Rare Rides: The Extremely Sporty Yugo GVX From 1988

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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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.

  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.