Rare Rides: The Extremely Sporty Yugo GVX From 1988

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the extremely sporty yugo gvx from 1988

Everyone’s heard of Yugo — the Yugoslavian brand that tried to shift cheap cars on North American shores in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Their terrible overall quality and general disposable nature means there are very few left today in any sort of presentable condition for Rare Rides. Today’s red beauty is an exception, and it may just be the rarest of the breed.

Let’s check out the super sporty GVX version, from 1988.

The Yugo began its life long before the North American public would get to experience its wonder. Designed in Italy as a variation of the already aged Fiat 127, the Yugo Koral hatchback began production in 1980. The donor Fiat had just three more years to live before the Italian company replaced it with the Uno, but Yugo was pleased with its new car. It should be noted the Yugo was actually manufactured by Zastava Automobiles, a company founded in 1953. It made military vehicles until it branched out into the passenger car market. Somewhere in there, Zastava started marketing its cars under Yugo nomenclature.

Enter Malcolm Bricklin, the man who brought Subaru to America. Mr. Bricklin was interested in the Zastava Koral and thought other Americans might be into it, as well. The entrepreneur’s interest began in 1984, when Bricklin saw Yugos imported by entrepreneur Miro Krefurt at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Yugo needed reworking in order to meet emissions standards, and Krefurt was in a jam. Bricklin approached, and eventually purchased the importation rights to sell Yugo in the US from Krefurt.

For his efforts, Krefurt received $50,000 and a dealer franchise from Bricklin’s company to sell the Bertone X1/9 in California. Everybody was happy.

Bricklin implemented a carb setup similar to the one in the America-approved X 1/9, and in 1986 Yugo America entered the marketplace with an extremely cheap car. The GV trim (Good Value) cost just $3,990 and was the basis of all other Yugo trims.

The GV was powered by a 1.1-liter engine and a four-speed manual. Stepping up the trim ladder added letters to the GV nomenclature: Plus, Sport, C, L, S, and X trims. All trims had the same engine except for the sporty GVX. It received a larger 1.3-liter engine with electronic fuel injection. A two-tone paint scheme and additional cladding, fog lamps, alloy wheels, and copious labeling meant the GVX stood out against its lesser siblings. Additionally, only 1.3-liter cars could be had with an optional three-speed automatic transmission. Buyers wanting something more unique could opt for the Cabrio model, which was certainly even worse than the hatchback.

Things were looking up for Yugo — sales in 1987 reached nearly 49,000 before things started going downhill. Reliability woes in North America were trumped by Yugoslavia’s political instability. Zastava stopped exports to other nations in 1992, and North America would never again experience Yugo. For other markets, the Koral continued in production with minor updates through 2008. Zastava became a Serbian corporation after Yugoslavia was no more. It went through bankruptcy in 2000, folding most recently in May 2017.

Today’s Rare Ride was for sale on eBay recently. With 45,000 miles on the odometer, it asked $3,000 and received zero bids.

[Images: seller]

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2 of 62 comments
  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on May 27, 2019

    I've always wanted to do one of these mini style, but instead of the Union Jack on the roof, paint it up with the old hammer and sickle.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on May 28, 2019

    I always wanted a GVX. The idea of "the GTI of Yugos" is too delightful not to run with. And with Bosch EFI and the "big" 1.3 liter engine, it probably runs pretty well. I do think it's pretty hilarious that they delivered their "GTI of Yugos" without a tach, and that the aftermarket one this guy threw on appears to show a 4000 RPM redline...pretty sure the hamster's just getting warmed up by then.

  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?
  • Inside Looking Out Toyota makes mass market cars. Their statement means that EVs are not mass market yet. But then Tesla managed to make mass market car - Mode; 3. Where I live in CA there are more Tesla Model 3s on streets than Corollas.
  • Ltcmgm78 A lot of dirt must turn before there's an EV in every driveway. There must be a national infrastructure plan written by other than politicians chasing votes. There must be reliable batteries that hopefully aren't sourced from strategic rivals. There must be a way to charge a lot of EVs. Toyota is wisely holding their water. There is a danger in urging unplanned and hasty moves away from ICE vehicles. Do we want to listen to unending speeches every election cycle that we are closer than we have ever been to 100% electrification and that voting for certain folks will make it happen faster? Picture every car in your town suddenly becoming all electric and a third of them need a charge or the driver will be late for work. This will take a lot of time and money.
  • Kendahl One thing I've learned is that cars I buy for local errands tend to be taken on 1,000 mile trips, too. We have a 5-speed Focus SE that has gone on longer trips than I ever expected. It has served us well although, if I had it to do over again, I would have bought an ST. At the time of purchase, we didn't plan to move from 1,000 feet elevation to 6,500. The SE is still adequate but the ST's turbo and extra power would have been welcome.