Last Rides Premium Selects: You Goin' Nowhere
Today’s morbidly interesting victim is a friggin’ Yugo. If you know where this is going, I think there’s little else I could possibly say to encourage you to click the jump.
My taste in cars strays wildly from that of most everyone. For me, exotics sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. If a car is bad enough, I will probably relish the idea of re-engineering it so its road-worthiness is actually somewhat plausible, not to mention more…uhh…thrilling.
See, you have the guy in the Ferrari owning something exclusive due to his bank account. I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have is a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people who take cars too seriously. Sitting way on the other end of this spectrum is the famously terrible Yugo, also exclusive, but for different reasons.
Maybe now you can perhaps understand my delight when I stumbled upon our subject car… and my sadness.
This wasn’t just any commoner-spec GV though, but a genuine GVL. From what I gather, the difference consisted of a fake basketball court glued to the dash and a special sticker on the air cleaner — you know, to show off when you have your hood open. The elemental-level modifications to the tin have been underway for some time, courtesy of
Morton Salt the air.
I climbed inside, and pretended to make sportbike sounds while admiring the peculiar placement of the village sticker collection. I then became trapped inside the Yugo.
Coolly, I determined that the dried grease of the door lock mechanism must be overwhelmed by a sharp blow to the lock rocker switch. Only then did the Yugoslavian import release me from its not-just-metaphorical grip.
I found this section of intact shipping plastic and the car’s low mileage remarkable. However, there was no hard evidence to be found that could be used to forge a tall tale of the Yugo’s final days of ownership. That is, until I found this picture of our protagonist at the helm of this very machine, taken back in August of last year.
How did I get this image, you ask? A magician never reveals his secrets. License plate frames are one of those things that seem to rarely stay with a car when it changes hands. This one matches the weathered dealer sticker on the car from long-extinct Ruby Chevrolet. I’m pretty sure what we’re looking at here is cradle-to-grave, daily-driven Yugo ownership. I’m getting extreme tightwad vibes here.
Tomasz was an eccentric hero.
Tomasz chewed the last bite of Mrs. T’s pierogi, finding even more shredded bits of plastic. He spit them out onto the plate, and continued chewing. It disturbed him somewhat, but he thought, “Mama would be furious, but food is not to be wasted.”
He relaxed in the second-hand chair, and looked up at the flag of his mother country that was pinned to the wall of his one bedroom flat. The flag sagged in the middle, and the top half of the heraldic crest was covered in a light tinge of dust. Eurovision blared out of the small-tube television sitting on the TV cart next to the table.
After swallowing that last mouthful, Tomasz walked into the bathroom for a piss. He zipped up and admired the poster on the wall of a European prize fighter in a ready stance. Tomasz raised his fists as if squaring off with the man, and threw a few light blows to the air.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon, and he was now ready to face the work day.
The 55 year old exited the apartment into the thick air of Summit, IL. Stench from human waste, left to dry out in the sun in large vats, filled his nostrils and mixed with the nearby corn sweetener and asphalt plants. An orange and purple jetliner blasted overhead in a climb-out. The cacophony of truck parks, hissing gas valves, a rail yard, and a major interstate combined into a roaring din of industry.
Tomasz found the Yugo in the usual spot in the parking lot, squatting over its oil stain. He took the time today to perform some routine maintenance on his automobile. After all, he would tell others that this is why “There are no more Yugo left, because Americans are lazy and irresponsible,” and that given a little routine attention (like replacing the carburetor right after buying the car), this frugal machine will run forever. Tomasz added the missing quart of engine oil with his special blend of bottom shelf 10W-30, STP motor honey, and DEXRON in equal parts. The addition of transmission oil was a trick he learned long ago to boost gas mileage. He walked around, kicking the tires to insure they were still inflated to the self-imposed spec of 40 psi. “The high pressure is key for the excellent fuel burn,” he told himself, as was a clean air filter element. He would have liked to replace this vapor-soaked piece with a genuine Yugo part as specified, but those were in short supply. Instead, Tomasz resorted to throwing it to the ground repeatedly to shake off any dust. On a nice day like today, he might give the Yugo a bath with dishwashing liquid. However, thanks to the rust penetrating enough to stain the door cards, those days were long gone. Finally, he unsnapped the distributor cap, and inspected inside. “Hrrmmm.”
At Advance Auto Parts, the familiar sound of the little bucket droned, and then puttered outside. One counter person said to the other, “Hey, wait till you get a load of this guy. He drives a Yugo.” Tomasz walked up to the counter with the young man eagerly awaiting to serve him.
“I need a rotor bug.”
The employee asked with bated breath, as if confirming the unbelievable, “For…what kind of car?”
Tomasz replied, “1989 Yugo Gee Vee El.”
The young man peered into the monitor with stunned disbelief.
QTY DC 763: 
QTY ON HAND: 
Tomasz paid his $13 in cash and left with his new part. One of the employees watched out the window as the Yugo fired up and sputtered out onto Harlem Avenue. He then whipped his head around to face his fellow man, exclaiming, “Holy shit!”
The Yugo’s split muffler bleated past the GM Electromotive plant like a sheep in the Bosnian countryside. Tomasz employed 4th gear at 38 mph for fuel conservation. The plucky automobile responded by vibrating like a paint shaker. Then, he turned on the radio…in his mind, and hummed a favorite tune.
nie powiesz jutro
Żadnego z nich nie będziesz jutro czuć”
Tomasz turned on his signal for East Avenue — not just to indicate a left turn, but to supply power to the fuel and temperature gauges. As he always had, Tomasz watched as they gradually powered up. The temp was in the normal range, and the fuel gauge indicated half a tank remaining. The needles pulsed slightly with the indicator in unison. (Yes, this is really a thing they do). Tomasz eased the GVL carefully through the turn so as not to slosh fuel out of the tank from the rotten filler neck. The Yugo finished its five-mile commute at the end of the frontage road, and it gasped out a “putt-putt-putt-putt-pitter-putt” before being shut down.
Tomasz checked his Casio. He was right on time to begin another eighteen-hour shift.
Tomasz clocked in, and took his place in the end booth on the northbound side. He then hung his yellow placard in the window.
Illinois Tollway Plaza 37
Your toll collector: Tomasz Kuszczak
The veteran collector of twenty years seniority was as good at his job as you would expect. He warmed up with the building traffic that would form an onslaught of vehicles within minutes. His lane always flowed the fastest. Monies flew through his blue, condom-clad fingertips. An hour in, and his hands already had the tinge of silver and schmutz.
“Hello, how are you?” a man asked, handing Tomasz yet another $20 bill. He ignored the friendly gesture entirely, as it was nothing more than a burden of .014 seconds. Just fractions of seconds that would build exponentially until it deprived the field of motorists sprawled out behind this rig. Tomasz craned his neck out, counting the axles on the man’s trailer, and responded, “Dollar twenty.” Then the money flowed. In this rush hour, he had two “This is bullshit” type comments for taking what the motorists thought were excessive, and one for taking what they thought was too little yet imposing the inconvenience.
It was getting late. The flow through his flashing booth turned into a trickle. The clientele appeared to turn more weary, drunk, and belligerent. Some cackling teens in a beat-up Saturn slapped a pile of filthy pennies in front of him in an attempt to stick it to The Man.
Tomasz responded, “Oh! It’s just like Christmas!”, and slowly counted each penny.
“Twenty-five, twenty-six…”, the Saturn crept forward out of his periphery, “…twenty-nine, thirty-STOP!!” The startled teen mashed the brakes.
It was 3 a.m. when the murdered-out Dodge Ram stopped at his window. The angry man asked “Is this really your job?” Tomasz was unaffected, and handed him his change. The man in the truck shook his head, snorted, and throttled out into the night. Tomasz just grinned. This was really his job. He was quite content here at Plaza 37 on I-294, right next door to the sewage treatment plant. As the temps rose hotter, that sucker would pump out its rich funk, and the seasonal hires would duck out. He could get all the hours he wanted here. On track to clear $90,000 in 2015 with full benefits. He wished Mr. Ram all the best, watching his one tail light disappear around the bend.
After handling most of the morning rush, Tomasz punched his time card and left the chaos for his tinny sled. As he prodded the gas pedal to warm the engine so it wouldn’t stall, he dreamed of being back at his place, handling some light chores before hitting the sack. The Yugo avoided the frenetic danger of LaGrange Road and I-55, cutting its way back along old Route 66. Tomasz waited in the right lane for 55th Street. His indicator flashed, and he checked his gauges again. Then, something peculiar happened. The clicking slowed to a stop. Tomasz was puzzled by this, and clicked the signal lever off and then back on. There was a buzz, and that’s when the smoke rolled out of all the dash vents. Tomasz whipped off his seat belts, and bolted out the door.
He waited for a short time for the smoke to dissipate before nervously getting back into the idling Yugo and limping home.
In the weeks that followed, Tomasz tried in vain to get his Yugo’s lighting circuit working again. There was a brief eureka moment when he discovered the burnt-out fuse, but its replacement only resulted in even more smoke. The boys at Advance Auto Parts sadly could not help with finding “the wires” in their computer either. He began skipping all the shifts at work that required a nighttime commute. He could have a professional take a look at it, but realized his machine required specialized foreign auto technicians. Those were expensive. Tomasz came to the conclusion that purchasing this car in 1989 for $4,600 after rustproofing had a pretty good final ROI. He opened the hatch and examined the rust hole in the strut tower again. This area looked important. He sighed, closed the hatch and said, “You’re not costing me any money.”
The GVL left the apartments and puttered across the street to Pick-N-Pull. Tomasz parked his car for the last time. He perused the cars for sale with wonder. He didn’t know that the junkyard sold cars, and they were cheap!
“This Neon here. This good car?”
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