The Best Worst Car Ever: 1986 Yugo GV

1986 Yugo GV

The Yugo has been called many things over the years, but I highly doubt the words best and Yugo have ever been in the same sentence. I may be the first to ever include both words in one sentence, so here it goes! This 1986 Yugo GV is the best looking one I have ever seen! For all of its flaws and short comings the Yugo has soldiered on as basic transportation for countless masses across the globe. Most have been driven into the ground, resurrected, and driven into the ground once more. It is rare to find one in this immaculate and original of condition, so if you’re interested in owning or simply want to take a closer look at the Best Worst Car ever be sure to take a look at it here on eBay or find it in El Cajon, California.

Yugo 1100cc Motor

Calling the Yugo the worst car ever really isn’t all that accurate. For a car that cost so little brand new, they were actually well built and durable. Most owners complained that the engine would fail after only 25,000 miles, but they typically fail to mention that they rarely, if ever, serviced the motor. Being of Fiat design, it was imperative that the timing belt be changed regularly to avoid a catastrophic failure. The 1.1 liter inline four is of interference design, so a timing belt failure would typically cause damage to the valve train and pistons. There were of course other problems that plagued the Yugo, but most of these issues were common place among most cheap cars.

Yugo GV Interior

Most Yugo owners will tell you that certain years are more desirable than others, as build quality varied based on Yugoslavia’s political situation at the time of production. Cars built between 1986 and 1990 being of the best quality all around. During these years quality control was exceptional, especially when it came to the interiors. As you can see this one’s interior looks to be in fantastic shape, although it does show some signs of wear. Having driven and owned many cars from this same time period, I haven’t seen many with interiors in as nice of condition as this one. Obviously it is very minimalistic, but plastics from this era typically are tried out, discolored and cracked. To have survived this well suggests that either Yugo used quality plastics or this car has been very well cared for, or perhaps a bit of both!

Yugo GV

For all their flaws and bad press, the Yugo was actually a decent little car for the money. It wasn’t by any means a hot hatch or an all-around great car, but it wasn’t ever meant to be. It was basic transportation that anyone could afford. If you took proper care of it, your Yugo would keep getting you from point A to point B. With a 10 year 100k mile warranty, Zastava (the manufacture of the Yugo) and IAI(Malcolm Bricklin’s business that imported them) must have had considerable faith in the durability of the little car.

Survivor 1986 Yugo GV

You might think I’m crazy defending the Yugo, but I can’t help but admit I appreciate it for what it was. Would a VW GTi be more fun than this Yugo? Of course. Would it be faster? Sure, but it also wouldn’t be as interesting or unique. And trust me, you won’t ever find a GTi in this condition for just $2k! To some the Yugo GV might have been the worst car ever, but I for one am glad to see that at least one is still in nice condition and on the road.

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Comments

  1. tom

    I heard they were planning a four door version of the Yugo. However, disappointing sales put an end to project development.
    It was to be called the Wego.

    • pro4art

      They DID plan on selling a 4 door, with a slightly larger engine, with an auto trans. Can’t recall the whole story at this late date, but think there was something like 50 examples built, which were not for sale. Just mules for design work.

      • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

        Design work on a Yugo…not a whole lot going on there anyhow.

  2. Jim

    LOVE IT !!! Just like my wife tells me, wherever ‘yugo’, I go ……lmao

  3. jim s

    as i noted on the otas posting, these and the lada interest me because of the design link to fiat. and as you noted with the correct service and care they will run for a long time. the web shows clubs for these cars. and in the past people in some countries waited in line to buy them. the way the bidding is going on this one it may sell for more then they did new. there is a yugo still running in my area, i smile very time i see it.

  4. mike

    personally i liked them but never owned one.if the car was used as intended….city car and shorter trips…it was great.but a lot of owners bought them for the fuel mileage and then drove 50-100 miles a day on the open roads at 60-70 for hours..not what the original;design was intended for…low price italian city car…and being a ”fiat” abarth pats worked.had one local that was setup for scca racing and it was fast and handled very well.also one that was made into a pickup for the local garage.nice car that got a bad reputation by USA drivers.

  5. Brian

    Josh, my friend, I think your being too kind to the Yugo. I have very vivid memories of these cars and their short comings. To say these cars were not entirely bad would make you the optimist of the day! A teacher at my school bought a new one – what a dog! Died completely at 30,000 miles and he swapped it for a K-car. These cars had a great deal of maintenance associated with them, like 20,000 mile timing belt changes. Malcolm wanted to sell these to American who were just getting used to high quality, low service cars like Honda, Toyota, and Subaru. Malcolm’s talent was in pitching the big idea, move fast, make money, spend alot of money making the product look way more successful than it was, and get out before the roof caved in. There’s a very informative book written about the Yugo. I won’t mention the author’s name or the title, but those interested can google it. The whole story goes about just as you might image. Everything involving getting these cars to US shores was a struggle and the cars were so bad that they had to do alot of work (safety and smog) on the first batch imported to get the feds to allow them to be sold. My take away was that Malcolm felt he could make some money selling the cheapest car in America rather than he had faith in the product itself – it was made good enough that the gov would allow it to be sold here – and that was good enough for him!

    These cars are interesting 30 years later, just like the Edsel was 30 years ago. They have a cult following, outside of that circle, people don’t know what they are or remember them and laugh. You’d be one daring dude to attempt daily drive one today, between breakdowns and safety (collision) concerns! In the end, you’d be disgusted but hopefully unharmed from the experience. Parts are still available, but not at AutoZone. You’ll get it running again, but not in time for work in the morning. It would be a cool toy to drive around the neighborhood and maybe to the market down the street (a substitute golf cart in my neck of the woods) or museum piece, but that’s about it.

    • pro4art

      I’ll be driving my daily driver Yugo to the Mid-Ohio racetrack this WE, Sat, crusing at indicated 80MPH, with a little more as needed to get out of the fast lane, to let faster cars past.
      And no, my speedo isn’t off anymore than other cars. It is a short 1 hour trip one way, but will come back home instead of moteling it, and do it again on Sun.

      • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

        If you need parts there’s a complete shell at Woody’s on McKinley Ave. here in beeutiful Columbus, Ohio.

  6. jim s

    it is now at $2800!

  7. MikeH

    The Yugo was not at all a bad car. It was an old European car. It was based on the Fiat 127 that came out about 1970 and was old technology then. It required a lot of maintenance that American drivers didn’t provide. Just like the 124 that got a bad rap in the US because the “engine just blew up”. When you asked them if they changed the timing belt, you got a blank stare. The Yugo [Zastava] was a throwback to the days of old British cars–great cars if you spent your Sunday afternoons doing maintenance. Americans, particularly those who buy cars based on price, don’t do that.

  8. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    You know how to get your Yugo to 60mph? Behind a tow truck. How to get it over 60mph? Push it off a tall cliff. How to double the value? Fill the tank with gas. You know why the back window had a defroster? To keep your hands warm in winter, while you’re pushing it.

    • pro4art

      My 1100CC 4 speed Yugo will touch 80Mph indicated in 3rd gear.

  9. BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

    @Brian- ‘swapped it for a K-car’. Hilarious ! Like the blind leading the naked.

    • Brian

      Yeah he was a good guy, but not a car guy! One of my friend’s brother married his daughter and ended up with the K car as well. That poor old K was given hell, but took the abuse for alot longer than any car should! Oil changes? We don’t need no stinkin’ oil changes!

  10. fred

    I’ve always wondered if these cars were truly as bad as some web material represents them to be. The timing belt thing explains a lot. Wonder if the 100K warranty covered regular belt replacement and owners just didn’t bother to bring them in?

    The country that produced the Vega can’t say too much about the Yugo. Not every car is a gem.

    Like 1
    • Brian

      Fred, I think the Vega and Yugo were pretty comparable in terms of quality and longevity. The problem was that the American buyers were tired of cars that fell apart like those ’70s models (Vega, Pinto, Chevette, Aspen/Volare, etc.) And fell in love with their Japanese imports because of having those cars previously. If Malcolm and Zastava had been able to woww the American buyer with a “modern day” VW Beetle for $3,995.00, they’d both very likely be major players in the US, if not the world, auto trade today. As it turned out, Yugo just made Americans hug their Civics and Corollas alittle tighter every night. I understand that it was common, in the earlest cars, for new Yugos to arrive at the port and come off the ship wear 4 different brands of tires.

      • Joe Howell

        I bought a new Vega and actually liked it, I traded it after about 2 years for a van. I also had a family hand-me down Pinto wagon that was a great car for 20 years and 140,000 miles before rust finally killed it. If I lived in Arizona I would still be driving my Westmoreland built VW diesel pickup that went 263,000 miles in 21 years of all weather service before rust rendered it unsafe. The much worshipped 70’s Jap cars didn’t fair much better, how many of them do you see? No deposit no return cars also. Rust never sleeps……………

  11. Dolphin Member

    The owner of this Yugo must have actually liked the car. That owner must also have been the exact opposite of 95% of the rest of Yugo owners, who usually bought cars like the Yogo, Hyundai Pony, or Subaru 360 simply because they were real cheap to buy. I was tempted to add “—both the cars and the buyers”, but that might be unfair to some buyers. Maybe they just wanted an inexpensive new car as a commuter and grocery getter for a few years, until they could afford something better.

    Problem is, most people who bought cheap cars like that either couldn’t or wouldn’t care for and maintain them well, and they went downhill faster than most other cars, giving those makes a bad name.

    The seller’s question—When was the last time you saw a Yugo this clean?—might be a good one, but it leads to the next question:

    Why would anyone spend thousands of dollars for a vintage Yugo, even this clean, instead of a decent vintage [insert your favorite affordable make/model here] for the same money?

    • pro4art

      What vintage car would you buy for $4400? That price gets you a daily driver car, that probably would need a total restore to be anything interesting.
      This Yugo would cause people to stop in their tracks to look at it. Mine is better than average, and rarely do I stop anywhere that doesn’t get someone to come up and ask questions.

  12. Henrie

    At always amazes me to see the cargo loads in some of this type of car in some countries.
    They carry goats, sheep , etc. , and yet the cars slog on. Maybe unloved but not unwanted.
    Here in South Africa in the rural parts , cars similar to this are regularly used for the transport of livestock.

  13. RickyM

    Stunning condition ! This car has been cherished. A modern little classic.

  14. thefatkid

    I had the little known about Yugo Station Wagon. It was called the WEGO

  15. Tom Stewart

    There’s a pretty good book on the history of the Yugo:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Yugo-Rise-Worst-History/dp/0809098954/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408633743&sr=8-1&keywords=yugo

    Bricklin was quite the character, to put it mildly.

  16. CaptKirk

    In the south, the station wagon was the Ya’llgo .

  17. Dolphin Member

    Tom Stewart:
    Bricklin a character? —–you got that right. The first I knew of him he was him pitching his Bricklin SV (“safety vehicle”) design for assembly in New Brunswick, one of the poorer of the Canadian provinces. He bought big V8 engines from AMC, then Ford, and got the N.B. government to put up most of the money for the factory, which they were happy to do because they badly needed the jobs. That, and they knew nothing about what it takes to play in the automobile industry.

    Sales ended up at less than 3,000 total and the project ended, with a $20+ million loss for the N.B. government. That’s chump change now, but in the early ’70s it was a fortune for a government that didn’t have it. One of the problems you hear about the SV is gullwing doors that weigh 100 pounds and sometimes were difficult to open, which seems to defeat the idea of a safety vehicle if you can’t get out of it when you want / need to.

    I’ll have to take a look at that book on the Yugo. I wonder whether there are any similarities to the SV story. Thanks for the suggestion. I don’t know about the Subaru story, but if the 360 was another mistake, right now it is lookling like he had the right adea with Subaru, but was just a acouple of decades too early.

  18. Chris N

    I test drove a slightly used one in 1987 and even with its shortcomings; poor performance, tinny and cheap, I have to say that the seats were much better than I would have expected. Very comfortable and actually better than my Honda Civic I had at the time. You will never see one roll across the auction block for $100K but they are and will be collectable for those who love limited run, unusual and quirky cars. Just for grins I would love to throw a Subaru WRX drivetrain just to see the look on peoples faces as you scream from 0-60 in 4 seconds…in a Yugo!

    • pro4art

      A lot easier would be a Honda K20 and 6 speed trans. Trans is in proper position, , and operated by cables, not solid linkage. Exhaust is facing the firewall. With a upgrade on it’s PC, you have 240HP available.
      Where I work, the company has done 8-9 K20 conversions into Fiat X1/9’s.

  19. Terry

    They all had rear window defogers, It was installed to keep your hands warm when pushing it.

  20. Koolpenguin

    In 1987 while my wife was going to grad school at Duke I sold cars at a new car dealer in Durham NC. We sold Buicks, Saabs, VW, Jaguar, Porsches, and yes…Yugos!. I joke with people that I was the #1 Yugo salesman at that dealer in 1987. I sold a few of the Yugo Sports and even a few of the convertibles. The ironic thing is that I had more customer troubles with the US made Westmoreland PA built Golfs and Jetta’s than I did any of the Yugo’s I sold. Seems like the people who bought the Yugo’s were happy to buy a new car with a warranty for $4500. There was no haggling on the price either so selling them was pretty easy. I only sold cars for a little over a year so I wasn’t around when I’m sure they started to fall apart. I also sold a few of the new Jaguar XJ6’s which I hated dealing with. We had the balls to put $5000 additional dealer profit on top of the MSRP for them and man did that piss people off! On top of that the XJ6’s had a crappy digital speedo that frequently broke and had to be replaced.

    So I look back on the Yugo’s more fondly than I do the 1987 Jags and VW’s!

  21. Gene M

    I rented a newish Yugo in Skopje in 1990 for a trip through Yugoslavia (Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia). The hatch was pre-broken and I had to load through the front door. The gas cap had to be pried off with a wrench. Other than that, it motored along without much trouble. Most traffic, other than the army, was tinier older Fiats and Renaults. It got up the mountains alright, but took its time.
    (The Yugo was made in Kragjusevac, Serbia, (sp?), a town where most of the citizens had been massacred in a Nazi payback.)
    In regard to the Rabbit post, I bought a ’79 made in PA. Like Taylor Swift says, it was nothing but “trouble, trouble.”

  22. Brian

    What IS amazing is that this car, one of the least expensive cars made in the world at that time, still has beading around the edges of the seat upholstery! Today, manufacturers can seem to find this touch to be economically feasible on even $30,000+ cars! As much as I disliked cars like these at the time, now I tend to miss those upright body styles and the simplicity of the exposed painted metal in the interior. I guess I’m not alone in that though, since 20 bids have been made on this car. In fairness, I think the Yugo will make a much better collector car that it did a commuter car in it’s day! Its funny how the mechanical issues associated with a car when it’s new can qualify the entire car to be total junk in the eyes of it’s owner, but give it 30 years and those same issue give the car character! Human nature!

    Still don’t want a Yugo but those 80’s and back touches bring back alot of memories…

  23. pro4art

    During the hot Yugo sales days, sales people made little profit for a Yugo sale. Usually, they didn’t bother with anything negative about a car, so lots of people bought them without hearing the cam belt HAD to be replaced at 30K. The dealers, most of them, didn’t have mechanics who cared to work on Yugos. In fact, they hated them. Also, cam belt changes were over priced, which ensured death to the engine.
    Many buyers were not car people, and used to driving big American cars that they never maintained, so wouldn’t think anything about never having their Yugo “looked at”.
    My local dealer would try to screw over owners who suffered the broken cam belt. Owners would call with a stalled engine, dealer would tow it in, and then call for permission ( or did a hard sale over the phone) to do an inspection. You can pull a upper cam belt cover in less than a minute, to see a broken belt. Valves were bent 98% of the time, so instead of calling the customer, a mech would tear off the head and oil pan, dump all the parts in a box, and shove it outside. The customer then had to pay $200-300 for the preageed inspection, before anymore work would be done, and they usually tried to sell customers an engine. Duh! The customers just walked away. When the dealer closed up, they had near 30 Yugos that were all the same, most of the engine in boxes in the rear seat.

    • jim s

      yes i do remember dealers doing that.

  24. jim s

    now at $3950 with more then a day to go.

    • pro4art

      Remember, a Yugo Cabrio went thru Barrett Jackson for $10,000 last year.

      • jim s

        thanks, i did not remember that. that is a lot of money!

  25. jim s

    sold for $4356!

    • Jesse Staff

      Wow, not sure if it was well sold or well bought, but hopefully both parties are happy with the results.

  26. robert

    I owned one. I pampered it. Took it for oil changes early and followed the maintenance schedule. Everything on it broke, fell apart and needed replacing. It got to where it couldn’t even go up a small hill. It was frighting to be in, and nothing on it could be trusted. It was my first car, so of course I loved it, but it was riddled with problems, broken door handles and window cranks, replaced the clutch three times, ignition broke about three times, shifting was impossible, wouldn’t go in gear or come out of gear, no tinted glass, no glove compartment, fading upholstery, burned out lights, radio that lasted a few weeks before needing to be replaced, gas cap would not come off, one time the keys were in my hand and the engine was still on and I couldn’t turn it off! knobs came off in your hand, shifter came off in hand, it was terrible and hard to believe human beings could make something so defective so intentionally bad and non functional. It last 20,000 miles and I finally gave up, I couldn’t live with the constant repairs and failing systems and it was an embarrassment to drive. my God they were all lined up dead and abandoned along the roads at the time and being carried on tow trucks. It was simply horrible and I still haven’t recovered all these decades.

  27. William Rekow

    I bought a Yugo GVX in June. I rescued it from the far back corner of a junkyard. I gave it a battery and a carb kit, and it ran. It needed a fuel pump, and I gave it that. CV joints were both done, all the boots were ripped, so I fixed those. I’m not done working on it, but I drive it to and from work six days a week. It has the five speed and the 1300. It makes plenty of power for its size, and has been a good little car. I will need to build an engine and transmission for it soon, but I am quite impressed. It has no BS, and is easy to work on. I don’t even understand why mechanics would ‘hate’ to work on them. They are quick and easy fixes for the most part, and quite rewarding.

  28. Art Hughes

    #1 thing to do, DO NOT throw it away. The GVX was never sold in big numbers, and as the story goes, only 1500 were imported. This is the most desirable, has the 1300CC/5 speed, and is the second fastest of all the models. Later ones had FI, but of course, complexity can be an issue.
    It will respond very well to a larger carb, small amount of plenum enlargement, a mild cam, and a larger exhaust, with the dual down pipe ex manifold. It will fly.
    My 1100 4 speed has those mods, and will show 80MPH in 3rd, and will still pull more in 4th. Special feature is non of the suspension is aligned, and gets a little nervous at 95MPH. They all need aligned. Front and Rear, using non stock or max settings any tech would be aware of. .

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