By on May 23, 2019

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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62 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Extremely Sporty Yugo GVX From 1988...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Corey, How about an honest to goodness Bricklin?

    I actually saw one on the road earlier this month, driving south on Highway #48 while I was driving to Lake Simcoe in Southern Ontario.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “sporty”

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “45,000 miles on the odometer”

    You do know that’s 450K miles in real car mileage and age is really 31 X 7 Yugo years

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Let’s repeat the old Yugo joke…

    “Why do Yugo’s have standard rear defroster?”

    To keep your hands warm while you push.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Yes, Malcolm Bricklin (of Bricklin SV-1 fame, or is it infamy?) gets the blame for this four-wheeled travesty. I can remember reading back in the day that Bricklin sent a ridiculously long fax (this was back before the Web) to Zastava detailing all the changes and revisions needed to make the cars marketable in the US. One thing they either overlooked or ignored was putting any kind of markings on the HVAC controls to indicate which sliding lever did what.

    I can see that this car went some time with the backseat folded down. I wonder if those stains/impressions will come out? I’m betting not.

  • avatar
    Yankee

    Does anyone know what that box does that the hood scoop feeds into? Is it to feed air to the passenger compartment in the absence of cowl vents?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The hood scoop feeds into a dark, dank pit of despair.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        So a Yugo GVX had fuel injection but I couldn’t get a fuel injected V8 in a GM sedan at any price? (During that same time period.)

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “So a Yugo GVX had fuel injection”

          Don’t get excited, there was a little PVC tube that came out of the dash that the driver had to blow into while accelerating to give it some extra oomph

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          True, but then again, name me a GM plant that got blown to smithereens like the Yugo plant did?

          • 0 avatar
            EGSE

            The Opel Russelsheim and Brandenburg plants suffered that fate in the mid 1940s courtesy of the Eighth Army Air Force.

    • 0 avatar
      stuart

      The hood scoop feeds the heater intake. Look at the overhead engine picture; the scoop fits over the “black box” in the upper left corner (near the windshield, passenger side). The blower and heater core are inside that black box; the FIAT 128 has an identical setup, sans scoop.

  • avatar

    Actually owned one-it’s not all been Porsche, Benz, Ferrari and Aston :)

    Replaced the very, very bad eastern bloc tires with a set of Michelins. Removed the air pump, and readjusted the carb to allow gas into the intake.

    Replaced the front sway bar bushings with urethane. This made a huge difference, the front end locates via swingarm, and that tightened up things quite a bit.

    All in after repairs, it was a small Fiat and kinda zippy. Yes, the heat worked. Not as bad as a Pinto I drove for a while-after the mods and installing a real radio, it was acceptable for a student to get around with…my next car was a SAAB 900T, which felt like a tank…sold the Yugo to a young woman who fancied herself a “Green”. Today she’d drive an EV or Prius.

    Also built like Eastern Bloc car. Came up and over a hill in winter. Black ice had claimed a massive Lincoln Continental, which was across a ditch. I was going for exactly the same spot, and no turn or brake would change it….at the last second I turned the car backwards, it hit the door of the lincoln, and but for a tiny dent, the Yugo drove away after being popped from the ditch….

    I drove a Trabant in Germany a year or so later…the Yugo was better than that…..

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You owned one, and I tried to sell one. You were far more successful than I was.

      This could have been because the little turd stalled out during the test drive – we were on a four-lane major artery with a 50 mph speed limit, and I flipped the A/C on, at which point the Yugo decided to drop the mike. Thankfully, we were able to coast it to the side of the road, and we had to wait for about 10 minutes before it’d start agin.

      Ended up trying to sell the guy a Sentra instead, only to find he had a credit score that hovered around room temperature.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Better then a Trabant, a car made from reprocessed garbage… Ok

    • 0 avatar

      “I drove a Trabant in Germany a year or so later…the Yugo was better than that…..”

      Talk about German superiority/engineering. Italians beat Germans every time when it comes to socialism.

      How did Yugo compare with Lada?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    LS swap!

  • avatar
    lstanley

    I would drive this unironically on little weekend errands and enjoy every minute of it. Seems like a fun conversation starter and a guaranteed space at the local C&C.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I guess there won’t be a better place to post this ’88 Yugo with less than 500 miles:

    washingtondc.craigslist.org/mld/cto/d/gaithersburg-yugo-102-gv-1988-showroom/6876843565.html

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Guy wants nine grand? That’s like asking $40 for a copy of “Batman And Robin” because it was bought the week it came out on video, and was never taken out of the factory wrapper.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Malcolm Bricklin had plans to bring over the larger replacement which was a three and five door version of a Zastava with a 1.5 fuel injection engine and optional automatic.
    When these were introduced a coworkers brother bought a white one. He got decent use out of it in the Bronx but it had reliability issues. With the NYS lemon law after three returns to the dealer he was allowed a new replacement in the more attractive red. It ended up working fine for him since it was more reliable.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Q: What do you call a Yugo with a sunroof?
    A: A dumpster.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Probably should have been named “Yudontgo”.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    A young lady (aka high school student) who was a member of the church I went to showed up in a brand new Yugo GV one summer day. She proudly showed it off and let us climb all over it. The car was inexpensive; it was also cheap. Relentlessly cheap. I sat in the passenger seat and when I pulled the door handle to leave you could feel the mechanism flexing alarmingly until “pop” it finally responded and let you exit. Some minutes and a few people later it quit working, presumably something bent enough to foil its operation, and the door had to be opened from the outside. She kept it for less than a year.

    I test-drove a bright yellow Bricklin SV-1 at a dealer in the Baltimore area; it was near the end for Bricklin and the dealer kept it in the showroom as a novelty to generate walk-in traffic. He was desperate to sell, pushed it outside and off we went. It had all the rattling looseness of a Bradley GT kit car and within a few minutes I was driving back to the dealer.

    Malcolm Bricklin has a special place in history for the anti-Midas touch….everything bearing his fingerprints turned to hot wet fertilizer. Not hard to do when you start out with steaming piles.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Malcolm Bricklin had his failures like the Yugo and Safety Vehicle 1 he did keep around for a few more years and improve the quality of the Fiat/Bertone X1/9 and Fiat Spyder 124 as a Pininfarina.
      Even though the Subaru 360 was a really awful car ie the 1969 Consumers Reports Not Acceptable rating he let Fuji Heavy industries keep developing the FF1 and Leone to where they were a innovative and competitive brand.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Reminds me of my dad’s 1992 Festiva in the ubiquitous turquoise. Dad loved that thing. Allegedly it was good for 50 mpg.

    Then again he was a bit of a skinflint and never would have bought it if mom hadn’t made him following the incident with the Skyhawk we had at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I had a Festiva and for a short time (hours) a Yugo. The Festiva was like a Rolls Phantom in comparison, and reliable as a iron anvil.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        IMO, the Festiva was comfortably the best of the entrants in the cheap car craze of the middle to late ’80s. Perhaps the Horizon/Omni Americas were rivals, but I rarely saw them without a special equipment package that priced them with normal compact cars. There was also a loss-leader Civic DX hatch that was advertised in 1987 for less than $6K, but the dealer flat refused to sell me one. When it came to the commonly available Hyundai Excel, Yugo GV, Subaru Justy, Geo Metro, Escort Pony, and VW Fox though, the Festiva L was the best combination of performance and durability. The Festiva LX was too heavy for the engine and too expensive when new. You could spend more than $9K for a Fox in my hometown and still have it unravel in a year in the hands of a teenager.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    What do you call a Yugo with dual exhausts? A wheelbarrow.

    How do you double the value of a Yugo? Fill the gas tank!

    Ahh…Eastern Bloc engineering…

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Proof that MotorWeek (and John Davis) can find a silver lining in the greatest dung heaps unleashed on the roads. Enjoy!

  • avatar
    RHD

    What’s the difference between a Lada and a Jehovah’s Witness?

    When you slam the door on a Jehovah’s witness, it stays shut!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Oh, boy ~

    So much hate and derision for cute little Automobilette .

    I remember incredibly cheap BMW Isettas, Datsun 1200 pickups in 1959 and a raft of other tin foil vehicles that I’m sure sold on price alone having few if any redeeming vales .

    I’d give one of these a try if it were cheap, like $500 cheap .

    ? Easy to push, right ? . =8-) .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      barnfinds.com/468-genuine-miles-1988-yugo-gv/

      Here’s one that doesn’t run for $9,000. OBO. It gets better though. What’s worse than a nine grand Yugo that hasn’t run in nearly thirty years? The seller is making you take his parts car too, which is one of the worst Yugos that isn’t already a Chinese toaster oven.

      David E. Davis Jr. bought his step daughter a Yugo GVX. It may have even been a convertible. That may be the moment when I realized that reading car magazines actually makes people less informed about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Original VW bugs were pretty cheap, but were always respected as a decent car, just small and bare bones

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        That depends on where you lived during the 1950’s & 1960’s .

        _I_ always liked them but many certainly didn’t and they didn’t resist salt well at all, God help you if you got center punched in one….

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          pwrwrench

          A preface to this is that bad things can happen in any collision.
          It’s about 50 years ago, at night and two guys are heading home in an early 60s VW Bug.
          Some other guys are running away from the cops. The runners, in some big American car, don’t realize that the street they are on ends in a T. Probably because there is a parking lot opposite. As fate had it the guys in the Bug cruise down the cross street minding their own business when the other car, traveling at an estimated 80 MPH, hits the driver’s door. The driver is hurled so violently to the right that he takes the passenger with him through the right side door. I met the driver about four years later. He told me the crash was so fast that he found himself laying on the pavement, holding the VW steering wheel with a broken thigh bone. His passenger was just bruised and jumped up yelling at him something like, “What the hell did you do!” not comprehending, at first, what had happened.
          Fortunately there was a hospital diagonally across the parking lot. Yet an ambulance was dispatched, picked him up, and drove him the 500 feet to the ER entrance.
          He showed me the scar, ugly. I’ll never comprehend how they survived. The photo he had of the VW was unrecognizable. Just a heap of twisted metal.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Just so Sir ;

            In my years as a Mechanic and junkyard junkie I’ve seen some amazingly bad wrecks .

            Just Saturday my brother and I were walking my favorite local yard and encountered at least five totally destroyed cars, all imports that were crumpled up balls of metal the F.D. had to use the jaws of life to remove the dead bodies from .

            Not that older American cars were much better, don’t forget that recent video of a 1959 Chevy being crashed…. death on wheels .

            VW Beetles are amazingly good at solo collisions considering how little car there is but as soon as a Beetle gets hit all bets are off .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    Big Wheel

    Speaking of Yugo, oh how I miss the Crabspirits stories. The Yugo one is priceless – my favorite of all his stories.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/last-rides-premium-selects-goin-nowhere/

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Brings back warm memories of my 74 Fiat 128SL.

    Under the hood it was identical to this Yugo. I bought it in 1982 with a bad head gasket, knowing I’d have to rebuild the 1.3L engine. It ended up needing a lot more than that – a new rear leaf spring, rust work, electrical work, and endless carburetor tuning. The annual state safety inspection revealed that both rear wheel cylinders were seized and totally nonfunctional.

    The car was a blast to drive but very unreliable. Even in 1982, parts were hard to come by for these cars (especially pre-internet). I kept it only a year, and went back to a far more reliable Ford Pinto.

  • avatar
    Yugo 45 owner

    Hi everybody! I am from the country that used to produce this car. Nowdays known as Serbia, and I even have “similar” one. First of all, Yugoslavia wasn’t an eastern block country, it was in southern Europe, and it was the leader of that bunch of African and asian tribes a.k.a the Non-aligned movement :D

    Now about the car. You americans should feel lucky, because an entry level Yugo, with mark 45, was (still is in my case) a 0.9 l, with 45 hp, with max speed around 65 mph. It was the cheepest car you could buy, it wasn’t a luxury car for a communist country as you think. Around the time this was produced, Zastava factory was already producing a “Zastava 101” car, that was one of the first hatchbacks with the engine in front, and was the Europe’s best car in ‘78. :) So It wasnt really a shity factory. Similar version (of that one from 70’s) is still being produced in Egypt :)

    And my experience is that Yugo is fun to drive, you necer know what to expect from it. But on the other hand, I have also a Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi and i could just sat, its less reliable than a Yugo. Oh, yeah, i forgot to mention, Yugo is of my age, produced in 1989, and still runs. It has cheep parts that you can buy (as we here say) on a hot-dog kiosk and it has just 5 parts under the hub, which you could easily fix with a hammer and screwdriver. It is a basic car. Give me a GM car that is 30y old, that needs less than a 10 bucks a year for a maintenance. You can park it anywhere, and you dont care if it gets stollen. You just get another one with the same key :D That was a joke. Dont try it in the US, you could get arrested for it :D

    Hope i gave someone a good laugh, if you ever come to Serbia, you’ll probably see a lot of theese, ask someone to give you a ride, you wont regret that :)

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      So, what are you producing these days other then mail order First Ladies? BTW, good job ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The Yugo was based on the FIAT 127, which was the best-selling car in Europe in the mid-’70s. Keep that in mind next time some self-hating soy-boy complains about cars that aren’t available in the US. Speaking of Western Europe, FIAT also produced an inexpensive hatchback derived from the 127 in the same period. It was called the Panda, and the ’45’ version was the high-performance option. Southern Europeans on a budget were expected to buy the Panda 30, which had a 28 horsepower air-cooled vertical twin. Suddenly Dodge Omnis and Toyota Starlets don’t seem so bad.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    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.


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