Almost Better Than Walking: 1988 Yugo GV

By Jeff Bennett

Before you sits one of the most historical automobiles mankind has ever created. Seriously. The Yugo was an attempt by communist Yugoslavia to dazzle the American market with their prized knock off of the very forgettable Fiat 127. While there were some good features, these cars are a rolling history lesson on the failures of communism. Cars like this should be paraded through every city and town, perhaps with a 1988 Corvette to demonstrate the fruits of both communism and capitalism.  Maybe a visual reminder would help wake people up, so we are rescued from the shame of having to drive cars like this one in the future. Meanwhile, if you cannot wait to have perhaps the finest example of Serbo-Croatian engineering excellence leaking various fluids onto your garage floor, this 1988 Yugo is being sold here on craigslist for a very proletariat $4,500. Before anyone else descends on Jemison, Alabama to purchase this prize, you need to jump in your corporate jet and seize this rare opportunity.  Considering the original price of these rocket sleds was a mere $3,990, you can immediately see the investment potential lurking under its dull maroon paint.

Malcolm Bricklin is responsible for bringing the Yugo to our shores. He somehow thought that the American public would flock to dealerships to purchase these hatchbacks because they were the cheapest new car out there. Bricklin must have been P.T. Barnum’s long lost grandson, because many Americans ended up buying them.  Almost immediately, they depreciated into the abyss, and the mechanical problems often overwhelmed their owners. Of course, these were people who could ill afford both making the payments and keeping the things on the road. I remember an interview with a GM executive of the time concerning this low priced wonder. When asked what GM had to compete with the Yugo, he dryly responded: “A three year old Buick.” That sentence is really all you need to know.

The car for sale in the craigslist ad actually appears to be in fair condition. For a Yugo that is. I don’t recall ever seeing one painted in this maroon color, but they weren’t around long. Importation into the United States was started in 1985 and the implosion of Yugoslavia mercifully ended the experiment in 1992. The paint does seem to be dull, much like a Fact-O-Bake special a few days after the spray, but the door jams are the same color. Since nobody would waste mediocre paint on redoing the door jams for a color change, I am likely wrong. I don’t see many signs of accident damage, with the front end being the only possible point of unintended contact. Between parts being difficult to find after Yugoslavia ceased to exist and the high probability of a one way trip to the junkyard if the insurance company got involved, you didn’t see many Yugos in body shops. They just weren’t worth fixing (not a joke).

Inside, the dash is cracked like the San Andreas Fault and the mouse hide door panels have begun to molt. Either sunlight or sloppy build quality has caused the dash plastic to not match very well. The plastic on the shifter has begun to decompose, and I cannot remember if the door handle was protected by an arm rest or if it just hung out there in the wind. The good news is that this Yugo is equipped with air conditioning. The bad news is that turning it on would be the forward momentum equivalent of tossing out a large anchor and chain. Given that the car had just 1100 cubic centimeters of displacement, any strain on the engine would be traumatic in nature.

Outside, there is a missing badge on the hood, and the dead headlight on the driver’s side gives it just the right look. The bumper tends to be a bit higher on the passenger side than the driver’s side. Once again, this could be build quality, owner abuse, or a styling feature. The wipers look a little small for the job, but a wise owner would be grateful if they worked at all. The ad doesn’t state whether or not the back window is heated, so your hands can stay warm during a brisk winter push. At least the Yugoslavians mastered the concept of semi-reliable electrical systems.

It may seem that I am down on this particular car, but I am not. I am amazed one has survived in this condition, and it would definitely be a conversation starter at cruise ins and car shows. I do think he will have a hard time selling it at that price, but it runs and they are rare due to attrition alone. We will see if someone takes pity on this survivor and gives it a new home.

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Comments

  1. 68 custom

    When these were new my sister made the comment that at least it was a new car. my response was I would rather have a used Gremlin, we both laughed!

    14+
  2. Doug P

    I remember a few of my eastern euro neighbors buying a couple of these. most were sold in big cities like NYC that had a big foreign population.

    3+
  3. Miguel

    “Cars like this should be paraded through every city and town, perhaps with a 1988 Corvette to demonstrate the fruits of both communism and capitalism.”

    I would say parade this car next to a Chevy Sprint. I can’t think of an American car from 1988 that was a 2 door hatchback that any good.

    On the car lot I worked at we had a new one of these. It had like 1000 miles on it.

    I had to drive it back to the dealership so they could get the ignition key out of the ignition where it was stuck. They did it under warranty. I felt sorry for the guy that bought it.

    4+
    • Superdessucke

      If you paraded a 1988 Corvette against this today, they’d have similar price tags on the windshields, LOL!

      0
  4. Ed P

    The lowly Chevette was indestructible compared to a Yugo.

    8+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      I’m not a fan of the Chevette by any means but I cannot disagree with you.

      6+
  5. DrinkinGasoline

    The generic Bic Lighter of vehicles.
    YUGO… but, YU never get back.
    You could watch them rust in the lane next to you at a red light.
    Just like everything else, there is a following.
    Can’t blame the Slav’s for trying though !
    Look at Serbia now…..sheesh.

    7+
  6. JimmyJ

    Wow 4 grand?
    U couldnt give me that POS

    4+
  7. Skip

    I bought an ’87 Yugo in 1991 for a whopping $500. I loved driving the little car, but it was doomed to disaster!

    I had a couple of small problems here and there that were quickly resolved. The one thing I didn’t like was that it was rough-riding on the highway.

    What doomed the little car was a wire that shorted when a friend was driving it that “crispied” all of the wiring. I parked it and ended up selling it for parts…..since you couldn’t get parts for them at the time….except for an ignition switch that I replaced right after I got it.

    With gas prices like they are now, I wish I could’ve kept it….despite the bit of rough ride.

    7+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      Skip….you are a better man than I for even taking it the highway.
      I see Smart Cars on the freeway and I cringe for the operator’s safety. We responded to an MVA on a 50 mph rural road and when we arrived on scene, there was a Smart Car involved. It looked like it had already been “cubed” by a recycling yard. Needless to say, the driver did not make it. The State Trooper estimated that it was only traveling approx. 48-50 mph upon impact.
      If every vehicle on the road were comparable size then OK but that is not the case. No thank you.

      9+
      • Michael Dawson

        I agree with you, Drink…..every time I see a “smart” car, I think it’s more aptly considered a “not-so-smart-car” for this very reason: occupant safety. Besides that obvious issue, what makes them so smart? They cost nearly as much as a much larger (still bottom-end) new car, get barely better gas mileage, and suffer from an alarming lack of passenger and cargo space and overall lack of utility. So what’s the point, you ask? I think the owners are making a statement, if not downright fooling themselves into thinking they are doing the “right” thing. If one is worried about leaving a carbon footprint, buy a nearly-new used car that’s already been built. Guarantee you that’s the the more “responsible” choice.

        3+
      • Skip

        D.G. If I’d had any idea that it would be so damned rough-riding on the highway, I wouldn’t have done that. Like the old saying, you live and learn. Around town it was just fine, but I wouldn’t go on the road again, that’s for sure!

        I’m a now-retired paramedic. So I was used to something a bit heavier and considerably faster-moving. Never could find a place for a siren on that little critter, either!!!

        0
    • Miguel

      You drove it on the highway??????????

      0
  8. glen

    Yeah, ALMOST better than walking, but NOT better! If proletariat means absurd, then I agree.

    4+
    • Mark-A

      It’s only actually better than walking when its RAINING! Surprised nobody else had said that!

      0
  9. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    I remember the Yugo when it went on sale in the US in 1985. Bricklin was more or less a household name back then, and from the look of the ads in car magazines back then, he traded on that to push the Yugo.

    Amazingly there were about 140K Yugos sold in the US from 1985 to 1992. What those numbers tell me is that no new-to-market car could have survived on those sales, especially one that had as many problems and as much negative press as the Yugo.

    Unfortunately for the seller, the Yugo hasn’t become a $4500 collectible in the meantime. But I do like Jeff’s tagline in the title:

    “Almost Better Than Walking”

    4+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      I have to give Jeff credit though…He’s got some serious N@D$ to write it up ! You Go Jeff !

      1+
    • RayT Member

      Dolphin, don’t forget that the Yugo was a step UP for Bricklin! He was, after all, the man who brought the unforgettable Subaru 360 to the United States….

      I drove both back in the day. The Yugo felt like a Cadillac Fleetwood compared to the Soob.

      3+
  10. sir mike

    USA drivers ruined this car.It wasn’t meant to be driven for hours on the interstate’s at 75mph.It was a city car..period.We had a SCCA prepared one in my area for a while….after all it was a Fiat so Abarth parts could be used.Also had one made into a pickup at a local garage…looked good.

    5+
    • mark

      Yeah who would have ever thought that a car would have been made to have been driven……………………………….

      8+
  11. Adam T45

    Automotive history will remember John DeLorean as the father of automotive failure, which I believe is a bit unfair. Malcolm Bricklin’s efforts make DeLorean appear to be an automotive colossus by comparison. The running gag for this man would be that the best way to get him into small business would be to give him a big business and let him take it from there!

    It’s sad when you look at a car and realize that it will actually deteriorate faster than a Big Mac!

    12+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      Mr.J.DeLorean created his own demise as many have throughout automotive history, and I agree…a Big Mac lasted longer 🙂

      2+
  12. DrinkinGasoline

    Compare this to the Ford UK Escort listed earlier…
    I’ll take the Escort.

    3+
  13. Mark Hoffman

    I loved the YUGO. I was selling car insurance in those days, and the Dodge dealer had the franchise. I prepared some insurance quotes for different age people, and took them down there. After they sold s car, they would hand the customer the appropriate quote and at the bottom was my name, insurance office address and phone. So much down. And 4 payments of so much on a 6 month policy. I think I insured every YUGO they sold. And , yeah. The muffler blew out about 10,000 miles like clockwork.

    7+
    • DrinkinGasoline

      I would have sold them a life insurance policy at the same time or least referred them to a fellow agent with kick-back benefits. You would be on a tropical island by now 🙂

      2+
    • Ed P

      The muffler was an alarm to rebuild the car.

      4+
  14. Stu

    A co-worker was leaving the parking lot at work one evening in his brand new YUGO when the right tail light fell out and was swinging by the wires. Hilarious.

    9+
  15. Barry

    The 4 door version was to be called the “WEGO”…

    12+
  16. Stu

    A co-worker was leaving the parking lot at work one evening in his brand new YUGOslavia when the right tail light fell out and was swinging by the wires. Hilarious.

    4+
  17. Pete

    I’d rather walk….

    1+
    • Ed P

      Yeah, there’s no sense getting your hopes up.

      0
  18. Martin Horrocks

    Yugo may be a joke. But “very forgettable Fiat 127” is pure ignorance from the author.

    Apart from inventing the supermini category with Renault 5, Fiat 127 is dynamically wonderful. As in Autobianchi A112 good.

    2+
    • Mark-A

      Agreed the Fiat 127 was a fantastic little car especially if you got a Sport they were flying machines but rust was always a problem with the cheap steel!

      0
  19. Paul

    The most hilarious write up ever!!

    6+
  20. Sean

    It’s unfortunate that people look back at the YUGO as a unreliable piece of junk. We seem to have forgotten the junk Detroit was turning out in the 70’s and 80’s which cost double the price of the YUGO. My father purchased a brand new YUGO in 1988 for an out the door grand total of $4700. This thing ran without a single problem for 110,000 miles. I’d like to see an American made from this time period do the same

    6+
    • Marshall

      That is the first I heard of a Yugo making it over 100,000 miles without a problem. Back in the 90s, a coworker’s husband was driving one to help her deliver her papers in. I remember he told me it had 32,000 miles, and a litany of recent repair work done on it.

      In 1987, the movie “Dragnet”, came out with Dan Aykroyd playing Sgt. Joe Friday. In one scene, Aykroyd makes a brief tongue in cheek comment about Yugos being on “the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian automotive technology” (or something like that).

      2+
    • Caw

      Agreed. Most comments are from people who never owned one for any real length of time. I had 3, and loved them. Had my 1988 GVS flat out at 90mph.

      1+
  21. David Miraglia

    A great commie collectable

    4+
    • NC Dave

      Maybe the best hope for it would be for a museum to buy it for display. That way the parts should fall off somewhat slower as it just sits there. My childhood buddies, all auto nuts as well, would gladly take that off the seller’s hands if it were free (since no one will buy it at that price) and joyfully find a way to drop it in the Gulf of Mexico to enlarge whatever fishing reef they favor fishing over!

      0
  22. Ron Gardner

    At a dealership where I was working in ’95, we took one in on trade. The seats were stuffed with straw. I am not kidding.

    1+
    • Bill T

      As I sit here, drinking my coffee, waking up, reading all the comments I kept thinking of a distant friend who had one for a short time in the 80s. There was something about that car that got us all laughing and for the life of me, I could not remember what it was (and it wasn’t that it was always broke down). Then I see the comment about the straw… and BAM 1988 hit in the forehead! His ” GV (“Good Value”) Yugo was being worked on (again) and my girlfriend at the time was trying to get some music to play on the radio. As she slid across the seat she got poked by something (insert joke here..) and upon closer examination… yup THERE WAS STRAW STICKING OUT OF THE FABRIC!. Thanks for the great memory!

      0
  23. Greg Standing Bear

    The very ugly fact about the Yugo–as well as the Lada, Skoda, and Dacia that were sold in Canada–is that they were exported for the hard currency that their sale would bring to help keep Communist governments afloat.

    There weren’t enough of any of these cars made to satisfy demand in their home markets, yet people there had to face even longer waiting lists to facilitate their export. Shame on Bricklin for making a bad situation worse.

    2+
  24. kc9bjo

    Taking into consideration of the car, when brand new, was a major league POS, I know now who’s smoking the best, whatever: Jemison, Alabama . These cars needed fuel system attention when coming off of the transport ship! Pay $500 for it, drive it the 10 or 20 miles it will take to kill the car, and part it out to the eccentric collectors out there.

    In 1981, I was selling Plymouth Champs in Lexington, KY, for $4500 out the door ! Extremely dependable Mitsubishi’s, that would eat a Yugo for lunch, in every regard.

    2+
  25. mark

    4500 Bucks? This is easily this most over priced car I have ever seen on here. It is listed in “fair condition” as well. Geeeeeshhh

    1+
  26. Ed P

    Buy a Yugo. They are guaranteed for life to get your hands dirty.

    1+
    • Marshall

      Now that gives new meaning to the term “lifetime warranty”.

      1+
  27. BMW4RunninTundra Member

    Wow!!! It is still available?!?!?! I would have thought that it would have been snapped up by a high end collector by now?!?!?! I mean aside from the fact that most of the pictures are so blurry that they are good for figuring out color scheme only. The pictures also tend to be pretty redundant. Multiple blurry pictures repeated, over, over, and over again! This guy is a marketing genius!! I bet if you turn the A/C on, A – it surely blows nice and warm and B – IF the compressor clutch engages, you get out and walk beside it because it will not pull both you AND the A/C!!!

    0
  28. Vincent

    I have to speak up, as I have owned two. The first was an almost new (and i was still young) red, with tan interior. Fun car. My second one was only a few years ago. Black, with gray interior. The last year of production Yugo was the best, as Bricklyn went to Mercedes to have them review the issues. They suggested fuel injection, slightly larger engine, and resolve electrical issues. Bricklyn did, but it was too late… the brand died. As for me, it was a blast to pass people doing 120 in a Yugo. A freaking fuel injected go kart. 🙂 and just TRY to stop somewhere and not get into a conversation! Sure, it’s nice to have a vette, but my 69 stingray don’t get as many smiles as that stupid Yugo did!

    6+
  29. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Yugo car. It wasn’t a bad looking car, the problem with the car, according to Consumer Reports, it was so poorly built, it’s no wonder the car was dropped from the US market.

    0
  30. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    When my oldest started driving I promised to buy her this (picture attached) if she wrecked the car we provided. It remains in good condition to this day.

    4+
  31. Rodney Corriveau

    I remember seeing one of these that was less than a year old with under 5k miles needing it’s 3rd rebuild…. So much blow by it chugged like a steam locomotive….. they were utter garbage.

    1+
  32. ACZ

    An accident waiting for a place to happen.

    1+
  33. PAPERBKWRITER

    Worst car ever sold in the US.

    1+
  34. Adam T45

    What does it say about the car (and the seller for that matter) when they post a picture showing clearly that the cover has fallen off the speaker in the passenger door, and is lying on the floor? You just know that if you bought this, the speaker cover wouldn’t be the last thing that would require reattaching!

    6+
  35. Howard A Member

    I agree with sir mike, the Yugo ( that I thought was imported by “Crazy Vaklav”) wasn’t a bad car for zipping around Europe, I-95, not so much. I remember people that had them, they weren’t much worse than any other car at the time. Like Sean sez, there was a lot of junk made ( Iacocca said it himself, “We sent a lot of crap out the door”) and these did give jobs to many ( not that American’s generally care about those matters) Trouble was, they were a one shot deal, as NOBODY would buy a used Yugo, so they were “repurposed ” into Toyotas. Great movie, “Drowning Mona” took place in a small town in NY, that was a test location for Yugo, and everyone drove one. How the producers got so many running Yugo’s together for a movie, is a miracle in itself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15RdWQDCpgE

    0
    • Ed P

      They didn’t find enough so they used disguised Omni/Horizons.

      0
    • Greg Mason

      That small town in NY was called Verplanck. I grew up there and the only Yugo in town was bought by my brother. He drove that thing for 120.000 miles and the only thing he ever did to that car was a head gasket at 60.000 and exhaust at 75.000 . Needless to say the town’s people were not to pleased about that movie.

      0
  36. Sam

    Could this be a record for the most comments to a BF post?

    1+
    • Howard A Member

      Hi Sam, not even close. I’ve seen them over a hundred already. 🙂

      1+
  37. Doc

    My local Lincoln dealership also carried Yugo (talk about a juxtaposition!). For a while they ran a deal that if you purchased a new Lincoln, they would throw in a Yugo for free. I’m not aware of anyone having taken them up on the offer.

    Apparently, at least one Cadillac dealer did the same thing: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-03-22/business/8601210722_1_yugo-america-yugo-gv-new-cadillac

    1+
    • Ed P

      A Lincoln dealer in Baltimore included a Yugo with a Lincoln like a spare tire.

      0
  38. Jim

    This car was so light that a women lost her life when the Yugo she was driving was blown over the railing of the Mackinaw bridge on a windy day back when they first came out. Just a sad little car

    1+
  39. Gordon

    Actually the name of the car was wrong. It should have been, Yu-don’t-Go! If you had it for any length of time, say a week, It’s life was over! What a POS!

    1+
  40. Will

    Not better than walking for that price. Here’s the saved ad with all the images and details http://www.craigslistadsaver.com/view.php?name=1988YugoGV

    1+
  41. DweezilAZ

    Little bro bought a brand new one. Took on a trip with his then wife, from AZ to LA and then the OR coast to visit our parents and back.No problems

    I had no idea until recently that he was so fanatical about cars. He maintained that Yugo to the letter and more, kept receipts and when the engine blew at 40,000 miles or so, the dealer tried to wiggle out of the replacement, but bro had the documented proof of his adherence to the warranty small print. The dealer paid for the new engine.

    After that, the wife got the Yugo in the divorce settlement. Too bad as I always liked her, but a missed bullet for him.

    1+
  42. Randy

    @Greg Standing Bear: I had a Dacia in North Africa (Algeria) in the early 1970’s. It was head and shoulders above the Yugo in build quality. I took the Dacia on a road trip though the Sahara without issue (back when you could do something like that without risking your life). I couldn’t get a Yugo to travel more than 300 miles before something failed on it. I lost a fender on the freeway. The thing ripped off in the wind. No, not the wind generated by the Yugo travelling fast; a gust of wind across the Texas desert. Seriously. I didn’t bother to go back and get the fender, and abandoned the Yugo at the next town, rented a car, and continued with the trip.

    2+
    • Ed P

      Wow. My cousin had a ratty old 59 Ford wagon. We would laugh as the paint would fly off in chunks at speed. No fenders though.

      0
    • Greg Standing Bear

      @Randy: Both the Dacia and Lada Signet definitely outclassed the Yugo in build quality. One can still sport an occasional Lada tooling around Ontario even today.

      0
  43. Josh

    Is this seller the same nut job that was selling the $3 million Caprice from a few weeks ago??

    1+
  44. Marcello Amestoy

    My ex wife bought a new one in 88 and it was a cool little mover …for a while.. until it caught on fire from inside out, somewhere in the dash, but its true , a lot of ppl just hated them because of where they came from, not from personal experience, 4500 is nuts though, really more expensive than when new?? NOT

    0
  45. Adam T45

    These cars came with a 12/12 Warranty….12 feet or 12 seconds (whichever came first).

    5+
  46. Mitch Ross

    Not a Fiat 127 knockoff it was a unique design style wise. Technically it was a Fiat 128 with a shortened platform. Zastava, which made he Yugo had been making Fiats under licence for decades. there were Zastava versions of the 1300 sedan, the 600 with a larger engine called the 750 and a hatchback version of the 128. They were not any more or less reliable than the Fiats they were based on and neither was the Yugo. I loved my ’89 white with tan interior.

    1+

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