1988 Yugo GV Barn Find!

It’s not a stretch to imagine a dictionary with a definition that states: Object of Scorn \abjeft\ev\skorn expression 1: Yugo. Perhaps not that deleterious a description but probably not far from it. Is it truly deserved? I don’t know but let’s take a look at an example of the diminutive Yugoslavian yokel, a 1988 Yugo GV, a car rarely encountered today. This example is located in Chelsea, Michigan, and is available here on eBay for a starting bid of $500, no bids tendered so far.

Back in the ’80s, the running joke was, “Why does a cheap economy car like a Yugo have a rear window defroster?” Answer: “To keep your hands warm in the winter when you’re pushing it.” Perhaps an exaggeration, though author Jason Vuic summed up his view of the Yugo in his 2010 expose, “The Yugo, The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History”. The title is pretty much a giveaway. The U.S. version of the Yugo was sold between 1985 and 1992 with sales north of 140K units over the eight-year run. It was produced by the Yugoslavian auto manufacturer Zastava and marketed in the U.S. by Malcolm Bricklin. Five different models were sold in the states with the GV, like this example, as the entry-level model.

The seller has this to say regarding his Yugo’s exterior, “Last plated in 1989, I found 10 spots of bubbled paint but no holes yet, some scratches and 2 dents one on top one on the hood.” It physically presents pretty well as the wear and damage, as described, is rather minor. The seller states that he thinks the tires are the originals! Peculiar stance here as this Yugo has a rear-end high attitude and I’m not sure what that’s all about as in, is it normal or is there a suspension problem on either end. Beyond that, nothing stands out, all of the trim and glass looks good. That’s reassuring as a car friend of mine proclaimed back in the ’80s, “Can you imagine what getting parts for a Yugo must be like, I mean who wants to have to call up Marshal Tito every time you need something?”

Under the hood is a 1.1 liter, in-line four-cylinder, SOHC engine good for 55 HP. The seller doesn’t emphatically state that it’s a non-runner but it sounds as if that’s the case with the argument further bolstered by a claim of rodent damage to the engine’s wiring harness and no keys. Gear changing is courtesy of a four-speed manual transaxle. The mileage is listed as 64K so it remains to be seen if this relatively low mileage is too high to support continued Yugo roadworthiness. One would think absolutely not but then this is not your everyday, run of the mill economy car.

The bright spot here is the interior. It’s clean and sharp looking or at least as sharp looking as you’re going to get with an entry-level Yugo. It’s a rather spartan affair of course but that was intended. The seller does state that the underside/floors appear to be solid which would be a concern if the Wolverine State has been its long term residence. Though this car is currently domiciled in Michigan, there’s no indication for how long. The seller claims that this Yugo has been barn parked since 1989 but he doesn’t state where. And if that’s really the case, then the 64K of miles would have been run up in one year so I’m not sure the math/story here adds up.  Whatever the case, the interior looks very lightly used.

Of course, you could look at the bright side of things too, as in rarity. Take this cassette player, for example, it’s the “genuine” Yugo article, how hard would it be to find one of these?

The seller states that this Yugo looks too nice to part-out which is one of his options going forward. I suppose there may be a buyer out there interested in this car but I would agree, it would seem more appropriate to part out a less desirable example to keep this one running. Then again, it’s a Yugo, so does it matter? Oh yeah, one other item, besides the missing keys is the small matter of the missing title. The theory is that there is a hind-side for every seat; that axiom is going to be tested in this case. Show of hands, has anyone owned a Yugo?


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  1. Jules Member

    Oh, Malcolm Bricklin … the only good decision he ever made was getting Subaru into the American market. (Long-time Subie owner here, but this is not a paid endorsement!) Of all the godawful former-Soviet-bloc vehicles, this has got to be the worst. They should have called it the YuNoGo.

    Like 4
    • Wolfgang Gullich

      Yugoslavia wasn’t part of the Soviet Bloc and was often at odds with Soviet-style communism. Tito in fact eventually allowed a (constrained) open market, foreign tourism and work abroad programs to bring much needed cash into their economy.

      Like 7
      • Steve

        I had one just like this in college back in 1988-1990. The rear-high stance is normal if I remember correctly.

        I worked at the local airport in 1988. We hoisted a 300-lb concrete tailwheel weight into the cargo area to add some weight for winter traction. After that the car just wouldn’t get stuck in deep snow! I drove through many an “impassable” area.

        Of course the hatch latch broke and I was unable to get the tailwheel weight out of the cargo area—it stayed there for two years, and went with the car when I sold it…

        Like 3
  2. Arby

    Whatever the rodents ate would increase the value of this vehicle.

    Like 2
    • Lou Rugani

      (If I had a buck for every Yugo critic who’d never even been in one, I’d buy a Chevrolet Vega.)

  3. Vegaman Dan

    The radio is worth more than the car.

    That said, I kinda want to have something like that to offend people at the car show with.

    Like 7
  4. Dan B

    I was looking to start building my credit in the world in 1986. Because I was (and still am) incredibly cheap, l figured one of these would do it. Only $3300 for a brand new car, l thought. The salesman actually told me if you want a car that lasts longer than the payments, go see my brother at the Nissan/Datsun dealer. I did, his brother was an a$$, so l ended up with a Toyota. It was $500 down and only 24 payments.

    Like 6
    • Dave Mazz

      Dan B, That Yugo dealer’s brother may have had donkey-linked genes, but the dealers advice to consider a Japanese car was spot on. You should send him a basket of muffins at Christmas

  5. Will Fox

    Double it’s value; fill the tank!

  6. Fred W

    Would be quite the conversation piece at a Cars and Coffee, if you can make it there. Thing to do is buy this one and one more for parts. Parts problem solved.

    Like 3
    • Major Thom

      Probably not the kind of conversation you would want to be the topic of tho

      • Stu

        I worked for Yugo for several years and literally put thousands of miles on them. I never had a failure of anything, but saw a lot of first time car buyers get theM without understanding that it wasn’t a Cadillac that they were buying. You had to maintain them, and you definitely had to let theM warm up in the winter before driving off. If you didn’t the breather pipe would freeze and suck all the oil out of the engine until it seized up! The early ‘86 models were junk, the factory just didn’t understand what American car buyers demanded, but each year they improved. Just not fast enough to recover from all the jokes and “experts” comments. This one looks ok, rust is a problem, same as Fiats did, but the mileage is just over 6,000 not 60,000. GLWTA

        Like 4
  7. Joe

    Bought a new one in 1987. No radio, no nothing. I remember telling my dad, “How bad can it be? I just want something that goes from point A to point B.”
    It failed to do even that! Paid for 2 1/2 years on it without even owning it. Worst mistake I ever made.

    Like 2
  8. Maverick

    There was a reason for hiding it in barn .definitely was not a money investment.

    Like 3
  9. alphasud Member

    When I worked at the Alfa dealer in the 90’s a fellow tech had one as his daily. He removed the 1.1L and installed a modified Fiat 1.3 with a pair of Weber side drafts. Early front wheel drive cars suffered from torque steer but this was the only car I ever drove that you had to anticipate the torque steer and counter steer before you accelerated! Fastest S**tbox I ever drove though. Like a clown car!

    Like 4
    • Will Owen Member

      The Yugo was basically a Fiat 128 with a foot or so cross-section removed, so that Fiat 1.3 engine was the same Lampredi-designed SOHC jewel, only made in Italy instead of Yugoslavia … and there is some anecdotal evidence that the Yugo plant was not quite as vigilant in the QC department as Fiat was. I do remember back in the earlier 2000s a very lively online forum of Fiat enthusiasts, and stocks of interchangeable Fiat/Yugo parts being collected and offered for sale. Too bad that didn’t last … I had a 128 and it was a jewel, and came close to buying a Yugo after that.

      Like 1
  10. StanT Member

    A perfect example where “rare” does not mean “valuable”. Sadly some sellers try that tack with other cars too often.

    Like 2
  11. 433jeff

    This is all i can remember about Yugo

    Freinds dont let freinds drive Yugos

    Like 3
  12. luke arnott Member

    Did you hear about the Yugo Owners Club Annual Dinner?The invite said 7.30 for midnight.

    Like 1
  13. Ron

    I had one almost identical to this one. $3600 brand new. I bought it to be my beater car, and it definitely was. I hit a deer with it – it started up right away. Went through any kind of weather. I got 130K miles out of that car. Probably would have gotten more if I’d changed the oil more than twice. Driving on Parkway North near Pittsburgh when it finally gave up (trailing a huge cloud of blue smoke). Had it towed back to my home and waited for a local dealer to do a push/pull/tow $2K guaranteed trade-in. I think I actually made money on that car. Maybe I should buy this one…

  14. DJM

    I was a used car dealer back in the late 80’s. Some of the new car dealers I bought trade-in’s from would call me anytime they took a Yugo in on trade. Typically they would only have a couple hundred dollars in them so I’d buy a one or two year old Yugo for 300.00-500.00 and then retail it for 900.00. Always sold, as is of course. Quick and easy profit made on a low priced car that both buyer and seller understood could break down at any moment.

  15. larry maynes

    I sold these cars new in the 80’s. our dealership owner told the salesmen “don’t tell anyone these are a good car, they are not” it’s a throwaway. they were horrible. had one on the showroom, brand new. I was demonstrating to the customer, as I rolled the window down the crank fell off in my hand. ended up selling him a new ford escort, much better car.

    Like 1

    I worked at a Houston Ford dealer in the 80’s that took on the Yugo line. We had a factory trained tech from Yugoslavia who worked on all of our warranty claims(and there were many). He said in Europe the Yugos would run for 200,000-300,00 km without issue. The problem here is we would load them up with a/c, tons of emission controls, and they would overheat due to the radiator being too small for such a demand. Most of the problems we would see could definitely be contributed to overheating (coolant, oil). Definitely not a great car, but we can thank our EPA for part of that.

    Like 2
  17. Kevin

    Does anyone remember 1989… the Royal Oak woman, the Mackinac bridge…high winds …oh yeah and the Yugo…. and deep water 😢

    Like 1
    • Jim Novak

      Leslie Pluhar. She was warned about severe gales but insisted on going across. Others have gone over as well. It’s a long, dangerous ride in stormy weather.

      Like 2
      • Major Thom

        Others? Like Mona Dearly into the Hudson River?

        Like 1
  18. tompdx Member

    I rented one of these circa 1989 while on temporary duty at Fairchild AFB. I got about a half mile from the airport, turned around, and returned the car to the rental counter. I’ve never done that before or since. What a piece of crap … and it was brand new!

    Like 1
  19. t-bone bob

    According to the picture of the speedo, it says mileage is 6491, not 64k. It could have gone around once, but looking at the condition of the interior, I doubt it.

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Good catch t-bone, that may help explain the driven for one year only and then stored time-line. That said, the engine looks grungier than 6,400 miles.


  20. djkenny

    I bet the timing belt snapped and it sat. Not worth a penny. Parts to someone.well, body parts. The motor is toast. Carb is not good anymore. There’s some rust, got to be where it is located.

  21. Christopher Gentry

    I rather like the idea of a engine swap , almost any other engine that’ll fit , then you would have a reliable conversation piece. Not seen one on the road in FOREVER , my cousin had one , the local Cadillac gave them away with every new Cadillac purchased and that’s how he got his.

    Like 1
  22. RallyAce

    Make sure the title is clean. There may still be payments left on the original contract. A friend of mine actually got a 5 year loan on a new Yugo.

    Like 1
  23. FOG

    No car now, but do have a title for a 1987 year Yugo, if someone needs it?
    For driving around in town, it was pretty convenient. Slipped easily into parking spaces, great on fuel, and cruising along the beach at night was fun.

    Like 1
  24. Steve

    Oddly enough I had no problems with mine, other than the hatch latch breaking thus imprisoning the airplane tailwheel weight I had in the back. I replaced spark plugs once, and the driver’s side headlight and that was all. The Party bosses must have been on the line when mine was made. It had roughly 60K miles when I sold it.

    Like 1
  25. t-bone bob

    I thought the same thing.

  26. Lou Rugani

    Read the “Worst Car” book; it’ll explain why it was anything but. Yugo made the same mistake as Crosley, Henry J, Pinto, Chevette and the others … introduced the price leader first and the upscale models too late. Nash did it right; the first Ramblers were total luxury convertibles loaded with leather and every option imaginable.
    Yugo buyers were sold on the “disposable car” fallacy. Stories abound where buyers never did one lick of maintenance and raged at dealers when the cars failed, saying they bought it so they didn’t HAVE to pay for all the oil changes they never did (or the oil levels they never even checked!)
    They’d ignore timing-belt changes and the tough little 1100 or 1300 interference-engines would be ruined. Who got the blame? Yugo.
    Yugo quality-control was intensive for the American-market cars. What killed the make here was the NATO bombing of the factory. At the end, Motor Trend said “It’s a shame. America needed it.”
    My ’88 GV just passed 500,000 miles.

    Like 5
    • Lou Rugani

      (Say, you *do* know that Yugo is still making cars for Fiat Chrysler for the USA, right?)

      Like 3
  27. Douglas Potts

    Got a yellow 86 GV with AC and a red 89 GVL. The 89 needs a timing belt. It jumped as we shut the engine off but it probably has close to 200,000 miles on it. The odometer never worked in the 3-4 years we drove it. The 86 needs a new fuel line but we had it running a couple years ago. Ugly as heck but tons of fun to drive.

  28. Bill Alm

    I bought a new 88 GVL and drove it for 8 yrs and put just over 100,000mi. with no problems. Drove it 120mi on the turnpike at 70mph 3 times a week for 5 years with no issues.When I got rid of it I regretted it ever since. Two years ago I bought a 1988 GVS im mint condition with only 32000mi. I take it to the local car shows and get more attention than my 66 Mustang or 68 Cougar ever got. Everybody has a smile and a Yugo story when they see it. ps there is a place in Columbus, Ohio called Midwest Bayless that has a. huge inventory of NOS Yugo parts.

    Like 2
  29. Papa Jay

    Is he wanting $500 or offering $500 for someone to come pick it up.

    • travs66

      Up to $3900 now with 6 hrs to go!

      Like 1
      • Major Thom

        The 3 bidders who have driven the price up to that lofty level have feedback numbers ranging from 0 to 4. Suppose this will be relished?

  30. yugoracer

    still for sale?

  31. Bob P

    I was a Yugo mechanic. Actually, I was a Master Mitsubishi mechanic who, when hired away to a new Los Angeles Mitsu dealership, became (as the “new guy”) the dealership’s token Yugo tech. We literally had customers drop off their vehicles for an oil change, and never pick them back up. I had one car that had a broken driver’s door handle, and for 8 months we couldn’t get a replacement handle… new OR used. But today, I’d love to restore one just because.

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