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Cheap and Cheerful? 1989 Yugo GVL

The poor old Yugo has been the butt of more cruel jokes than I care to remember. It was imported and marketed in the US with a single aim, and that was to be the cheapest new car sold in the country at that time. It managed to achieve this because about the only alternative that cost less was walking everywhere. This 1989 Yugo GVL is a car that could serve as either a project vehicle or as a source of parts to keep another one on the road. Located in Knox, Indiana, you will find the GVL listed for sale here at Hemmings. As project builds go, they don’t come much cheaper than this one. The owner has set the sale price at $1,200 OBO. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Boot for spotting this quirky classic for us.

The owner only supplies two photos in his listing, and he is also pretty short on details. These photos reveal a car that is essentially complete that wears Aspen White paint. There is some rust just beginning to appear in the lower driver’s door, along with some in the leading edge of the hood. The rest of the body looks pretty solid, but there is no information on the state of the floors. The panels are straight, the glass is good, and the plastic trim has held up remarkably well for any car wearing the Yugo badge. We also receive no photos or information regarding the state of the interior. Yugo plastic was renowned for its ability to crack and crumble. The company produced cars destined for the American market to a higher standard than those sold in other markets, but even the greater attention to detail during assembly couldn’t rectify issues caused by low-quality components. That is a description that perfectly describes Yugo plastic. If this interior is intact and in good condition, that would be quite a bonus for the buyer. I can see aftermarket covers on the front seats, and an external antenna suggests that this car is, or was, equipped with a radio.

I’ll be honest here because the owner supplies no engine photos. Therefore, I poached this one from this excellent article written by our own Scotty Gilbertson. I chose it because I felt that anyone not familiar with a Yugo deserved to see what was under the hood. What you see is a 4-cylinder engine with a capacity of 1,116cc. It pumps out more noise than power, with a mere 54hp finding its way via a 4-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the GVL is no jet in a straight line. The sprint from 0-60mph takes an incredible 16.8 seconds, while those souls who are brave enough to keep the pedal welded to the floor will be rewarded with a top speed of 90mph. However, the Yugo was marketed in a campaign that emphasized its two most significant strengths. The first of these was that it was the cheapest new car available to the American motoring public. The second was that it was perceived as fuel-efficient. Indeed, it was possible to squeeze 50mpg out of a Yugo on the open road. That figure was respectable, but there were other cars available at that point that could threaten that figure and did so while offering higher levels of comfort and refinement. The news with this GVL is that the engine does run, but it isn’t clear whether the car drives or is roadworthy. The owner recently fitted a new starter, and given that these cost anywhere between $70 and $160, depending on whether he purchased a refurbished or a new unit, it does represent a bonus on a car of this price.

When the Yugo hit that American market, its importers expected it to take the country by storm. The reality was somewhat different because only 141,651 buyers slapped down their cash for one between 1986 and 1992. The 1989 model year marked a severe sales decline, with only 10,576 of these little chariots finding their way onto our roads. This marked an incredible 60% sales drop over the previous year and indicated that the buying public simply wasn’t buying in this case. This little Yugo holds promise on a couple of fronts. If the floors are sound, this could make an interesting and cheap project car. If there are rust problems that aren’t visible in the photos, it seems that there are plenty of parts that the buyer could salvage if its fate is to become a parts source for another project. What do you think its future will be?


  1. Ignatius J. Reilly

    The only thing “cheerful” about this crapcan is the realization you will never HAVE to drive one, let alone own one.

    Like 5
  2. DeeBee

    A LEMONS project for sure! yeah, you’ll bring up the rear, but, the idea is to have fun, right?

    Like 1
  3. Howie Mueler

    Wow!! What a chick magnet!!

    Like 4
  4. Steve Clinton

    They are asking about $1,100 too much.

    Like 7
  5. Steve Clinton

    The Hemming ad calls this a “1989 Zastava Glv”. What the hell is a “Zastava”?

    Like 0
    • alphasud Member

      Zastava was the maker of the Yugo. Basically just a old Fiat design built in Yugoslavia. But look at the bright side. I think this one has Bosch throttle body injection!

      Like 2
      • alphasud Member

        I was wrong on the EFI fact. The Yugo got EFI in 1990 on the GVX models. I worked on one way back in the early 90’s with the Bosch fuel injection. Those models were rare and at the end of US production. The Zastava fact is correct.

        Like 0
    • brettucks

      I believe Zastava was the name of the plant that built these (or its location).

      Like 0
  6. Howie Mueler

    I just saw it on Hemmings, only two photos?? GLWS!!

    Like 0
  7. Willowen

    The Fiat 128 that was the basis for these was one of the best cars I’ve ever owned, and though it was not exactly a ball of fire in the get-up-and-go department it was close to unstoppable (except under braking!) once you got it into its high-70s pace, on an interstate or Tennessee country roads. Lively enough around town and ridiculously competent through snow or on glare ice – I took it up a steep ice-covered hill on just its skinny 14″ Pirelli street tires! – the only reason I junked it was the well-hidden (at first) and badly repaired accident damage it had suffered before I’d bought it.

    Always did like this variant, though well aware that the Yugo factory was not quite as vigilant in the QC department as Fiat had come to be. Although it lacked one selling point that had made the 128 a car I wanted – with the driver’s seat set for me I could “sit behind myself” without my knees touching the seat-back, a very rare phenomenon – it still would make a nice grocery-getter. And I think they are very pretty.

    Like 3
    • stu

      The Fiat factory quality control was very different than the Yugo one. As mentioned in the article the plastic was very poorly made so it did not withstand the test of time. On the other hand the Fiat 128 plastics was better quality. The Yugo and Fiat 128 were your base cars to get you to point A and to point B. Difference was the quality by far.

      Like 1
  8. Richard Sikes

    My dad was a part time Fiat mechanic, and I had grown up around Fiats. When the Yugo came out in 1986, I thought I wanted one because I knew the Fiat 128 it was based on was a fairly decent car. In late 1987, I found a pristine 1986 model at a car auction with only 23,000 miles and Air Conditioning for $1,900. I bought it and started driving it. A bargain! Although it never broke on me or failed in any way, I just didn’t like it. The material and fit and finish were not up to Fiat standards; now that is saying something. Also, the 54 HP was really underpowered, especially while running the A/C, which really didn’t get very cold anyway. My friends constantly made fun of me and people on the road gave me looks like they truly felt sorry for me. After 6 months, someone offered me $2,300. cash (a $400. profit!) for this little commie cream puff, and I jumped on it! I never had any more regrets.

    Like 2
  9. Kevin

    Lmao,the 80s were certainly known for some abysmal cars,at least style wise ,but dependability suffered by many of the era as well,where do I start,chevy chevette,ford escort, geo metro,chevy sprint,but this was chief of the undependable death traps,BTW, I realize some mentioned may have been great for some,but were still,ugly little tin cans,oh wahoo if this offends anyone,too much whining, and nitpicking on here lately anyway.

    Like 0
  10. Melton Mooney

    I actually knew a guy who traded in his early 70’s Porsche 911 for one of these when it first came out.

    Like 0
  11. angliagt angliagt Member

    If I traded ANY cool car for one of these,you can bet I’d
    NEVER tell ANYBODY about it.

    Like 0
  12. Kevin

    There was an acronym for fiat back in the day,”fix it again Tony!,an oldie, but goodie, and true on the early stuff.

    Like 0

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