CUBA PEDDLES ANTIQUE CARS IN DRIVE FOR HARD CURRENCY CLASSICS OFFERED AT A BARGAIN

CUBA PEDDLES ANTIQUE CARS IN DRIVE FOR HARD CURRENCY CLASSICS OFFERED AT A BARGAIN

Want to buy a 1948 Ford, unrestored, license plate BD-9572, for only $9,500? How about a well-worn green 1959 Cadillac for $11,000?

If those sound like bargains, you'll love some of the other 46 classic cars the Cuban government is trying to peddle to foreign tourists, in one of Fidel Castro's latest schemes to get dollars to shore up Cuba's sinking economy.The antique auto "showroom," if it can be called that, is housed in a World War II aircraft hangar on 51st Ave. and 222nd St. in suburban Marianao. Inside, a salesman from the state agency Cubalse shows the occasional tourist his wares, the oldest of which is a 1914 Fiat, asking price $15,000.

The newest car, of course, is the '59 Cadillac, manufactured the same year Castro toppled President Fulgencio Batista and began a Communist revolution that eventually led to a break in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and a trade embargo against Havana that is still in effect.

While the embargo has deprived Cuba of necessities ranging from house paint to toilet paper, it has made this country the undisputed antique-car capital of the world. Alfredo Estevez, administrator of the "Coches Clasicos" sales program for Cubalse, estimates that some 60,000 pre- revolutionary automobiles are tooling around the island this very moment.

Beyond that, however, Mr. Estevez would give no information on how many cars Cubalse has sold to tourists, when the program was initiated, or why the Cuban government doesn't do more to promote the program.

One reason could be that he just doesn't know. Prices of cars offered by Cubalse are generally three to four times higher than the actual market value of similar cars in theUnited States or Europe - not to mention the difficulty of transporting a gas-guzzling Cuban car to the United States in violation of the trade embargo. The local who turns his car into Cubalse probably fares better than the tourist. At least, he gets a certificate to buy a brand new Soviet-built Fiat Lada.

From all indications, Cuba is having more luck with Coral Negro, a swank jewelry shop on 12th St. and Fifth Ave. in this capital city's once-exclusive Miramar district. The shop's offerings range from a $250 turquoise ring to a $13,000 diamond.

This venture, which began about eight months ago, allows Cubans to bring in their family jewels, for which Cubalse pays a fraction of the value in

dollar coupons. The coupons may then be redeemed at Maisee's (no relation to Macy's), where locals can pick up a bottle of J&B whisky for $6 or browse through racks of clothes whose labels parrot top fashion outlets in New York, Paris or Milan, but whose real origin on closer inspection is usually India or China.

Not far from the Coral Negro is the government's Palacio del Arte. The ''palacio" is actually a house crammed full of statues, dishes, plates, lamps, tables, chairs and carpets. Offerings at this permanent garage sale range from a hand-painted Japanese wood carving for $4,000 to a baby grand

piano that can be yours for $35,000. Prices are all in U.S. dollars, and no bargaining is allowed.

A visitor might be forgiven for suspecting that at least some of these erstwhile family heirlooms were confiscated by authorities after the Communists' victory in the revolution, but neither Mr. Estevez nor any of the Palacio employees would comment on where the items came from.