Malcolm’s Folly: 1988 Yugo GV

042716 Barn Finds - 1988 Yugo GV - 1

Most of you know that one of the best salesmen of all time, Malcolm Bricklin, imported these cars in the late-1980s in an attempt to bring an inexpensive car to the US market. This particular 1988 Yugo GV is still inexpensive. It’s listed on eBay with an asking price of $2,500, about 60% less than its 1988 price and it’s almost in the same condition as when it was new. Well, more on that later.

042716 Barn Finds - 1988 Yugo GV - 2

This car is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan yet it has never been driven in the salty, slushy, snowy mess that we in the Midwest know as winter; that six+ month time in which most of us complain that we should have moved to Tucson after high school (dang it). It has a shade over 58,000 miles on it and it appears to be in great shape for a 28-year old car that was made in Serbia. I say, for a 28-year old car that was made in Serbia (is this thing on?).

042716 Barn Finds - 1988 Yugo GV - 3

The Yugo, as, again, most of you know, was designed in Italy under the name Fiat 144, which was based on the Fiat 127. Malcolm Bricklin – the gentleman who brought the Subaru 360 to the US and also had his own namesake car, the Bricklin SV-1 – imported the Yugo to the US between 1985 and 1992. The 1985 price was around $4,000 which relates to around $9,000 today; that’s still less than the cheapest vehicle currently sold in the US. What a deal, eh? They sold in respectable numbers for the first couple of years with over 48,000 being sold in 1987, but by 1992 only 1,412 cars were sold in the US; ouch.

Political troubles in the homeland, this was Yugoslavia and Serbia, remember, caused a lot of build-quality issues which pretty much killed the brand in the US. If we would have been making cars during the Revolutionary War just think of what may have come out of US auto factories at that time. The local Oldsmobile dealer where I grew up was also the Yugo dealer and at the end they were giving away a Yugo with any Olds Toronado purchase. These cars filled a need at the time, mainly for young buyers; they were cheaper than almost anything else available at the time and they had a warranty, something that buyers didn’t get with a used car purchase at the time.

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This car has been well-preserved, which is nice to see. Barn Finds has published stories on the Yugo in the past and, as expected, possibly because of pre-conceived notions or just plain ol’ bandwagon-jumping, the vast majority of the comments have been negative. To me, it’s an “old” (relatively) car, highly-unusual, and it’s been preserved and loved by someone which means that it meant something to them; that isn’t something to automatically discount. Every vehicle ever made was loved by someone and no living person has a lock on which vehicles are important or worthy of preserving and caring about. Period. Can I get an amen on that? (hello?) (echo) (crickets)

042716 Barn Finds - 1988 Yugo GV - 5

I always think of early Subarus when I see a spare tire in the engine compartment. It did free up room in the back for storage and it also added more weight for winter traction with this car being front-wheel-drive. The Yugo weighed 1,800 pounds and this 1.3L four-cylinder 55 hp engine wasn’t much for speed, but it got great mpg. It doesn’t quite have the power as this one shown on YouTube does. I don’t have a Yugo on my wish list, but I appreciate every single vehicle that was ever made so for that reason alone I like this car. That it’s been so well-preserved is amazing and I can almost guarantee that this meager, unloved-by-the-masses, $2,500 car would have more people around it at a cars and coffee event than almost any Ferrari would. Can you appreciate this car for what it was at the time, or are you just not a Yugo fan under any circumstances?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    I think the Yugo was a pretty good car ( although, I’ve never actually spent any time in one) I can’t think of any car that has been riddled more, surpassing Rambler and Studebaker.It wasn’t any worse than the crap Detroit was making at the time. I’d buy this, just for the fun of it.There was a movie called “Drowning Mona” with Danny DeVito that was hilarious. The whole town drove Yugo’s. Great find.

    • Ed P

      “Drowning Mona” mostly used Dodge Omni’s and Plymouth Horizon’s because they had trouble finding enough Yugo’s for the movie.

  2. redwagon

    joke at the time: what is a heated rear window in a yugo known as? hand warmers.

    seriously i recall these from my almost youth. they were cheap, they were advertised as cheap and folks did buy them. they came in colors and they were cheap. few knew they were based on a fiat and fewer knew exactly where they were built let alone could find it on a map. with the build and quality issues the term ‘yugo’ soon entered the lexicon in a derogatory manner to describe anything that was poorly done or of particularly low quality, ie my history report was a yugo.

    i like the basic design – it looks to be a functional hatch and the fact that it is based on an early fiat design suggests it is mechanically simple and easy to fix. the fact that this one looks as good as it does and still runs indicates that god and miracles still exist. seriously i think the problem was that parts, either new or used, were of very low quality. when things break and all you have to replace them is of poor quality you get frustrated quickly. i wonder if actual fiat parts would be a better replacement option?

    last one i saw running was at an outdoor plant store in michigan. the fellow sold all sorts of plants for outdoor home use in various types of raised beds depending on the plants’ requirements. he used it as a utility vehicle for driving plants from his production beds to the exit and moving rock, gravel and soil to the plant beds. it was a cool business and a neat way to use a car without getting stranded far from home.

  3. Eric

    Oh I thought this sold it was at the end of their driveway for a couple of weeks then it disappeared… interesting… and it was located on US 41 north of Rapid River mi… in between Rapid River and marquette

    • GoodoleMike

      It’s a Yooper car for sure, eh ?

  4. DaveT

    I’ll just leave this here,

    http://youtu.be/fS1Vcmreanc

  5. CJay

    When the hollow plastic gear shift lever on one these snapped, no replacement was available. As a temporary repair, we were able to secure a 12 inch long 1/4 black wall pipe into the stub. They used it like that till they junked the car. A 4 year old Chevette was a better car than a new Yugo.

  6. Dutch 1960

    When I regularly junkyard dived in the late 1980s/early 1990’s, the yards had many of these, in perfect visual shape, with 25k to 30k miles on them. 58k miles may be some sort of a longevity record.

  7. packrat

    Some mechanic will buy this as a masterpiece–to detail its foibles, to keep it crisp despite its constraints. It’s the mechanic’s analog to a bodyman buying a Subaru 360 and patching/maintaining it rust-free.

  8. Joe Nose

    Need to rewatch “Infinite Playlist”.

  9. jim s

    if it has no rust it would be an intown daily driver, no bids yet so maybe seller would take an offer. nice find.

  10. Bill

    I wish i could find one closer to me. Not a “great” car, but a poiece of history worth keeping and using.
    Also a handy punchline if you like self depreciating humour.

  11. Fred

    Well worthy of being preserved, even though one of the lowest quality cars ever. Maybe for that reason? It would probably draw the largest crowd at any local car show. Keep it in a humidity controlled space, drive it a few hundred miles a year and enjoy.

  12. redwagon

    btw a 1987 yugo the first and only vehicle to drive off of the mackinaw bridge. rip l.a.p.

  13. George

    They were good, basic transportation. I would get one for a daily driver, except… The reason that many ended up junked when they looked to be in otherwise good condition is that they tended to blow their head gaskets early and often. Most of them blew by 60K miles at the latest. It was cheaper to junk them than to replace the head gaskets and often the heads themselves.

    Are there fixes today for the head problems? Is there enough of a FIAT interchange to use their parts? I don’t know. Does anyone know the answers?

  14. Ralph P.

    Thankfully it’s a stick shift. They had one of these on display at the NC State Fair back when it was first imported. What struck me first was the full size spare tire in the engine compartment, and the next was there was no radio (it was available as an option). Finally, it reminded me of a ’80 Ford Fiesta, only a little more flimsy in quality.

  15. Birdman

    amen!

  16. Mark P

    On your comment about the value of a car to a particular person. Years ago when my son was young, say 15 yrs old, I remember him commenting about a really beat up car a guy was driving next to us in traffic. His comments were about its condition, who’d be seen driving it and so on. I explained to him that that car may be all the person can afford, that every day it starts and gets him back and forth to work he’s probably very thankful to have it. He actually took my comments to heart and over the years I’ve seen hints of what I said come back from him concerning other things he’s seen. The Yugo to me was very close in design to the Fiat 128 I had around 1975, all the way to the spare tire mounted stored over the engine.

    • Scotty G Staff

      That is a great parenting-101 story, Mark! If all parents were as thoughtful and insightful as you are, just think what a great world this would be. Well done, sir.

  17. Ed P

    When these cars came to America, American car quality was on the upswing. That made them look all the worse. Plus, cheap cars tend to not get the same attention to maintenance and repair as more expensive cars.

  18. Steven C

    I wish i had bought some of these in the mid 90’s when you could get runners for $150

  19. grenade

    The Yugo is one of those cars that I can’t explain why I want one. No justification whatsoever, but if somebody gave one to me, I would take it. I’d probably do something funny with it, but they’re odd, so an engine or body swap would be just as fun. I tried to buy a local guy’s Yugo for years. He wouldn’t sell it. I also want a LADA Niva 4×4. Why do I want these things?

  20. Mike

    These cars were part of many jokes in my area back in the day! If you had one you could be sure someone was going to make a sarcastic remark at you!

  21. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    My wife and I owned one early on in our marriage as we were young and still going to school and needed a cheap vehicle for transportation. It had plenty of power and shifted great and fortunately the gearshift lever never snapped off. It got great gas mileage around town and then it developed a major engine oil leak at about 6K miles. We had the dealer repair it under warranty and within roughly 2,500 miles another major engine oil leak developed. We had it repaired at the dealer again and even with a loaner car this was becoming a major inconvenience. Then, a few hundred miles later another major engine oil leak developed and it turns out they were all coming from the same source. That was the last straw and we simply told the dealer that we wanted our money back based on the TN Lemon Law. They scoffed at us I guess thinking because they were a well respected local Volvo dealership and we were young, they’d blow us off. That was until an attorney we knew and shared the story with decided he was going to go after the dealership based on that very law where three major repairs are one in the same. I remember the day the attorney called me and said the dealer agreed to his terms and we would be receiving a check in a few days for virtually every penny we paid and sure enough we did. I’d love to have this one since it would only used as a conversation starter at local car gatherings.

  22. William H

    A friend of mine had one of these. I was over at his house and he was complaining about working on it all the time. He made the off comment about trading it for a case of beer if someone would make the offer, so the deal was struck. He helped me get it to my house and I had it running in about an hour. It was what it was but I could putter around town in it all day long on $5 of gas. I ended up trading it off to a guy for a locked up Nailhead. That guy put what was basically the body on a tube chassis to run at the local track.. Looked pretty normal from up front but the cage where he sat stuck out beyond the rear where the hatchback used to be.

  23. Cebo

    The joke was they’re coming out with a four door model. They’ll call it a” we go”.
    A friend of mine had one. He was picking it up by the rear bumper showing us how light the rear was, and it broke off in his hands! We had a good laugh

    • Ed P

      I suppose a bumper jack would be out of the question.

  24. St. Ramone de V8

    A dealer of Italian cars here in Vancouver took on a dealership role with these. There were posters promoting the warranty and price of the 1987 models. By 1989, they still had most of them, the ’87’s, the seats had faded, and the posters were also faded, with the warranty particulars struck out with a marker. Don’t know if they were good or bad, but clearly hard to sell.

  25. Wd62vette

    We have a 1986 Yugo GV (great value) at car cruises more people want there picture taken with this car than any other car we own. The only reason our Yugo survived is at 16,000 miles the motor broke a piston and was parked in a garage. Now has 17,000 original miles. My wife said “it is the cheapest built car she has seen or ridden in her life” but, we love this car like a family member.

  26. Pastor GARY

    would love to have this car will trade for 97 GVX V6 vw jetta r/b motor new clutch,timming hardware and cams,rods mains and rings with valve job.needs some tlc. cars black/black.

  27. PJ

    There is one I bought 19-20 yrs ago (convertible cabrio) sitting in a garage in Naples Fl. Brother-in-law tinkered with it for awhile but left town for a new life and left it in a non-running condition. So it sits…in case anyone might be wanting one 1991 I believe

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