Not So Iron Curtain: 60k-Mile 1988 Yugo GVX

Oh, the Yugo. There was no vehicle so contrary to red-meat American values of the 1980s, and yet there three of them were lined up, red, white, and blue at the 1984 Los Angeles International Auto Show during the height of the Reagan Era.

There was quite a bit of classic one-upmanship in bringing the Yugo to America, however. Malcolm Bricklin (yes, the same guy behind the Bricklin SV-1 and Subaru America) had been contacted by Armand Hammer on behalf of Yugoslavia to find a way to expand Yugo sales. Bricklin, ever the magnet for bad ideas, apparently thought the Yugo was a great idea. But not before another entrepreneur named Miro Kefurt thought the same thing and managed to found YugoCars, Inc. in Sun Valley, California in 1982. It was their cars that appeared at the Los Angeles show. Bricklin was at the show and saw the Yugo, and, not to be outdone, literally left the show and immediately flew to Yugoslavia to negotiate a deal. Eventually, he made a deal directly with Kefurt, who sold Bricklin the rights to sell the Yugo in exchange for the rights to sell the Fiat/Bertone X1/9.

Was the Yugo worth all the hassle? The original manufacturer was called Zastava Yugo Automobili and had been building the "Koral"/Yugo since 1980. These were extremely basic subcompact economy cars. They were available in only a three-door hatchback or two-door convertible. A tiny 3-cylinder engine powered the front wheels.

Styling takes inspiration directly from Giugiaro's groundbreaking 1974 Volkswagen Golf. There are no frills or excess here, just a simple, pure, undiluted two-box shape. Initial models had reverse lights mounted on the bumper. Later models have them more appropriately integrated in the taillight cluster. The whole thing isn't bad looking, though, and definitely grows on you.

Although early Yugo had problems with emissions, they eventually underwent over 500 changes for the U.S. market. By the late 80s, their build quality and reputation improved. Sales hit a high of 200,000 in 1989. The entry-level GV (for "Great Value") was offered at just $3,990.

This is a later example in higher "GVX" trim. The GVX was powered by a 1300cc 3-cylinder engine that only produced around 68 horsepower and moved the car from 0-60 mph in 13.56 seconds, no speed record. Cosmetically, it added a ground-effects package, alloy wheels and rally lights.

The seller of this Yugo says they've owned it for 15 years, the last 6 of which it has been in storage. In the last several months they list a host of repairs and upgrades. They also lowered the suspension, hollowed out the cat converter and disabled the emissions regulator. Cosmetically, some of the paint seems worn on the bumpers. Mechanically, their work speaks for itself, and they say it handles great and is a blast to drive. They state the mileage as just 60,589.

Ultimately, the Yugo was brought down by politics here at home and in Yugoslavia, as our crippling regulations forced yet more emissions changes and the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist satellites interrupted production and caused sales to end here in 1992.

Find this remnant of another era here on ebay with a Buy-It-Now of $2,700 and the Make Offer option.

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