Junkyard Treasure: 1987 Yugo GV

The cheapest new car you could buy in the United States in 1987, courtesy of Malcolm Bricklin and the soon-to-be-disbanded Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Zastava plant, where this car was built, got bombed by NATO in 1999.

This one has the optional tape stripes.

We can see that it was in Colorado 22 years ago.

The most luxurious Yugoslavian Fiat available in North America in 1987.

The original buyer of this car sprang for the optional cassette deck. Note the extremely simple heater/vent controls above the radio.

A five-speed manual and a three-speed automatic became available later, but all the 1987 Yugo GVs had four-speed manual transmissions.

A six-digit odometer would have been overly optimistic. 110 mph would have required a very long, steep downhill road (and much bravery on the part of the driver).

The Yugo, based on the Fiat 127 and built in the about-to-disintegrate nation of Yugoslavia, had a staggeringly cheap price tag and sold fairly well in the United States during its first few years. Yugo resale values plummeted in a hurry, as the car became something of a joke among Americans, and nearly all of them ended up getting discarded and crushed before age ten. I hadn’t seen one in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent for at least a decade, so this ’87 GV in a Denver-area yard grabbed my attention right away.

55 horsepower. Nobody bought a Yugo for performance.

The GV was the cheapest Yugo, with a sticker price of just $3,990 in 1987. That’s just over $9,000 in 2019 dollars, and much cheaper than such miserable econoboxes as the 1987 Hyundai Excel ($4,995), Subaru Justy ($5,725), Toyota Tercel ($5,898), Plymouth Horizon America ($5,799) or Volkswagen Fox ($5,690).

The most luxurious Yugoslavian Fiat available in North America in 1987.

I was in college in 1987, and some of my friends were buying their very first new cars around that time. A few bought Yugos, because that price tag proved hard to resist, and they regretted their choice… though not as much as those who bought early Hyundai Excels, which wore out and got junked even more quickly than Yugos.

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