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Right at Home on a Trailer: 1986 Zastava Yugo

How horrid is the Yugo? One measure of its popularity is the Yugo Club Facebook page: last post in 2023, and all of 370 followers. Rack that up against total production from 1980 to 2008 of almost 795,000 copies, sold all over the world. Perhaps those 370 souls own the only un-rotted, un-crashed, not-yet-left-by-the-roadside Yugos on the planet? The US was not lucky enough to be spared this pestilence: none other than Malcolm Bricklin, sire of multiple bankrupt ventures including his own car company, chose communist Yugoslavian automaker Zastava to foist upon us the cheapest car we’ve seen on these shores. A new Yugo cost less than $4000 in 1986, while a Honda Civic would run you $7500. But was the Yugo still a perfect example of “price far exceeding value”? Ponder the fact that in 1992 128,000 Yugos – nearly all of the US imports – were recalled for violating emissions standards, and that was after a seat-belt recall in 1986. Emissions and safety are basic tenets of carmaking, and the rules are not a secret. It’s astonishing that the Yugo was even allowed into the US.  Today, we investigate a project Yugo (yes, somewhat redundant I know), here on Facebook Marketplace, listed with an asking price of $4000. Bruce – thanks for the tip, keep them coming!

This mournful Yugo has been sitting in a garage for over twenty years, probably due to its broken timing belt. That’s bad news because the Fiat-based 1.1-liter four-cylinder is an interference engine. If the timing belt broke, much worse could be in store. Engine aside, we suspect this Yugo has accumulated many other reasons to sit during the intervening years. Parts can be had from here; a timing belt is $16.80, but the work order – once you fix the brakes, flush everything, replace the tires, and get it running – will be a significant percentage of your purchase price. When all’s said and done, you’ll have a vaguely-shifting, vaguely-braking car that can barely make 60 mph in fourteen seconds. Hills and highway merging require planning. I can’t even imagine four people in a Yugo – performance must sink by half.

This Yugo’s interior is in decent condition after all these years, particularly since it was made of the very cheapest plastic imaginable. Later cars were a bit better – most automotive journalists regard the ’88 to ’92 versions with a degree of grudging … acceptance. Yugo was not big on interior appointments – there’s no glove box, and the only vents are those two you see centered in the middle of the dash, though buyers did enjoy an am/fm radio. Don’t even think about air conditioning.

Reverse lights were an afterthought, hung below the rear bumper. A rear defroster came along only in 1986 – before that, I suppose you could mount a candle on the rear parcel shelf. Fans will say that the prices of Yugos are rising, but so is the price of everything else. Essentially, the Yugo has just about held its value since new – not a terrible result. I guess if I had to have a Yugo, I’d swap this engine for a larger Fiat type and hope for the best; what do you think?

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Sam61

    I remember a new Yugo on display, roped off, at Lennertz Oldsmobile in Merrillville, IN. Just across the street from the Y&W drive-in for those that know the area. People did crowd in to see the Yugo…there were occasional United Steel Workers folks picketing.

    Like 8
  2. Avatar photo Rosseaux

    I never understood the market for ultra cheap-o new cars when decent used cars were available. In 1986, you could find a 2 or 3 year old Tercel or other cheap, reliable import for under $5500 and get years of trouble-free use out of it. Plus a proven service network.

    I remember the old SNL skit about the Adobe–“The little car that’s made out of clay!” For the spoof advertisement they used an actual Yugo covered in orange play dough.

    Like 13
    • Avatar photo Rosseaux

      Correction—they used a LeCar. Pretty close though.

      Like 8
    • Avatar photo nlpnt

      It was a Renault LeCar.

      Goss Dodge in Burlington, VT used to sell Yugos as a sideline. They had a fully optioned-up 5 speed GVX with alloys, body kit, black over silver paint and a price tag north of six grand parked right out front for most of 1988. I suspect anyone seriously inquiring about buying one would’ve been sold up to a similarly dated but far superior Dodge Omni “America”.

      Like 8
  3. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    Stuff an LS in it.

    …or at least a Suzuki Cultus 3.

    I had one, long ago. As a road car, the Yugo/Zastiva/Fiat 127 was pretty good. But engineering fails were all over…the interference design being the least of them.

    Moar likely, THAT the belt was LIKELY to break. It’s what killed mine.

    The seller should find a good fabricator, to put in a Toyota, or Suzuki, or BMC Mini, driveline into it.

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo James Fenner

    Heated rear window kept your hands warm while you pushed it.

    Like 20
    • Avatar photo Michelle Rand Staff

      What do you call a restored Yugo? A wheelbarrow. What do you call a Yugo at the top of a mountain? A miracle. Yugo with a flat tire? Totaled.

      I was dying to put these in the article, thanks for coming up with one joke, so I could rally back with a few!

      Like 29
      • Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

        Wow! Been awhile since we’ve heard those and still,perfectly appropriate.
        Yugo but it don’t go.
        Once described as “a Communist version of an Italian copy of an English economy car..”
        What could possibly go wrong?😱

        Like 8
      • Avatar photo Bobha

        What great restraint you have!

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo ToniM

        You could also have made that mountain joke with the later Dodge Neon. Ask me how I know. I was trying to get that thing up a mountain and was debating if I should ask someone to get out or cut holes in the floor so we could Flinstone and help it out.

        Like 2
      • Avatar photo Joe S.

        How do you double the resale value of a Yugo? Fill the gas tank. Why did the Yugo have a standard rear window defroster and wiper? So your hands wouldn’t get cold when you pushed it.

        Like 1
    • Avatar photo Moit

      I remember in the 80’s an Olds dealer was so desperate to get rid of these.
      “Free yugo with purchase of a new olds”

      Like 2
  5. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    The You-don’t-go was not a bad car by design.

    If the design had been taken over to the Japanese, it would have been great in short order.

    Driving dynamics were superb. Even less-successful aspects, such as the gearshift, which got a lot of complaints…was no worse than with the Beetle.

    It just needed to be re-worked to HOLD UP.

    Like 2
  6. Avatar photo Steve R

    Wretched little car that will barely be a footnote in automotive history. It will only be rememberer due to its low, low price, awful reputation and its country of origin.

    Steve R

    Like 8
    • Avatar photo Joe S.

      And the one that killed Leslie Ann Pluhar, when it was blown off the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.

      Like 1
  7. Avatar photo Kenneth Carney

    You might as well invite Hyundai and
    KIA to this lemon fest too. Their early
    offerings were just as bad if not worse than the Yugo shown here. In
    fact, one of my adopted sons referred
    to them as Japanese Yugos. In fact,
    a banker friend of mine once told me
    that he had to buy back 13 KIA sedans under Florida’s Lemon Law.
    They were indeed that bad. Got to
    the point that the banks wouldn’t
    finance ’em for fear of getting stung.
    That’s why you see these cars with
    lifetime warranties today. Both Hyundai and KIA were forced to offer
    such plans to appease the banks at that time. Best thing to do with this
    car would be to convert to an electric
    vehicle for those short trips to the smoke shop somewhere to get a Dew. After all, the gas engines weren’t that much better.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo KenB

      Hyundai and Kia are Korean, not Japanese.

      Like 9
  8. Avatar photo angryjonny

    Put it in “H”!

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    A four door Yugo? We-go.

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo justpaul

    Give the folks at Yugo this much: they were honest about the fact that they had designed and built a disposable car.

    Like 3
  11. Avatar photo ACZ

    Michelle, that was a great write-up!!! It took me a whole ten minutes to stop laughing. You missed one thing, though. Does the price include the trailer? It looks so natural sitting there.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Michelle Rand Staff

      Thanks, you made my day!

      Like 1
  12. Avatar photo Budster

    Great for Arizona ‘yard art’ , but for that it needs to be ‘free’.

    Like 2
  13. Avatar photo John

    Reminds me of the SNL sketch on a ‘cheap’ car called the Adobe … made of clay. Might be on YouTube if one looks it up.

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Michael Tischler

    My best friend Larry worked at a Ford dealer in Turnersville N.J..He called me the day they received their 1st Yugo.I read this article this morning and then checked my Facebook and low and behold there his picture that his sister posted. I last saw in in 93′ when I flew home from AZ for mom’s funeral. What a coincidence !

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo t-bone bob

    Located in Greensboro, NC

    Like 1
  16. Avatar photo Troy

    $4,000 for $100 bucks in scrap metal I’m in the wrong business

    Like 3
  17. Avatar photo Roy Smith

    I used to visit a dealer (about 1989) that was dual line Oldsmobile and Yugo. He had two-year-old new Yugo’s in the back of the showroom for less than $2,000 and a half-dozen new “parts” cars out back. Disposable for sure.

    Like 1
  18. Avatar photo Bill Schulz

    The ULTIMATE Yugo joke: My wife and I simultaneously happily owned two of them over a period of 12 years. Actually, the original #2 car was killed by 60 ft. of an 80′ ice-laden pine tree at less than 5K miles… bent everything but still the doors open/closed and it ran just fine.
    Put over 100K trouble-free miles on the other two and finally sold ’em, still running great and looking quite presentable. Did CT to WI round trips a couple of times and CT to FL when we retired.
    They were FIATs built under license (with a dedicated body shell) and, at the time, they were better built than the Italian-built FIATs. All that was required is to do the recommended maintenance at the proper time and they just kept tickin’ along.
    They were roomy, comfortable, fun-to-drive, economical, blah, blah, blah.
    So, the jokes on the rest of the world. They were a bargain and filled the role they were designed to fill.
    Period.

    Like 6
  19. Avatar photo Rick

    $4000.00 … For that 😂😂😂

    Like 3
  20. Avatar photo Bama

    The $4000 is for the trailer, the junk on it is free with the sale!

    Like 2
  21. Avatar photo John Jasper

    I think he errored on the 0s. I believe he must of meant $400.00.

    Like 2
  22. Avatar photo Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Back in 1964 my father and I cut the roof off of a 1952 Dodge Coronet because I liked convertibles with the top down. I drove that around the farm and up and down the dirt road to my cousins house. A Yugo would be perfect for that.
    Or for those of us who love Cadillacs, put one in the trunk as a spare

    Like 1
  23. Avatar photo V

    i thought that the car got its name after a group of drinkers finished there beer and needed more and no one volunteered to go and get more . every time a name would come up that person would say no yugo…

    Like 2
  24. Avatar photo Gregory e Brunelle

    A magazine review of the GV model said that the shifter had the smoothness of a baseball bat in a barrel of coconuts. I’ve wanted one ever since.

    Like 1
  25. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    I’ve told this story before…..

    About 8 years ago, I registered my nice ’76 BMW 2002 into the huge Arthritis Foundation Car Show in Columbus, Ohio (my hometown). Upon arrival that Saturday, I was given my entry packet, and instructed to go to the area where the BMWs would be.

    When I got there, there was only one other BMW in the section. BUT, the entire Yugo club had showed up next to the BMWs! Every model of Yugo from 2 doors to 4 doors, even convertibles. And all in perfect condition! I believe there were about 12 Yugos represented, as compared to our paltry 2 BMWs. It was kinda humiliating….

    Like 0
  26. Avatar photo PRA4SNW Member

    Ah, another Malcolm Bricklin creation – the PT Barnum of the automotive world.

    It’s hard to say which was his biggest failure – the Subaru 360, the SV-1, or the Yugo. All were okay ideas for the time, just never executed properly.

    Like 1
  27. Avatar photo Eric in NC

    I wonder if the air cooled replacement engine at front of trailer is included?

    Like 0
  28. Avatar photo Bill Schulz

    What really killed the Yugo was the dethroning of Tito. That led to the breakup of the country into all its factions cobbled into one at the end of WW1. This led to said factions shooting at each other instead of building cars.
    There was a 4-door, a Zastava-built FIAT Uno, in the pipeline, one of which I saw at Yugo’s Ramsey, NJ, HQ.
    Oh, what could have been, especially after the original 55hp 1.1 liter model got all sorted and fuel injected. BTW, the last ones imported, the GVX, was a blast to drive what with the FI 64hp 1.3 liter engine.

    Like 2
  29. Avatar photo Rex Kahrs Member

    A guy walks into the auto parts store and asks the clerk “Can you give me a gas cap for a Yugo?”.

    “Seems like a fair trade” answers the clerk.

    Like 2

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