A Chevrolet and a Buick were among those acquired," said Lakasingh, who is chairman of the Bustamante Museum.

Favourite

As a statesman and trade union leader, Lakasingh said Sir Alexander did a lot of travelling by car and needed an official vehicle which could comfortably accommodate his six-foot six-inch frame. His smaller cars were used for shorter journeys.

"But the Cadillac Fleetwood was his favourite by far. He acquired it for his personal use on leaving Jamaica House, as it was modern at that time, being equipped with air conditioning and a police radio," said Lakasingh.

According to Lakasingh, the car had good suspension and a lot of leg room, even for back-seat passengers.

"There's a good chance that the car was custom-made at the factory so he could have got the extra leg-room he needed. But Sir Alexander hardly drove.

"He had a chauffeur, but his wife drove him around, especially on private trips. She was an excellent driver and car enthusiast," Lakasingh told Automotives.

Nora Strudwick, curator of the Bustamante Museum concurred with Lakasingh.

"She drove everywhere and she knew the length and breadth of Jamaica," Strudwick said.

"Sir Alexander had tremendous confidence in his wife's driving, and she drove right up to when she was 91. The cars she drove were all left-hand vehicles, until she got her last vehicle - a right-hand drive 2005 Toyota Crown Royal Saloon - which I now own," Lakasingh said.

According to the chairman, Sir Alex's Cadillac Fleetwood changed several hands over the years. He said at one point it was owned by the late Peter Stewart of Bearings and Seals. But he sold it before he died.

"The last time I saw the car was at Lady Bustamante's funeral last year, and it created quite a stir. The Cadillac Fleetwood was in excellent condition ... but I can't seem to remember who drove it there," Lakasingh said.

But could Sir Alex drive?

"Bustamante had his driver's licence but he hardly drove. And why should he have, when his devoted wife was happy to do so," he said.

Sir Alexander Bustamante is one of Jamaica's seven national heroes and the island's first prime minister. He was born in Blenheim, Hanover on February 24, 1884 but spent many years living in Central America and the United States.

He is interred on the 20-hectare National Heroes Park in Kingston. His memorial — finished with marble from the region — has an arch, narrow at the top and widening toward the base, stands above Bustamante's tomb. It was designed by architect Errol Alberga.

laranzo.dacres@gleanerjm.com