The Yugo—A Tribute!

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The Yugo was Soviet Bloc Yugoslavia’s greatest automotive export. It was soooooo bad that it was good! The Yugo was a car where “carpet” was listed as a standard feature. Boasting a rear-window defroster was reportedly to keep your hands warm while you pushed it. The official name for the Yugo was Zastava Koral, because the cheap, subcompact was built by the Zastava corporation. Unlike many Eastern European cars at the time, the Zastava factory had major ambitions to sell to Western markets, especially to the imperialist Yankee pig-dog oppressors in America. Created with the help of Fiat designers and marketed for young people, only 45 original Yugos were handmade on that legendary date in crappy automotive production, October 2nd 1978.

Malcolm Bricklin—the entrepreneur who had brought the first Subarus to our shores—introduced the Yugo to the U.S in 1985. Selling for $3,990, the Yugo GV (GV stands for “Great Value”) was significantly the cheapest new car for sale in the country. The American unveiling took place at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, and promoted with a 10 year /100,000 mile warranty. Part of the Yugo auto show hype was the sexy teen “Yugo-Girls,” who were clad in white T-shirts with a big “Yugo” plastered across their teen breasts, and adorned in ultra short bright red miniskirts and 4″ high-heel shoes that matched the car colors. To appease our American sensibilities, the first three Yugos were red, white, and blue.


Nearly 800,000 were produced and 142,000 were exported to the U.S. Sales were initially strong as car buyers were attracted to the low price. Car reviews were less strong. The Yugo was charitably described as being unsuited for American driving. Consumer Reports called the Yugo a “barely assembled bag of nuts and bolts.” The 1985 Yugo GV was rated by Time magazine as one of the worst cars of all time. Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the music! They coined it “The Mona Lisa of bad cars.” (Maybe because when the Yugo broke down, you weren’t sure if it was smiling at you or not?) Others said the Eastern Bloc produced Yugo had the distinct feeling of something assembled at gunpoint. The engines went ka-blooey, the electrical system would sizzle, and things would just fall off. Yugo. Or not


The Yugo also gained Hollywood notoriety in 1995 when Bruce Willis drove one of these babies in Die Hard: With A Vengeance. Also, a 1987 Yugo GV was prominently featured in the Tom Hanks/Dan Ackroyd movie Dragnet. Sgt. Joe Friday (Aykroyd) quipped: “After losing the two previous vehicles we had been issued, the only car the department would release to us at this point was an unmarked 1987 Yugo.a Yugoslavian import donated as a test vehicle by the government of that country and reflecting the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian technology.”


Check this out the Yugo Cabrio convertible was introduced with many GVX features as standard equipment. This would be a hipster’s wet dream to own a Yugo convertible and drive it ironically around.


Yugo’s became a lexicon in our culture also in the form of “Yugo jokes.” Examples:

Q. How do you double the value of a Yugo?
A. Fill the tank with gas!

Q. What comes with every Yugo User’s Manual?
A. The bus schedule.


Sales of Yugo in the United States ended in 1992. The company managed to chug along in Serbia under the auspices of Zastava Automobili, which is owned by the Serbian government. At 9 a.m. on Nov. 11, the last Yugo rolled off the assembly line — or what workers there like to call a drag race. Regardless, Yugo remains a happy fixture in American automotive pop culture. Where is the Yugo, today, when we really need it? Oh where have you gone, my Yugo-Girls?

Yugo ad window defroster keeps your hands warm when pushing a Yugo
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  • Hil Boy says:

    I ended up with one of these cars after a strange deal with a car sales yard. It was not sophisticated, but the little beast just ran and ran. We clocked up 50,000 miles in it before giving it to my sister and she ran it for another 10 years. I only ever took it out on the motorway once and vowed never to do that again. Way too slow and cumbersome. But around town it was pretty good. Also, it was very, very solid (the old FIAT metal presses must have been pretty well worn). It had several parking bingles but always emerged virtually unscathed while leaving a trail of destruction behind it.
    The kids nick-named him the Nigel Yugo car and were very sad when he went on Special Yugo Holiday. Hell, I even miss the little fella sometimes.

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