More on Yugos

As I started getting the old Yugo back on line, I developed an interest in the Zastava lines (Yugos in their home country).  When I bought the little car, I paid $999 for a little car with 18,000 miles, and I classified it as a disposable car.  As it passed 60,000 miles with no significant problems – nothing ever broke that I couldn’t fix in a parking lot – I realized that the Yugo wasn’t nearly so bad as stories were.

Stories?  I can’t be certain, but I’m willing to bet that the folks who write tales of the Yugo being the worst car ever haven’t driven one nearly so far as I drove mine.  I suspect the authors never drove one so far as Trego to Libby – one of my favorite Yugo drives.  And it was just this week that I discovered the GV badge stood for “good value.” 

Now my 1988 Yugo came from Zastava’s greatest year for quality control.  The story is that Bricklin got the assembly line workers a raise of $1.23 per hour to get the most conscientious workers on the US export line.  It’s probably true – the parts that did go bad – a heater switch, the oil pressure sending unit, a spring in the door latch, the windshield wiper arm – were all parts that looked good and were installed correctly. 

Still, my research showed where Bricklin erred in selecting the little econobox for the least expensive car available in the US.  He could have brought in a Yugo pickup to go accompany it.  The photo I have downloaded definitely shows one that has been driven hard and put away wet.  Still, with it rated for a load of 500 kilograms, and the lowest price on the market, I think we might have seen more Yugos in rural areas.   It is a cute little pickup.


A Rare Ride

Back in 1990, I bought a 1988 Yugo. It had 18,000 miles on it, and I paid $999 for it. Couldn’t bring myself to pay $1,000 for a Yugo – but I have long had the habit of buying low mileage used cars. In the next 46,000 miles, the shifter broke twice and had to be rewelded, the oil pressure sending unit developed a leak, the passenger side wiper failed, the driver side door latch spring broke, and the switch for the heater fan died. Incredible as it seems, I spent more money on speeding tickets than repairs. I heard my first Yugo joke as I was putting the license plates on – 56-1040A . . . and one of my witty students commented, “That seems a little pretentious – you should have 1040EZ.”

Mike Cuffe’s Model T story got me wondering about relative scarcity – there were 141,651 Yugos sold in the United States – and, according to, there were less than 2,500 on the road in 2013. There were 15 million model T Fords built, and I’ve seen estimates that 200,000 exist in some driveable form. If those numbers are correct, we’re looking at about one out of 75 Model T’s surviving and one out of 56 Yugos – though the last 8 years may have been rougher on Yugo numbers than T numbers. At any rate, you’re more likely to encounter a Model T than a Yugo on American roads. According to Wikipedia, there are 2 still on the road in the United Kingdom.

Car and Driver, in it’s 2018 article “A Quick Look at the Yugo, the Worst Car in History” shared the data for the Yugo GV – and I don’t believe it changed much for my 1988 model.

The Yugo started out as a Fiat 127 – and got shortened a bit when the Serbs started building them (it is worth mentioning that the Fiat 127 had not just a sedan version, but also a pickup version – actually it was kind of a cute mini-pickup).  Production of the Yugo ended in November, 2008, which, along with the interchangeability with Fiat parts suggests that keeping the Yugo running may not be a difficult task.  Since it has an interference engine, I think the first task is a new timing belt.

I didn’t plan on keeping the Yugo – I left Dad with instructions to sell it in 2000.  I didn’t realize that my 6-year-old daughter would override those instructions, getting her grandfather to park it under a shed and keep it for her.  When we returned to Trego, and started cleaning out the sheds, I was startled to encounter it – but Sam pointed out that she knew exactly where it had been.

So it’s time to buy a few parts and start running the little thing again.  I think I have already heard all of the Yugo jokes – but Sam may have missed some.