Zastava Yugo

A promising fiasco

At least, that's what it looked like on paper. Where Giorgetto Giugiaro also had put a few lines on to give this Zastava Yugo a nice taste. That always helps, despite all prejudices. Just ask Doutzen. But in this case it wasn't enough.

No Fiat. Anyway


The design of the Zastava Yugo looked pretty nice. The journal was moderately to fairly positive about it. Or determined that the newcomer at least had “a face of its own”. About the same phenomenon as calling The Newborn Scare In The Cradle a sweet baby. Be that as it may, the Yugo was not just a slightly modified Fiat design, as Zastava's formula had always been until then. However, the basis still came from the Italian car manufacturers, because under the skin the Zastava Yugo was largely based on the popular Fiat 127. The technology of this small Fiat was adopted, but the success was certainly not.

Not without problems

That was for a number of reasons. Where Fiat was already heavily associated with rust, the Zastava Yugo became more or less the identification with it. The self-resolving power of this Yugoslavian was phenomenal and terrifying at the same time. However, it was possible to extend the life of this budget Balkanner by about a week by immediately ordering an anti-rust treatment. Or a matte black front and rear spoiler, plastic hubcaps, go faster striping and a reflective plate between the rear lights, that was also possible. Then you had the ultra-sporty S version standing at the curb. But not for long.

The title holder

Because in addition to the rust sensitivity, this supermini also had to contend with enormous quality problems. Inferior quality parts, poorly assembled. As a rule, this is no guarantee for success and that was not the case. Although… Malcolm Bricklin, the successful American businessman who imported Subaru, among other things, saw something in a dirt cheap no-nonsense city car for that huge home market and started importing this Yugo, under which brand name the car became famous there. Infamous, actually. He managed to sell just under 1985 between 1992 and 150.000. And wear it did. In addition to the poor quality and poor handling thereof, the supply of parts was also poorly organized and the Zastava Yugo thus conquered the dubious title of “Worst Car In The World”. At least the model was on the map.

In the Netherlands too

From 1983, Lada guru Gremi in Groningen imported this value-for-money model into the Netherlands. At least the Zastava Yugo was cheap; less than ten thousand guilders for the starter. And then there was a very nicely lined car in front of the door that was relatively spacious and drove quite reasonably too. It was not very luxurious, it had to be clear from the length or width. The front seats had to sit properly by chance, the backrests were not adjustable. Or they had to abort. In any case, that was not caused by being pushed too forcefully into that seat due to a surplus of power: the well-known Fiat one-liter four-cylinder in the front brought it to 45 horsepower in the Yugo 45. And ten pieces more in the Yugo 55, you already guessed it. Later, even more powerful 1.3 liter versions became available in some foreign markets with power outputs of 60 or 65 hp. If instead of the power the quality had improved considerably, this sympathetic Yugootje would have had a good chance of success. Šteta.

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Zastava Yugo


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  1. Something is still missing from this article, namely the Innocenti/Yugo Koral

    The last series was called the Koral: same Yugo, different bumpers, but injection.

    And then you had the Cabriolet. You could also order this as Innocenti Koral.

  2. Anyone who has recently been to the Balkans can see with their own eyes that they will last quite a long time. In all ex-Yugoslav countries (except Kosovo, for perhaps understandable reasons, there you see suspiciously many Golfjes II) there are still a few (Montenegro / North Macedonia) or less (Slovenia) on every street corner and driving they even around. And often in cosmetically quite acceptable condition. It will probably have to do with the state of repair, the will to preserve them or perhaps a fit of "Yugostalgia", they are still driving around. In Montenegro a few years ago I even saw a Zastava 600 (Fiat 600 clone), in almost perfectly restored condition.

  3. The Yugo was a worthy contemporary of the Hyundai Pony. The last one was the same in terms of lines, slightly larger and rusted even harder if possible 😉
    In the USA, the Yugo was a cult car. I imagine in the southern warm states the rust specter was a bit lazier there.
    45 hp, 55 hp: still enough for commuting and errands?

  4. What a wonderful, smooth pen Lars Bais has! Reminds me of Johannes van Dam, who in the catering industry managed to flaunt all kinds of misfires down to the imaginary ground in an extremely vicious way. Fortunately, the street scene has now been stripped of this rust-loving monstrosity. Thank you Giugaro!

  5. The newborn fright in the cradle, thought I couldn't wake up. Good to hear
    to be able to write like that, and at the same time with a straight face on so many toes
    to kick. I think Mister Bais has sometimes peeked over Dolf's shoulder.
    A few neighbors bought one of these in the eighties and were sort of there
    satisfied with. The Chinese Tsunami hadn't arrived yet, and quite a lot of cheap,
    almost typical West-End cars sold, because parking here was then, and still is, a disaster.
    Subaru Justy did well. After a few years, the Yugos had completely disappeared from the street scene, and that was due to rust. Yugo was sold by a stray Fiat dealer in the East-end, and there was a dealership on Kingsway. Alfa Romeo and Yugo. No one, well, hardly anyone turned their nose up at that. Alfa was as unknown as Yugo.
    They were under $5.000.00 new. They have both almost disappeared from the street scene.
    nice article,
    Thank you.

  6. Bought a brand new Yugo 1985L at home in 55, as a 2nd car. Well, when we said goodbye in 1996, we only had a number of flat tires and a sulky starter motor, furthermore our canary yellow, for 11 years, brought us everywhere without any problems. And rust???? Not a speck of rust to be seen. And since I learned to ride with it, I can now ride with just about anything ;)

    • I tinkered with those cars for years, and had to come up with a lot of repair solutions.
      It was just cheap and people who didn't have it too wide and drove few kilometers a year had a nice shopping car.

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Triumph 100 years, then resuscitate?!

Triumph 100 years, then resuscitate?!