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1989 Yugo GVL: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 1989 Yugo GVL as our editors live with this car for a year.

Yugo GVL 1989


"What are you guys up to, anyway?" asks the proprietor of Bosnia Express. Her tone is friendly, her Eastern European accent soft but unmistakable.

We're approaching the register with armloads of Balkan foodstuffs like Cockta and Krem Banana. It's noon on a Saturday. We're on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho. Our five-man team left Los Angeles about 24 hours ago in the Edmunds long-term F-150 and A3, sleeping minimally in Winnemucca, Nevada. There's no known Balkan ancestry among us. Perhaps we look a little out of place.

We drop the Cockta on the counter and explain that we're about to buy a 1989 Yugo GVL and drive it back to L.A., and we need some appropriate snacks for the road.

"Oh! You must be buying Arko's Yugo. The white one, right?" She chuckles. "My husband drove it just last week."

Minds blown. She knows the seller? More importantly, the car is actually road-worthy? We found it on the devil that is Craigslist. All we really know is that it's got less than 40,000 miles on the clock, it's covered about 700 miles since 2002 and the engine has unspecified idle issues. Arko has already weighed in via text: "Would not recommend driving it to L.A. It looks better on a trailer lol." We've been wondering what condition we'll find it in.

"Oh yes, it runs. It's fine. He drove it all over the city."

This is greatly encouraging. But wait. Is her husband interested in buying the car?

"No." Zero hesitation. Then she cocks her head. "Why would you want to buy a Yugo?"

Simple. Because the Edmunds vehicle fleet has too many carrots and not enough sticks. When an editor holds up the car sign-out sheet for an unreasonable period of time, or posts a blurry photo, or randomly stops blogging at all, we've got to have a penalty box. We can't just let the offender walk away with the key to the Viper. We want every editor to fear these words: "You're taking the Yugo tonight."

"I see," our new friend replies thoughtfully. "Well, Los Angeles is a long way in that car. Arko will give you a bottle of rakia. You might need it."

Taking Possession
Funny she should mention the regional brandy. As historian Jason Vuic reports in The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, workers at the factory in Serbia frequently tinkered with their productivity by throwing back shots of sljivovica, a plum-based rakia variant. In a neat bit of symmetry, that's precisely what Bosnian-born Arko offers to supply us with an hour later when we're standing in his driveway, closing the deal for a negotiated $950 cash (by rule, the penalty box had to cost less than $1,000).

We politely decline. We're too busy wrapping our heads around how straight, clean and rust-free this 25-year-old survivor has remained. What's more, the engine, a 1.1-liter, 55-horsepower Fiat four-cylinder with a Weber two-barrel carburetor on top, seems to be working remarkably well. OK, the idle's disturbingly high — there's no tachometer, but 2,500 rpm is a fair guess. And Arko's talking about a fuel-flow problem, which is why he keeps a few spare fuel filters in the car, just in case. It's certainly not stalling, though, and after we borrow some Raid and extract a thriving hornets' nest from the trunk, we're satisfied that the car poses no immediate threat to our well-being. All we need to do is swap out the cracked, decade-old tires for fresh 155/80-13 meats.

We shake hands with Arko and slap an Edmunds plate on the back. A car that once sold for around $4,000 brand-new is officially ours. Belatedly, we notice that the fuel needle's bouncing wildly between half and empty. Arko confirms it's kind of broken.

Time to buckle up and go top off the 8.5-gallon tank.

Baby Steps
There will be two of us in the Yugo for the duration, and we find ourselves laughing hysterically all the way to the local Shell.

Nothing makes sense right now. The steering wheel's on a 45-degree angle and doesn't adjust. The spastic speedometer is less functional than the fuel gauge, though we later discover that the odometer's in fine form. The four-speed manual shifter has as much play in gear as it does in neutral. Acceleration? Not really. And the brakes are barely there.

Not dying on this trip is starting to feel like a legitimate challenge.

But our actuarial tables are about to get a boost. After filling up and puttering over to the tire shop, we're informed by the manager that the front brake pads have all but disintegrated. That's the bad news; the good news is that it's not too late in the day for Napa Auto Parts to deliver the last remaining set of replacement pads in all of Boise. Brakes and tires? Hey, that's expected when you're buying any used car, let alone a $950 Yugo. We tell the shop to get it done. Two hours and $270.64 later, we're slightly more confident that the car will turn and stop well enough to keep us breathing.

We toss in a fire extinguisher we bought at AutoZone and hit the road. The first real test will be the 128-mile trek from Boise to Twin Falls, Idaho. If we're lucky, we'll get there with a few hours of daylight left. Or just get there at all. Assuming the Yugo's up for it, we'll press on to Ely, Nevada, for the night, leaving us a manageable 500-plus miles back to L.A. on Sunday.

Maybe we can really do this.

Maybe we're out of our minds.

The Open Road
The journey that follows is most notable for its improbable consistency. We're naturally expecting our quarter-century-old Communist runabout to encounter some difficulties on its first meaningful drive in 13 years, but the car just keeps on marching along.

According to the Glympse app's GPS tracker, the Yugo loves to go 77 mph; that's where the ancient Italian engine really sings, an unusual sweet spot for an '80s economy car. We record a top speed of 86 mph on flat ground, matching the original factory specification, with a subsequent run touching 91 mph thanks to a slight downhill grade.

Even flat-out, the slab-sided hatchback isn't particularly bothered by crosswinds, shaming our old Smart Fortwo long-termer, for example, and casting doubt on the tragic tale of the Yugo that was blown off a bridge. As for cornering, there's enormous initial body roll along with a disconcerting wiggle from the transverse leaf-spring rear suspension, but once we realize the car's not going to tip over, we develop a measure of faith in its ability to take a set and hold at least some sort of line.

About that suspension. Its compliance over obstacles like train tracks and big dips in gravel turnouts is astonishing. Ordinary pavement imperfections send predictable shivers through the structure, but when we carry some speed through a railroad crossing, the Yugo wafts along as if it's been retrofitted with Airmatic. You hear the tracks, but you barely feel them; similarly, you're aware of the huge suspension travel through those gravel dips, but the experience inside is serene. The historian Vuic begins his book with a joke about the ride — "Q: What do you call the passengers in a Yugo? A: Shock absorbers" — but in actual fact, our Yugo feels as supple at times as a vintage Cadillac.

"It's a real car," we keep saying aloud, slowly coming to grips with the notion.

"It's not even really that bad."

Granted, it smells like there's an exhaust leak, so we might be high. But as the miles roll up, we can't help but develop some genuine feelings for this epically unloved contraption.

Home Stretch
We stop in Ely as planned (the headlights work just fine, though the dashboard illumination is largely AWOL) and we're back at it early Sunday morning after four precious hours of sleep. We streak west along Nevada's stunning Route 6, maxed out in 4th and posterizing more than a few of our fellow motorists in the passing zones. At this point, our belief in the Yugo is strong enough that we leave the beaten path and, along with it, the possibility of rescue from passing motorists, detouring into the barren landscape for photos. The temp needle creeps toward the red with too much stop-and-go, but we tame it each time with a quick blast of heat, which conveniently coats us with a powder of dried leaves and other detritus that's been sucked in over the years, absorbing some of our seeping sweat.

It's only over the final 92 miles to Edmunds HQ that our Serbian steed starts to falter. We've just run the gauntlet of the Mojave Desert on a 106-degree afternoon, swilling warm Cockta to stave off dehydration, with the car performing flawlessly beneath us. The town of Mojave is our final pit stop before victory lane. Back on the 14 South with a full tank, the 1.1-liter tiger abruptly loses its fangs. Wide-open throttle is effective, but it bucks and stumbles at anything less. The throttle, by the way, tends to stick for a few seconds after you floor it. There are quite a few mountain passes between here and Santa Monica.

This is going to be a rough landing.

We make the best of it until we're finally able to exit the freeway, but then we hit a red light three blocks from the office. The idle has dropped all the way to normal — a most ominous sign. Green light. No power in 1st. The engine would strongly prefer to stall. Feather the clutch, pump the gas, hope for the best. The Yugo hobby-horses through the intersection as if it's having a seizure.

By a minor miracle, we get it into 2nd gear. No clue how fast we're going, we just can't afford to scrub speed until we reach the ramp that leads down to our underground garage. Two blocks to go. Here comes a 90-degree right-hander. A lady at the bus stop gives us the stink-eye as she witnesses what is likely the first-ever instance of a Yugo squealing its tires all the way through the corner of Cloverfield and Broadway. Green light ahead, and it's the last one before the garage. One more hard right and we're golden. The 6-inch-wide Kumhos shriek their approval. We can practically coast it in from here.

As it turns out, we need a bit more throttle to go three levels down. This entails flooring it a few more times and waiting for the cable to unstick while dodging large concrete posts. But there's no stopping us now. Back to the feather-and-pump routine for the final parking maneuver. We call it good and cut the engine, leaning back in something like a state of shock.

We just drove 900 miles in a $950 Yugo, and it was 90 percent copacetic. We even averaged 30.1 miles per gallon (the odometer does work, remember), beating the EPA's highway estimate of 29 mpg.

Our friend at Bosnia Express was exactly right.

We need a drink.

They Shoot 20-Second Cars, Don't They?

July 16, 2015

Some of the crew decided a 1989 Yugo GVL would make an ideal penalty box, one to which you could be assigned for a multitude of sins: missing a deadline, delaying the car signout sheet, opining that the seats in our long-term Mustang really aren't that bad.

Around here, there are fewer penalties more severe than a slow car. What's the old saw: it's more fun to drive a slow car fast? Well, I'll believe that when we finally take the Yugo off-highway in one of our local canyons, where we can have fun driving it slowly and destructively. 

In the meantime, we're gathering data on the car. What follows in the video after the jump is our earliest instrumented testing - using two mobile phone apps - of the Yugo's acceleration, in a valiant effort by Kurt and Josh to extract some sass out of the old girl.

It's not pretty.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Made the 6 O'Clock News

July 20, 2015

Our 1989 Yugo GVL has quickly become a media darling, and it just had its first star turn in the bright lights of Los Angeles. The local ABC affiliate caught wind of the story and suggested shooting a segment on the mean streets of Beverly Hills.

After treating the Yugo to a well-deserved hand wash - unconscionably, it hadn't been cleaned since the drive from Boise - we met ABC's two-man crew in Beverly Gardens Park at 10:30 a.m., and the story went live that very evening.

Here's the clip in all its glory.

Actually, let's first pause to appreciate this. I love that I have now uttered the words, and meant them, "I'm gonna need a hand-wash on that Yugo over there." It really made my week. Also, I bet one of you clever coots could put this GIF to a beat. It's got rhythm if you watch closely (1-2-3-4...1-2-3-4...). Challenge issued.


There's the clip. Note my observation at the end about savvy collectors. Something to chew on.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 40,384 miles

Brittle, Broken, Possibly a Bad Idea

July 21, 2015

Our 1989 Yugo GVL has been the surprise feel good hit of the summer. First it made it back from Boise under its own power. Then it ended up on Los Angeles television. Word and video of our oddball long-termer has even made it back to the motherland. Kurt tells us he's big in Serbia.

Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise. After all, our guys were smitten with this car the minute they settled into the front seats. Hit the jump to watch Kurt and Josh run down their initial impressions. Broken lap belts, under-seat recline levers, and a soupy gearbox (Josh: "I don't know what gear that is") can't break the Yugo's obvious spell on these guys.

Will it last?

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Road Trip Snacks to Match

July 23, 2015

Somehow the Operation Balkan Bullet team found a Bosnian market in Boise, near the home of our 1989 Yugo GVL's previous owner. Not only that, but the market's proprietor knew the Yugo owner to whom we'd soon fork over $950. It was a serendipitous collision of cosmic circumstance, one that could only mean that the Yugo was fated for our garage.

Facing a 900-mile return trip, the boys needed some road trip snacks. But no jerky, high-fructose corn syrup drinks and Fig Newtons here; this trip called for some of the same snacks possibly munched on by the people who built the car, like Lokum and Cockta. 

Hit the jump to see Kurt go big, throwing down a Lokum like a jalapeno popper - if a jalapeno popper were a dry-breaded food-like thing that turns a mouth to cotton. Turns out it's meant to be dipped in coffee, like a biscotti. They dipped it alright, in a big bath of caffeine-free Cockta soft drink to follow.

I think that Lokum is still under the passenger seat.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

It's Not Fun - It's a Penalty Box.

July 28, 2015

When we picked up our long-term 1989 Yugo GVL in Boise, Idaho, I didn't envy Josh Sadlier or Kurt Niebuhr. They had no air-conditioning in a terrifyingly underpowered car from the 80s and 900 miles of scorching hot desert to traverse. I was driving our long-term F-150 and never imagined that I would become jealous of the Yugo.

But somehow, I did.

Every time we stopped for fuel, Josh and Kurt piled out of the Yugo delirious with laughter. They got to live on the edge of their seats with a top-speed run and they had Balkan snacks and warm Cockta to try along the way. They seemed like they were having a hell of a good time in the Yugo and I began to covet the experience.

So I signed out the Yugo. I even offered to take Cameron Rogers to a local dealer to pick up one of our long-term cars. I immediately regretted the decision.

In city traffic around Los Angeles, the Yugo has trouble getting out of its own way. It smells weird. The shifter wanders and it's really difficult to find gears. You have to hover over the gas pedal at all times just to keep the thing running.

Does this thing have personality? Sure. The first owners got married in it, drove their kids to school in it and kept it under a cover for nearly a decade. But it's also terrible to drive. We were looking for a Penalty Box and we definitely found the right car for the job.

Travis Langness, Social Media Editor

900 Miles on the Edge

July 30, 2015

You've followed the continuing adventures of Kurt and Josh in their quest to get our 1989 Yugo GVL home under its own power. You've seen its first unofficial zero-to-60 run. You've seen the guys connect with the car over assorted foodstuffs from its region of origin.

And now you'll see if they can make it home.

For after nearly 900 miles, the Yugo starts getting fussy down the home stretch, particularly a stretch of very downhill freeway that connects the San Fernando Valley to coastal west Los Angeles, as seen in the photo above. The Fiat-sourced engine shows its true espresso-fueled character, only happy at high revs and wide-open throttle. 

"There are some fuel/air metering issues that need to be resolved pronto…"

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

Fond Memories Surface at DMV Inspection

August 3, 2015

The Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot is packed at 9:25 a.m. All parking spaces are full and there is a line of people out the door. Two lanes lead around to the back side of the building. In the right lane idles a row of at least 10 cars with sweaty teenagers behind the wheel, anxiously waiting to take their on-road driving test.

The left lane is for vehicle inspections only: Used cars, recently repaired cars or cars purchased out of state. I maneuver our 1989 Yugo GVL into the left lane and around the turn.

I am the only car in line for inspection. Ahead of me stands a DMV driving instructor, visibly nervous to begin her day of what must rank among the most stressful jobs on the planet. She directs me to pull forward to the STOP painted on the ground ahead. Five feet short of the stop, she calls out excitedly, "Sir, shut off your car. Shut it off!"

Until now, I did not understand her insistence. Here she is standing in front of some stranger in a beater revving at 3,000-plus rpm. Little does she know the Yugo only idles reliably above 3,000 rpm. Outside the car, she is terrified. Inside the car I am calmly and carefully creeping forward as instructed.

I shut down the car. Color returns to her face as the engine clamor subsides. She lowers her arms from a bracing position and returns focus to the column of raging hormones in the other lane. My gaze pans left to the building, where I find my inspiration for this blog entry.

A man steps from the glass doors of the DMV office and catches sight of the Yugo. He stops in his tracks. I watch the door he's just exited bang comically against his shoulder before he snaps out of his trance. Now there's a huge smile on his face.

Larry has been a vehicle inspector with the California DMV for 15 years. Not once has he seen a Yugo come in. He approaches but doesn't even say hello. There is a story he's held inside for years and this is the moment he's meant to tell it. He looks me straight in the eye.

"Whoa, so many memories, man," Larry says.

I don't know where he's going next, but he has my full attention.

"You could get one of these for $2,000 fully loaded, between a Rabbit and a Renault," he continues. "When I graduated high school, my mom said 'you get a trip, a computer or a car'. I picked the Yugo. My first car. I drove that thing everywhere."

Then he stares into the distance in silence for several seconds.

"I don't remember what happened to the car," he says, snapping out of it. "Wait. Actually, I gave it to a friend that needed some help at the time. Yeah. And I never saw him or the car again." Another extended pause. "Is it okay if I take some pictures?"

I let him take all the pictures he wants. He pokes around under the hood, points at the spare tire and calls a nearby security guard over. "I used to own one of these."

The two of them check out the car for a few more minutes. They ask where I bought it and why I would do such a thing. It's a fun conversation. Larry is all smiles.

"This really makes my day. Thanks for letting me take a look at it."

I climb back into the Yugo, fire it up and pull away. In the rearview mirror the row of waiting teens still wraps around the building, out of sight. And standing on the curb is Larry, his arms crossed and a grin still beaming across his face.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

Operating Instructions

August 7, 2015

Our 1989 Yugo GVL certainly runs and drives, as they say, but there are a few things that uninitiated drivers should keep in mind. This came up today when Senior Road Test Editor Monticello informed me that he wants to take the Yugo tonight. Not as a punishment, mind you; just out of morbid curiosity.

Here's our email exchange in full. Hopefully I didn't scare him off.

Mike Monticello: Josh, is there anything specifically wrong with the Yugo that should keep me from driving it home this afternoon. I mean, I do have a 63-mile commute and there could be some stop-and-go traffic. How bad is the stalling issue? I've never driven this thing, and I kinda want to.

Me: The answer is "Yes, probably," but I love the spirit! In short, it usually needs throttle maintenance at idle to keep from stalling, and sometimes without warning it gets pouty and will only respond to WOT. But it has never overheated or totally broken down, so I'm not saying you might not make it. It's more a question of your pain threshold.

MM: Okay, thanks man. I'm probably going to sign up for it. If I can get out of here in the Yugo by 1:00 or so, traffic could be light enough to avoid major stalling issues. If you're around before I leave, I'd love a quick tutorial down in the garage.

Me: One issue on my end: VW is visiting from 12-2 and I'm slated to participate. In case I'm not around and you decide to give it a go, here are some helpful hints:

— Ignition key is the one with the small plastic top (big plastic top does the doors and trunk; metal top is the gas cap).

— To start the car, twist the key past the point of wrist discomfort.

— Reverse may take 10-15 seconds to locate. It's down there somewhere.

— I think one of the headlights is out.

— The gas gauge doesn't completely work. If the needle starts bouncing around, you're good for a little while, but refuel at your earliest convenience.

— The temp needle will go past 50 percent if you're doing prolonged low-speed stuff. I used to blast the heat to correct this, but now I believe it's normal and fine.

— I almost broke off the driver window crank on Friday. It's cracked and fragile.

— The e-brake doesn't work very well. Definitely park it in gear, in case you don't already do that.

Other than the stalling issue and the random needs-WOT condition, I think that should cover it. Godspeed and let me know if you have any questions.

MM: Thanks. I think.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 40,859 miles

Tiring of the Bullet's Fuel-Saving Auto-Stop Feature

August 13, 2015

Back in 1989, insightful Zastava engineers were already looking to reduce tailpipe emissions with bleeding edge auto-stop technology. Okay, so credit actually belongs to the Italians for this one, as our Balkan Bullet shares engine heritage with the Fiat 128. And the auto-stop is more of a passive function on our 1989 Yugo GVL that occurs randomly and sometimes while we're still moving.

We don't really know the cause of the engine stall, er, auto-stop function, but it is beginning to provide a challenge that many staffers would rather not undertake during a rush hour commute. I'm also convinced that this is likely the sole reason people haven't been fighting over the Yugo keys at the end of the day.

Having already renounced fastidious carburetors, due to prior personal experience, it was the first obvious thing to blame. Why wouldn't it be the reason behind our torment?

Acting upon instinct, I quickly ordered a carburetor rebuild kit from, which stocks a surprising amount of Yugo replacement parts, and decided to take a stab at the issue. The complete kit set us back $40.95 in total, shipped to our offices in Santa Monica.

The patina on the included instructions leads us to believe this rebuild kit could also be from 1989.

We're not sure if this is the answer to our Yugo's environmentally-conscious quirks, but at least it'll allow the carburetor to pass blame if it isn't.

Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ some amount of miles

Monterey Car Week - Introduction

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on August 28, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

Our mission was as clear as it was terrifying:

Drive the long-term 1989 Yugo GVL to Monterey, loan it to Peter Valdes-Dapena of CNN for a segment on the Concours d'LeMons, win the Kommunist Kar class at said Concours, soak in the rest of the Monterey Car Week sights and drive back to Los Angeles, all without breaking down. Or, you know, perishing.

There were a few issues to resolve beforehand.

The Yugo's battery kept failing. The engine kept stalling at idle. Occasionally it would stumble at anything less than wide-open throttle, a condition first encountered at the end of our trip from Boise. The cabin reeked of gasoline.

Pondering these facts, I suggested to Editor-in-Chief Oldham that we trailer it to Monterey instead.

"Drive it," repeated the Chief.

Follow the links above for the rest of the story.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - Battery Replacement

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on August 30, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

You may recall that Editor Monticello was itching to take our 1989 Yugo GVL home in early August. Unfortunately, ignition was unavailable when he twisted the key. The battery had died.


I'd been told in advance of the annual Edmunds beach picnic in late July that the Yugo's battery was on the fritz, presumably due to understandable lack of use. The car was scheduled to attend the picnic as a guest of honor, and to no one's great surprise, the driving duties fell to me.

I went down to the garage for a status check the day before; sure enough, the engine cranked but wouldn't turn over. So I hooked up our handy power pack thingy and got it started, then drove around for 20 minutes to charge the battery up. When the Yugo roared to life on picnic morning, I figured that was that.

I joined a caravan of less interesting Edmunds cars and we headed for the beach. Almost nothing bad happened. I even discovered that the tape player works, whereupon I put in my tape adapter and hooked up my phone. The speakers actually don't sound half bad! Well, okay, they're terrible.

I did say "almost." The driver window crank nearly broke off in my hand, not long after I had assured @handbrake that the cranks were robust. This one would last a few more days before giving up the ghost. By the time we hit the road for Monterey, we were down to a useless stub and forced to use two hands — one rotating the crank hub, the other either yanking up the window glass or pushing it down.

Anyway, things went downhill rapidly at the beach, where I had the bright idea of playing some tunes on the stereo (specifically Balkan Beat Box, at Magrath's request) for passersby. I neglected to turn off the accessory power when the music ended, so the tape player kept spinning while I wandered around for a couple hours.

That was too much for the beleaguered battery, which is why this happened. The power pack was at the office and, let's face it, push-starts are fun.

After I popped the clutch, it took about 25 minutes in heavy traffic to get back to the garage, which was a somewhat harrowing experience. I knew that if I let the engine drop to idle speed, it would stall, and for the first few minutes at least, I wouldn't have enough charge to restart it.

Fortunately, I had long since perfected my heel-toe braking technique with the transmission in neutral, so throttle maintenance at intersections wasn't too difficult. And with another 25 minutes of charging time under its belt, I held out hope that the battery would be back to normal for the next driver.

But when Monticello tried to start the Yugo the following week, he got bupkis.

The Monterey trip loomed. It was time to take action.

A few days later, I got another push-start from Vehicle Testing Assistant Reese Counts and headed for O'Reilly Auto Parts on Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica.

The Yugo uses the same little battery as a number of economy cars. There were plenty in stock. The friendly fellow at the counter yanked out the old one and put in the new one for free.

See the "Sterling" on the label? Turns out it's a battery shop in Boise. This car is seriously authentic. It is what we thought it was.

In goes the replacement. Total cost: $129.15 including tax.

I took the Yugo to lunch on Wilshire Blvd. afterward, noting happily that it was firing up with a newfound sense of urgency.

Back in the garage, I knew we had one less thing to worry about. But batteries are easy.

Stalling and stumbling from an old Fiat engine? Maybe not so much.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - Two Visits to the Yugo Doctor

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 1, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

We had one week remaining to get our 1989 Yugo GVL straight. Editor Elfalan had found a carburetor rebuild kit, but what if the stalling and stumbling was about more than just the carb?

As @desmolicious noted in a comment on J-Elf's post, the previous owner kept a few fuel filters in the trunk. "Keeping spare filters suggests the filters are getting clogged, suggesting there is some junk in the fuel system. Maybe you need to flush out the gas tank?"

Maybe so. Note, too, that the e-brake wasn't grabbing, we had no dash illumination and the cabin smelled like 87 octane. And CNN was sending a team to Monterey to drive the car on camera.

We needed to find an expert who could sort things out.

Vehicle Testing Director Dan Edmunds recommended an old acquaintance named David Snow at Top Tech Automotive in Huntington Beach.

"Tell him I know him," Dan said, "and have flagged with his brother, and used to throw flags at his late father, Bob. I don't remember the last time he and I spoke. Maybe 20 years. But he knows old Fiats. He should have some ideas about a Yugo."

Huntington Beach is a trafficky 45 miles south of Santa Monica, but there was no compelling alternative. I made an appointment for Tuesday morning.

Our planned departure for Monterey was Thursday at 1 p.m. sharp.

First good sign when I walked into the shop: a photo of David's father racing a Fiat X1/9, which came standard with the "sporty" Yugo GVX's 1.3-liter engine (a 1.5-liter was also available).

Second good sign: David was a Fiat X1/9 racer himself back in the day. These photos and others hung on the wall of his office. Pretty cool.

Looking under the car, David immediately noticed a wack weld job on the exhaust. We would soon encounter some exhaust issues of our own on the streets of Monterey. There was no sign of imminent failure, however, so he moved on.

After fiddling extensively with the carburetor (see notes below), he pronounced it healthy enough. "The carb's okay," he said, "but you've got a misfire on cylinders three and four because there's too much resistance. Someone put in the wrong rotor and spark plug wires."

He wanted to replace the rotor and wires along with the distributor cap, but he couldn't get the parts till the next day.

He did get the car idling properly, though, by cleaning out the carb and messing with both the idle and fuel-mixture screws. He also installed a missing purge hose (that's likely where the gas smell was coming from), tightened the e-brake and — get this — soldered a dislodged metal tab back into the dimmer rheostat to restore our dashboard lights.

Here's page one of the very detailed invoice...

...and page two. An exceedingly modest fee for the work performed.

Regarding the cap, rotor and wires, I told him that the stabilized idle would be enough to get us through the weekend, and we'd take care of that stuff later. But on my way home (that's my wife's GTI providing context in the photo), I noticed that the engine had lost some zest. If we were making the full 55 horsepower before — a not completely fanciful assumption given that we hit the factory top speed of 86 mph on the Boise-LA trip — I figured we were down to about 40-45 now.

Maybe that was the price we had to pay for an idle that worked, but I kept thinking about those misfiring cylinders, and David's confidence that he could fix them. I didn't relish the idea of another trip to Huntington Beach, but we couldn't have any mechanical "what ifs" on this trip. I called him when I got home and asked if I could come back Thursday morning. He said Thursday looked good.

I said I'd see him first thing.

When I pulled into Top Tech on Thursday at 7:30 a.m., the stalling issue had returned with a vengeance, and we were still down a few Slavic horses. I was relieved that I'd made the follow-up appointment, but now our Yugo Doctor only had about three hours to re-stabilize the idle and put the new parts in, too.

After more testing, he determined that @desmolicious was right. We had a sludge problem in the fuel tank which, like the rest of the car, had sat for roughly 10 years starting in the early 2000s. One little fuel filter wasn't enough to keep the sludge from clogging the carburetor. It had gotten all sludged up again in less than 100 miles.

What to do?

The good doctor couldn't pull the gas tank and clean it, obviously. We had to drive to Monterey, stat. Instead, he came up with the ingenious solution of installing a second fuel filter between the fuel pump and the carburetor, so that any sludge that made it past the first filter would have an additional barrier to contend with.

The new filter was a big metal one, dwarfing the transparent plastic type that the previous owner favored. For good measure, David also replaced the old plastic filter with one of the spares we had in the car.

Right on time, the Yugo was ready to go. The idle wandered a bit, but it felt fierce, and I could tell right away that all 55 ponies were back in the stable.

Total cost for both visits: $566.17, or about 0.6 Edmunds Yugos.

Would we accomplish our Monterey mission before the sludge overwhelmed our makeshift dual-filtration system?

I was morbidly interested to find out.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - L.A. to Watsonville

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 3, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

The drive from Top Tech in Huntington Beach to Edmunds HQ in Santa Monica was thankfully uneventful. No idle or power issues; full steam ahead. Miraculously, we had a strong-running 1989 Yugo GVL and were still on schedule for a 1:00 p.m. departure.

The rest of Team Yugo — Product Manager Mark Holthoff, Senior Consumer Advice Editor Ron Montoya and Automotive Editor James Riswick — was ready to roll, Riswick in his personal 1998 BMW Z3 2.8 and the other guys in the long-term Murano.

But first, I had to pick up a couple things, both of which are on display in the photo below.

Earlier in the week, Editor Magrath had brilliantly suggested that we procure an #EdmundsYugo bumper sticker to get the hashtag out there and replace the sad fragment of whatever sticker used to be on the rear window. Edmunds' own design team whipped up a sharp comp on short notice, and Custom Quick Sign in Santa Monica had 25 stickers ready to go when I arrived late Thursday morning.

Second, the car got registered in Michigan. Edmunds maintains an office in Detroit, and Executive Editor Ed Hellwig was kind enough to visit the DMV on the Yugo's behalf while he was over that way. Out with the plate and temporary California operating permit, then, and in with that shiny Michigan tag. We were stickered and street-legal.

Time to hit the road.

Oops, one more thing. I stopped to grab my golf clubs, just in case we had an opportunity to squeeze in nine holes over the weekend. Was this the first time in the history of the universe that a golf bag was transferred from a Mercedes SL to a Yugo? I say yes.

I took the first Yugo shift up the 101 from Santa Monica, which was a bit grueling through the San Fernando Valley with the windows down and temps touching 110 degrees, but otherwise pleasant as could be. We stopped for gas in Santa Barbara, as the Yugo's 8-gallon tank, indeterminate fuel economy and mostly broken fuel gauge don't exactly inspire confidence. We also downed some delicious tacos at Lilly's Taqueria — you should too when you're passing through — and then it was time to switch drivers.

Captain Montoya had the conn.

There are some pretty steep hills on U.S. 101 North past Santa Barbara. On at least one occasion, Ron had to drop into third gear. But as usual, the Yugo thrived on the open road, and Ron's cruising speed steadily increased. A bond was clearly forming.

Just a couple of hatchbacks out for a cruise. We determined that the Yugo was significantly more exciting to drive.

Why Watsonville, you ask? Because we didn't decide to do this until mid-July, which meant the only remaining housing options in the Monterey area were depressing motel rooms for $400-500 a night. And we'd need two of those. I looked on Airbnb and found a two-bedroom condo in Watsonville for $650 a night all-in. It was 27 miles north, but it was also right on the beach.

This is what it looked like during the day just over the dunes. I like to think we made the right call.

In any case, all three cars got there in one piece and the Yugo was still running tip-top.

Mark and I decided to press our luck the following morning and drive the Balkan Bullet to The Quail — "A Motorsports Gathering."

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 6, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

The first thing you need to know about The Quail is that it's not just called "The Quail." It only answers to "The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering." If there's anything more rarified than the actual Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach, this Friday morning fixture is it.

Our 1989 Yugo GVL was a natural choice for transportation.

By the time we parked it on the golf course between two fellow European imports, however, the exhaust was sounding pretty ragged. I noticed the extra throatiness as soon as we left Watsonville, and it got progressively worse. I wasn't too concerned, though; a Yugo with an exhaust leak would probably fit right in at the Concours d'LeMons. Besides, we had some bajillion-dollar cars to ogle. Everything was going to be alright.

The second thing you need to know about this year's The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering is that there were two women swinging around on flexible poles the whole time we were there. This one greeted everyone at the entrance bridge...

...and this one was doing her thing next to the Porsche installation.

I tried to find out where they came from, but my Google searches were, erm, unsuccessful. Let me know in the comments if you have more luck. I'm genuinely curious and a little disturbed.

This is where most of the action happened, but there was more Motorsports Gathering over to the left, including an amazing 1937 Packard (among other old stuff) and champagne and wine tasting.

Lunch was provided gratis by The Peninsula Hotel Paris, which I figured was a hoity-toity name for a hotel on the Monterey Peninsula. Nope, it's in Paris.

James took this photo from the Z3 as Mark and I were about to leave. The exhaust seemed even louder than before. I suddenly started to worry that it might interfere with CNN's video production the following morning.

There were other events going on that afternoon, but they weren't mission-critical. More important was finding a mechanic who had time to patch us up for the big day.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - The Exhaust Situation

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 8, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

When Mark and I left "The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering" on Friday afternoon, we were simply hoping to find a shop that could patch up the Yugo's leaky exhaust. But the situation escalated on the outskirts of Monterey when a metallic clanking noise joined the chorus.

Now we didn't just have a leak; we had an exhaust pipe dragging on the pavement.

As you might imagine, we weren't the only guys in town for Concours weekend with car trouble. All the mechanics I called were out straight. Even Midas couldn't fit us in until Saturday at 3:00 p.m., which would be after both the CNN rendezvous and the Concours d'LeMons. I made the appointment anyway, but we needed immediate attention.

Mark suggested that we stop calling and start just showing up, so I located the next garage on the list and drove directly into the service area, clanking exhaust and all. Specifically, I backed in after missing the turn, electing not to drive any farther than necessary. Although the foreman was evidently surprised to see a Yugo reversing rapidly into his shop, he took pity on us when he realized what we were dealing with.

A few minutes later, the car was on a lift.

Near as we can tell, what happened was that there weren't any hangers between the engine and the muffler, so the midsection needed full structural integrity to stay suspended. Once the hole compromised that integrity, it was only a matter of time before the pipe started bending, which in turn caused the midsection to rotate downward. If you look at the top photo, the rear hanger's still doing its job; it's the rest of the assembly that's having a hard time.

Unfortunately, the shop didn't have the resources to weld in a new piece, so they reinforced the rear portion with what looked like some chicken wire and sent us on our way. That got the exhaust off the ground, but it didn't address the vulnerability of the weakened midsection.

We took a closer look when we got back to Watsonville. What if the pipe were to break in two at the hole? It seemed there'd be nothing to stop both broken ends from dropping straight down.

Accordingly, we did what perhaps many Yugo owners before us have done:

Grabbed a couple of wire coat-hangers and twisted them into harnesses on either side of the hole.

Mark engaged in a little quality control under the car while James pretended to rummage through his trunk for something useful. We called it good enough. The noise persisted, of course, but there was nothing we could do about it now.

Next up: CNN in the morning, followed by the Concours d'LeMons and finally Midas in the afternoon. Hopefully our handiwork would stand the test of time.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - CNN and the Concours d'LeMons

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 10, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

When we met the CNN crew in Monterey on Saturday morning, they said they'd heard the long-term 1989 Yugo GVL coming from a few blocks away. But our MacGyver repairs were holding steady. I told them not to worry about the noise; the exhaust had been reinforced with coat-hangers and chicken wire. Behind their bemused expressions, I'm sure they were relieved.

The plan was for on-camera guy Peter Valdes-Dapena to drive the car to Laguna Grande Park in the neighboring town of Seaside — the site of the Concours d'LeMons — with me riding shotgun. And that's what we did, exhaust blaring all the while. They shot some car-to-car video en route, but nothing inside the cabin, so the leak actually wasn't a big deal. It also gave us some extra street cred when we pulled up to the Concours sounding like a chainsaw.

Once we claimed our parking spot in the "Kommunist Kar" section, the exhaust no longer stood in our way. There was only one thing left to do:

Win whatever it is that a Concours d'LeMons winner wins.

We came prepared. Our fancy black display table (purchased at Target in Paso Robles en route) featured a Yugo parts catalog, a repair manual, the original tool kit with Yugo stampings, the owner's manual, a scrapbook with scanned copies of the original Yugo press materials and a bunch of custom postcards ("Zdravo" from Owens Lake, CA!).

We also had a fantastic photo-illustration map of the Boise trip, courtesy of the same Edmunds design team that did the bumper sticker and the postcard. People were stopping by all morning to check it out.

When the judges arrived to inspect the car, I realized that I'd neglected to bring the excellent bribe suggested by my Boise driving partner Kurt: A bottle of the plum-based Balkan liquor that Yugo factory workers used to guzzle on the job. Fortunately, Peter was there to tell them, as nicely as possible, that he couldn't guarantee the Concours would be featured on CNN unless the Edmunds Yugo took first place.

After a couple more hours of sweating in the unusually warm Seaside sun, the verdict was in. Victory was ours! We had placed first out of two cars in the Kommunist Kar class, beating out — if you can believe it — another 1989 Yugo GVL, and a mint one at that. I'll tell you more about it in the next post.

Oddly, the class was listed as "Russian" on the slip, even though the sign in front of the cars said "Kommunist Kar" and Yugos aren't Russian. Hey, a win is a win. I was pleased that Editor-in-Chief Oldham, the man who approved my $950 expense report for the Yugo purchase, got some recognition on the Concours lawn.

Peter rode shotgun for the awards procession as Team Yugo looked on. Kurt happened to be in town, too; that's him in the straw hat and Ron alongside in the shades.

Knowing this was history in the making, the CNN crew recorded every second of it. What'd we win, you ask? A can of sliced beets, a jar of borscht, a cutting board and a plastic bottle of VIP Select vodka. That's what was in the yellow bag. True story.

I held the swag aloft in triumph and drove off. There was a deafening roar from the exhaust, if not the crowd.

Then we headed beachward with CNN for more video. Here, Peter attempts to explain why he's standing in front of a Yugo holding a bottle of vodka and a can of beets.

To the Yugo go the spoils.

We parted ways with Team CNN shortly thereafter and made a beeline for Midas, where we parked next to a car that exactly none of us would have rather been driving. They cut out the part of the exhaust with the hole and welded in a new section. Our Concours winner was transformed. Pulling out into traffic, the exhaust note sounded shockingly refined.

We celebrated our banner day with some unexpectedly damn good sushi back in Watsonville. Implausibly enough, the trip was going more or less according to plan.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - The Other Yugo

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 13, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

As noted, our 1989 Yugo GVL wasn't the only car entered in the Kommunist Kar class. There was one other competitor.

A 1989 Yugo GVL.

I thought the Edmunds Yugo's 41,000-ish miles might be the lowest in the country, but this one had 37,000 and change. It was also pretty close to a perfect 10 in all respects.

That shiny cover isn't stock, but most other items are. The engine bay was unbelievably clean.

The owner, a guy based in Fresno who has an 89-car collection, said someone once offered him $5,000 for this sticker alone. Hey, I'm just telling you what he said. He harvested the sticker from the original cover when he changed it out. Our sticker is missing; I checked.

Look at how every single letter is dark and crisp. Ours still has this sticker, but it says something like "M D  I  Y G  LAV."

The owner said he wouldn't take less than $12,500 for it. That's 13.2 Edmunds Yugos.

So why didn't it win the Kommunist Kar class? Most likely because it won last year, we learned. No self-respecting Concours crowns the same car two years in a row.

But you know, we might have won anyway. The Concours d'LeMons is supposed to be for "hoopties and rust buckets" and "an ugly oil stain on the Pebble Beach Auto Week." This car didn't have any stains at all. It was thoroughly out-hooptied by the Edmunds Yugo.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - Dawn Patrol

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 15, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

NOTE: Mega photo gallery above!

The culmination of Monterey Car Week is the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and the calendar says it starts at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

But the best part isn't on the calendar; it starts before the sun comes up. There's nothing else like it.

"Dawn Patrol" is when most of the vehicles competing in the Concours actually drive out onto the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Some of the frailer entrants get parked out there the night before, but it's become a tradition for all able-bodied cars to join the early-morning procession, motoring one at a time past throngs of bleary-eyed admirers.

Ron and James elected to sleep in, but Mark and I set our alarms for 3:45 a.m. We were ready to go by 4:20.

Unhesitatingly, we grabbed the keys to our 1989 Yugo GVL.

It's barely worth noting at this point that the car fired right up in the condo parking lot. Of course it did. It's the Edmunds Yugo.

Check out the dash illumination! Not the best I've seen, but could be worse.

Again, it almost goes without saying that the 40-minute drive from Watsonville was uneventful. Our media passes got us into a Pebble parking lot, and we strolled toward the Dawn Patrol staging area. What a scene when we arrived. This 1954 Fiat 8V Ghia Supersonic Coupe was one of my favorites at the show.

This year, at least, the action didn't start until around 6 a.m., so we had an hour to kill. Pleasantly, coffee and doughnuts were provided.

That's the 18th green. Not the worst place to be stuck for an hour. We never did use our golf clubs, by the way, but we brought them on a couple drives, and I can confirm that both bags fit just fine in the Yugo's backseat (no way they were fitting in the minuscule trunk, which is all ate up with wheel well).

Looking back over the 18th green, you can see the crowd amassing. It's almost time.

And here they come (that's a Moon!). I put my camera in burst mode and took about 2,000 photos. The best shots, according to me, are in the album above.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - The Concours d'Elegance

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 17, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

NOTE: Mega photo gallery above!

With our 1989 Yugo GVL waiting patiently in the parking lot, we took a few leisurely strolls up and down Pebble Beach's iconic 18th fairway. It was mid-morning in Monterey. Dawn Patrol had officially given way to the Concours d'Elegance. The former may have been the highlight, but the latter wasn't exactly a letdown.

If you didn't know, the Concours d'Elegance is the most amazing classic car show in the world. Riswick was the only member of Team Yugo who had previously attended. We were all suitably gobsmacked.

As an example of the gobsmackery, I present this 1924 Mercedes 630K Murphy Roadster, selected virtually at random from the 100-plus photos in the flipper above. I couldn't pin down its market value, but I did discover that a 1928 630K sold for $1.24 million not long ago. By Pebble standards, that's chump change.

Here's the scene from behind the 18th green at 10:45 a.m. The crowds were already a bit much. Another time, I'd do Dawn Patrol plus a couple quick early laps, then beat a hasty retreat.

A BMW Isetta puttered by as we walked back to the Yugo. According to none other than John Pearley Huffman on, the Isetta is the third-worst car of all time, beating out the Yugo at #4.

There's our noble steed. The cars parked around it were unusually pedestrian, though that black Mulsanne on the left added a touch of class. Note the 18-wheelers in the background; we saw some Concours entrants being wheeled out of those trailers when we walked by before dawn.

That's more like it. Just your typical $2m-or-whatever 300SL Gullwing parked next to a Grand Caravan and a Fusion on wood chips in a satellite lot.

We tried to take the back way out, but most of the local roads were shut down, so we were forced to strut down Pebble's main drag. If the Bugatti folks were shocked by our Yugo-ness, they gave no outward indication.

Has a Pebble media pass ever hung from the rearview mirror of a Yugo? Possibly another all-time first in the history of the universe.

We didn't escape without getting a little stink-eye from the peanut gallery.

Extreme closeup. Dude in the red hat is clearly a hater.

What's that, a 575? Under any other circumstances, Mark and I would have said something like, "Whoa, a Ferrari!" But after the Quail, Dawn Patrol and the Concours, we were all out of whoas.

With Ron behind us in the Murano and James in the Z3, we set out for Soledad, California, our first gas and coffee stop on the way home.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Monterey Car Week - Victory Lap

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 20, 2015

Intro | Pt 1 | Pt 2 | Pt 3 | Pt 4 | Pt 5 | Pt 6 | Pt 7 | Pt 8 | Pt 9 | Pt 10

It's a 284-mile drive down U.S. Route 101 from Soledad to Santa Monica. A few months ago, the prospect of tackling it in a 1989 Yugo GVL would have been laughable. Surely something would break and ruin the trip. Also our lives.

But the Edmunds Yugo was unstoppable from Boise to Los Angeles, and it never broke a sweat from L.A. to Watsonville. Then it schlepped us to the Quail, the Concours d'LeMons and the Concours d'Elegance on successive mornings. With the newly patched exhaust, it sounded better than ever.

Only a fool would bet against it now.

I'm no fool, I tell you, so I volunteered for the first leg from Soledad to Santa Maria. That's farm country, mostly, with the Coast Ranges blocking the cooling effect of the sea.  It was early Sunday afternoon, and the forecast said hot. I preemptively removed my suit jacket and hung it in the window.

Has a Banana Republic blazer ever hung inside a Yugo? Go on and marinate on that for a minute.

This Suburban driver presumably had no idea why I was taking a photo of her vehicle on the freeway, but she smiled and waved anyway. Such is the irresistible appeal of the Edmunds Yugo.

The Murano's exterior temperature gauge reported 111 degrees at one point, breaking the all-time Yugo record we'd set on the way to Watsonville (see Part 3). I had the heat on full blast as a precaution and with the windows down at highway speeds, I couldn't even feel it. The throttle was pegged pretty much the whole time, but our dual-filtered engine didn't miss a beat. Other than my bottled water getting hot again — I've drunk more hot water (and Cockta) in this car than in the entire rest of my life — it was borderline thrilling.

Ron took the wheel after an early dinner in Santa Maria. Next stop: Edmunds HQ. We hit a minor snag north of Santa Barbara when roadside signs informed us that the 101 South was jammed up due to encroaching wildfires. The time-saving alternative was to take Route 154 over the San Marcos Pass, a beautiful but decidedly hilly detour.

No need to worry. The Yugo was rock-solid up and over the 2,225-foot pass, with nary a hint of the part-throttle stumbling that had plagued it toward the end of the Boise adventure.

Back on the 101, traffic was moving nicely. We were almost home.

Bikers dig the Edmunds Yugo. Let's be honest, everyone digs the Edmunds Yugo.

Look at that jaunty stance.

Many cars were not faster than our speeding Balkan Bullet.

Boom! Back in the garage. The odometer broke somewhere along the way, so I can't tell you how many miles we covered, but the Yugo was ready for more. It was truly a command performance. Somewhere Tito was smiling.

Granted, our success didn't come cheap. The new battery, pre-trip mechanic visits and mid-trip exhaust repairs added up to $879.69. Throw in the brakes and tires in Boise and you've got maintenance costs of about 1.5 Edmunds Yugos thus far.

But in the wise words of Tiger Woods, "Winning takes care of everything." The Yugo got its vodka and beets. The rest is just details.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

The Penalty Box Goes Back to Service

by Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor on September 23, 2015

The first time I tried to take our 1989 Yugo GVL home, the car wouldn't start. Dead battery.

Not long after, I was asked (told?) to drive the Yugo to Huntington Beach for some more work at Top Tech Auto. It wasn't so much that I'd done anything wrong — the Yugo's main purpose in our fleet is to serve as a "penalty box" for editorial screw-ups, remember — but rather the bosses were calling this move a genius bit of "advance planning."

"It's only a matter of time before Monticello flubs up again," they said. "So let's just get it over with and punish him now."

Of course it was a stifling hot day. Edmunds car czar Mike Schmidt and I would caravan from our offices in Santa Monica to Huntington Beach, about 40 miles south. Mike would luxuriate in the perfectly air-conditioned 2015 BMW M235i Convertible, while I would command the totally non-air-conditioned Balkan Bullet, as resident Yugo savant Josh Sadlier likes to call it.

Unlike my aborted first attempt a few weeks earlier, this time the Yugo fired right up. Darn it. Stupid new battery. Of course the first order of business was rolling down the windows, made more difficult by the stubby, newly broken handle on the driver's side.

Sadlier had warned that the gearbox isn't the most precise ever. "Reverse is down there somewhere," he said with a laugh. In the grand scheme of crappy old cars though, it really wasn't a big deal. And damn me to hell for my blasphemy against those "Porsche is a two-syllable word" dorks, but the Yugo's gearbox is easier to work than the one in our old long-term 1985 Porsche 911.

Our stalling problems appear to have been fixed, as the car ran fine. Sure does get hot inside the cabin, though. Even with both side windows down, there was precious little cross-flow ventilation. My cold bottle of water was warm within minutes, and I quickly lost any desire to drink it for the hour-plus drive south in thick traffic.

I enjoyed the car's low limits around the few turns I encountered in Santa Monica before getting on the highway. But I was keenly aware of the dire consequences were there a sudden stop in highway traffic while I traveling 70 mph. Skinny tires, no ABS and a mushy brake pedal are good ingredients for instant adventure.  

We got to Top Tech Auto without a hitch, other than Monticello nearly dying of thirst. We quickly realized the owner of the shop has pretty much adopted the car as one of his own. It's safe to say he's more concerned about the Yugo's health and well-being than any of us on staff. Josh can tell you more about the service performed in a later post.

And yes, there was some debate as to whether that bicycle in the above photo might be a quicker, more reliable form of daily transportation.

Better airflow, for sure.

Mike Monticello, Senior Road Test Editor

It's Better Than Walking

by Reese Counts Vehicle Testing Assistant on September 28, 2015

As the newest member of the Edmunds editorial staff, it's slim pickings when it comes to signing out a car for the evening. So slim in fact that one evening it came down to either my personal vehicle or a 1989 Yugo GVL. I was in the middle of moving so at the time my GTI was serving as a mobile storage unit. I felt my belongings were a little safer tucked away in the parking structure deep below Fort Edmunds.

That left me with one option.

At the time I was staying just a few blocks away from the office, so if anything went awry I knew I could hoof it back to the office. I wasn't too worried. Josh Sadlier assured me the idle problem had been sorted and, with a new battery installed, I wouldn't have to push start the car again.

My time behind the Yugo's forward-canted steering wheel was long overdue. When I was still an intern, I was part of the team that went and purchased the Yugo in Boise, Idaho. Since then, I've felt obligated to drive it. After two nights with the so-called Balkan Bullet, I was left with very mixed feelings.

First off, turning the ignition requires you to hug the steering wheel while awkwardly twisting your wrist. The clutch pedal works in the sense that it engages and disengages the clutch. But there is no pedal feel or discernable catch point, just one smooth transition from the firewall upward. The shifter is vague, centering itself after moving from one gear to the next. The unassisted steering is surprisingly heavy for a car with such little weight and narrow tires, though the large steering wheel aids your efforts.

Since the entire car smells of gasoline, rolling down the window is a must. Because the lever has broken, lowering the window requires the driver to rotate what remains of the crank with one hand while pushing down on the window with the other. It's best to do this before you're buckled in with the two-piece seat belts.

It might sound like I'm complaining, but these are mostly just observations. The act of actually driving this car is quite fun.

The Yugo wants to be wrung out. Heavy steering and lack of power encourages the driver to maintain any momentum that's been gained. Slowing down means eventually having to speed back up, one of the Yugo's many weak spots. Tossing the Yugo into a corner produces comical amounts of body roll and makes the car feel like its traveling faster than it actually is.

I wouldn't want to drive this every day, or even 900 miles back from Idaho. Part of the fun is knowing that I don't actually have to live with the Yugo and all that comes with it every day. But for puttering around town, it's good for a laugh.

Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 41,706 miles

Photos of the Details

by Travis Langness, Social Media Editor on October 4, 2015

The slogan was small, but when I read it aloud, I felt like I was channeling some form of ancient Balkan strength. "YUGO FOR LIFE," I said to myself in an empty parking lot. "We should put that on a t-shirt." The sticker on the passenger-side window was the first hidden gem that I spotted on our long-term 1989 Yugo GVL, but it wasn't the last.

I loathe driving the Yugo, but there are still some details that caught my eye when I was forced in to the Balkan Bullet last week. From our custom window-knob to the rear-seat ashtray and the faux-wood trim on the dash, there's plenty to remind you that you've been assigned the Penalty Box for the night, and whatever it is you did, you won't be doing it again.

Check out the photo album above for an up-close tour.

Travis Langness, Social Media Editor

Performance Testing - Will It Survive?

by Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager on October 11, 2015

We needed a couple of tries to get our 1989 Yugo GVL up to instrumented performance testing standards. Now that it was as healthy as we've known it to be, the Yugo was ready for a day at the test track.

The proposition was a bit sketchy. Largely because this was the first time the car had run reliably in the past three weeks. We anticipated some laughs, a steady flow of sweat and even a few white knuckle moments. In the back of our minds we all wondered if it would survive the day but nobody said it out loud. This was going to be fun...

Vehicle: 1989 Yugo GVL

Odometer: 41,838

Date: 9/22/2015

Driver: Carlos Lago

Price: $950

Drive Type: Front-Wheel Drive
Transmission Type: Four-speed manual
Engine Type: Inline-4 cylinder
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,116/68
Redline (rpm): no tachometer
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 55 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 57 @ 3,000
Brake Type (front): One-piece, solid disc, two-piston sliding caliper
Brake Type (rear): Drum
Suspension Type (front): Independent, MacPherson strut, anti-roll bar
Suspension Type (rear): Strut, transverse leaf spring
Tire Size (front): P155/80R13 79T
Tire Size (rear): P155/80R13 79T
Tire Brand: Kumho
Tire Model: Solus KR21
Tire Type:  All-Season
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 1,822

Test Results: 

0-30 (sec): 4.8
0-45 (sec): 8.5
0-60 (sec): 15.3
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 14.9 
0-75 (sec): did not reach 75 mph in 1/4-mile 
1/4-mile (sec @ mph): 19.87 @ 65.96

30-0 (ft): 36
60-0 (ft): 155

Slalom (mph): 52.9
Skidpad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.60
RPM @ 70: no tachometer

It'll chirp the tires. Disappointingly, it won't do a burnout. Like most serious drag racers, getting the Yugo off the line is all about the launch. These new Kumho tires have more grip than the engine has power, so you have to carefully and slowly engage the clutch at high rpm. Get the balance right, and the Yugo makes some approximation of an aggressive launch.

The absence of a tach means shifting is more about judging acceleration by your gut and worrying about valve float. The shifter has the precision of a blind man with a machine gun. You have to rush it to the area where the next gear might be and release the clutch with the hope that you've made it. Also, because the throttle sticks when you use wide-open throttle, you're basically flat-shifting. Serious drag racing stuff.                        

It's with trepidation that you do approach the aptly-named panic stop with a Yugo. It takes a while to wind up to 60-plus mph, and you hope coming back down to zero will take less time. The pedal actually feels pretty good. You can threshold brake right to the tire's limits. They are low limits, mind you. But you can stand right on them.

The best 155-foot stopping distance is 10 feet shorter than new. As much as I'd like to credit my spectacular driving skills it's likely the result of a few decades of tire development. It takes some steering correction to keep straight — especially so if you lock up the brakes — but it's easy to control.    

The Yugo is a slow, low-grip, and high-effort car. The 52.9-mph result may sound poor, but from the driver's seat it's a very fast 52.9 mph. You have to sit up on the wheel to get enough leverage on it, bracing against the door. Most of that speed comes from the Yugo's narrowness, which allows you to get through the cones without working too much on the steering wheel. This is good, because keeping in sync with the body roll is important. Zig when it zags and its bad news.

The Yugo would rather not turn. Ask it to, and it'll want to throw itself on the door handles. From the tires squealing to how you have to brace against the door, everything protests turning. With the suspension sophistication of a mobile home, the Yugo posts unsurprisingly poor numbers and a rather painful experience from behind the wheel.

Onlookers have a better time, as they can see it pick up an inside rear tire — just like a GTI! We didn't experience any starvation from fuel slosh (old-school stability control), but perhaps that's because the lateral acceleration was so low.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 41,838 miles

Post-Pebble Checkup

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on October 16, 2015

Following its triumphant weekend in Monterey, our long-term 1989 Yugo GVL headed back to the Yugo Doctor for a few tweaks. The odometer had stopped working on the way home, for one thing, and we also wanted to get the gas tank cleaned and treated to solve our sludge problem once and for all.

While we were at it, we asked our man David to check the jumpy speedometer needle, clip the loose passenger door panel back into place and see if he could track down a replacement driver window crank.

Less than shockingly, everyone was fresh out of Yugo window cranks, which is why there's now a pair of vise-grips on the hub. But otherwise, we did pretty well. The gauge cluster was removed, lubricated and tested, and it seems to be back in working order. The gas tank got de-sludged and epoxied to guard against future corrosion. A cracked filler hose was replaced as well. And the passenger door panel is now clipped on factory-tight, a first in our ownership experience.

Total Days Out of Service: 10

Total Cost: $444.25.

Given that the mint-condition-Yugo guy at the Concours d'LeMons claimed a sticker in his engine bay was worth $5,000, I'd say our honeymoon phase is far from over.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Fix It Again

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on December 4, 2015

"We need a new update on the Yugo. What's going on with it?" - @daryleason, 11/16/15

I was wondering that myself around the same time, so I signed out our beloved 1989 Yugo GVL for a night (choosing it over the Viper, incidentally). Turns out my last post needs a few footnotes.

Odometer fixed? Not anymore; we've hit a full stop at 41,838. Kinda makes me wonder if I imagined that it was working in the first place. Speedometer fixed? On further review, the needle does seem less spastic, but there's still a comical margin of error. At least the interior passenger door panel's still clipped on tight, and I have no reason to doubt that the gas tank remains sludge-free and appreciates its nice new filler hose.

But a fresh problem reared its head as soon as I twisted the key. The Italian stallion under the hood was raging, and I couldn't calm it down.

Basically, it sounded like the throttle was stuck wide open, although there's no tachometer to corroborate that. We've encountered a sticky throttle in the past, but the remedy — pumping the gas pedal — had no effect this time. Lacking better ideas (like shutting it off, perhaps), I shifted into first and let out the clutch, which simultaneously solved the revving problem and launched the car rather abruptly from its parking space.

As I wound through the garage, keeping it in first, all my right foot had to do was work the brake. Leave it to Yugo to introduce an autonomous throttle to the subcompact segment.

The engine warmed up before too long, and that brought the idle down to something reasonable, making neutral a friendlier place to be and my drive home considerably less interesting. But this aggression clearly would not stand, and just as clearly, we weren't going to drive the thing an hour south to see the Yugo Doctor.

When I got to the office the next morning, having gone through the same harrowing warm-up procedure starting at my place, I located a carburetor guy 1.5 miles away and made an appointment.

His name was Tony. Because of course it was.

The engine was warm and thus behaving relatively well when I got to Tony's garage, but he immediately noticed that fuel was dripping from one of the Venturis.

"The carb is over-float," he explained. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I could see that fuel was indeed dripping in there. He said he needed to rebuild the carburetor, bringing us full-circle to our original plan back in August.

I'll always appreciate the Yugo Doctor for creatively resolving the chronic stalling issue in time for our triumph in Monterey, but would a rebuilt carb have been an equally effective and more lasting solution? How much of the other stuff that he did was really necessary? Wonder amongst yourselves. I still say winning takes care of everything.

In any case, Tony assured me he'd get the car running right, and he meant it. The idle is properly low and astonishingly stable, even on a cold start, with a faint yet insistent throb that leaves no doubt as to the Italian pedigree. I'm calling it officially Fixed Again. Now I just need to notify Editor Romans, our man in Fresno, who's been itching to take the Yugo for an extended loan.

Repair cost: $439

Time out of service: 2 days

Total maintenance costs divided by purchase price: Math still in progress, but almost certainly an Edmunds record.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 41,838 miles

Ten Reasons to Take the Yugo

by Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant on December 10, 2015

To my significant other's great displeasure, I decided to take the Yugo home for a night. I also decided we needed to take the car somewhere nice for dinner, so I could share with her the joys of the Balkan Bullet.

It took some convincing to get her inside. Here are the top 10 reasons I used to persuade my wife to ride with me in the Yugo.

1. You won't lose your street parking spot if we don't take your car.

2. It's an Italian classic, sort of.

3. We can eat anywhere you want.

4. I mostly trust it, and you mostly trust me. Right?

5. The fire extinguisher is completely full in case something happens.

6. The gasoline smell isn't bad with the windows down.

7. You only live once.

8. Please.

9. With sugar on top.

10. I won't shut up about it until you do.

Reese Counts, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Industry-Leading Tamper-Proof Fuel Cap

by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on December 29, 2015

Everyone probably still remembers back in 2008 when gasoline prices hit a U.S. national average of more than $4 a gallon. Exciting times, they were. So exciting in fact that it was the first time I dealt with fuel theft, right in the backyard of my old office parking lot. Four employee personal cars parked in the lot overnight had their gas flaps pried open and their tanks siphoned empty. My old cargo van probably provided one of the largest scores, but escaped bodily damage thanks to the absence of a locking fuel door.

Had my van been equipped with proper fuel anti-theft technology like our 1989 Yugo GVL, perhaps the attack would have been thwarted entirely.

It had been sometime since my last Yugo fix, and after Sadlier's recent report on the Yugo's (relatively) clean bill of health, a quick lunch-hour joy ride seemed in order. The engine fired up like it was fresh from the factory, settling into a remarkably smooth idle. Then as I made my way up our parking garage's long exit ramp, that smooth running Italian heart skipped a beat and then went silent. Ugh.

I cranked it and luckily it started. I was even able to feather the throttle enough to inch up the last half of the ramp. Once on flat ground, all seemed copacetic, which was different from our earlier stalling issue. This throttle behavior reminded me more of driving a fuel-starved go-kart, except that you can see when your go-kart fuel tank is going empty. Our Yugo's fuel gauge is indecisive at best, fluttering between empty and three-quarters full at any given moment.

As I nursed the Yugo along looking for a gas station, I noticed a secondary indicator that was sort of working.

Every time I applied the brakes, the fuel light would illuminate, confirming that we hadn't fed the poor girl for some time.

At the gas station, I go to remove the fuel cap and learn there are two key positions; one allows the cap to spin with little to no resistance, the other locks it in place. I spend some time spinning the cap before realizing nothing is happening. So I lock it in place and try again, but it now feels fused to the filler neck. As I switch back and forth between key positions, people begin to take notice of the jerk selfishly occupying a pump spot for five minutes, without pumping any gas!

A hasty "opening a Yugo gas cap" Google search returns nothing useful for my situation, so I move to the next logical solution: Call Josh Sadlier. When I tell Sadlier my predicament, he laughs a little and then confirms that the "fused" key position is indeed the correct one for unscrewing the cap.

Apparently Josh and photographer Kurt Niebuhr had a similar issue on their drive back from purchasing the car, and even had a shop mechanic at a gas station offer to "permanently" remove the cap if they couldn't get it off. While my experience with locking gas caps is admittedly limited, our Yugo's cap appears to be far more robust than many examples I've come across online.

With the green light from Sadlier to put some torque on the cap, it finally relented and the refueling routine resumed. Total time elapsed, unknown. But it was definitely long enough for anyone to realize the value of the gas inside isn't worth the effort.

Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ a few miles more than before

More Like a McLaren F1 Than Ever

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on January 4, 2016

Our 1989 Yugo GVL was a four-seater when it left the factory, and it still was when it came into our possession. But a funny thing happened at some point after the Pebble trip:

The driver seatbelt buckle fell apart, and some key components went missing.

I'm blaming Editor Lago for his otherwise heroic track test, which included a 15.3-second 0-60 run that obliterated MotorWeek's 16.0-second result when the car was new. I just don't think the buckle was built to withstand that kind of acceleration.

In any event, the buckle's productive days are behind it, which means that if you want to be completely legal in the driver seat, which of course we always do, you've got to find a new way to secure the lap belt. (Note: As any Yugo aficionado will tell you, there is a separate shoulder belt that clicks into a buckle on the door frame. That buckle is still intact. -Ed.)

The natural choice is the front-passenger buckle, just a few inches away. Works great for solo trips. But what if you've managed to talk someone into riding with you? Easier said than done, but great question. I'm pleased to announce that I have found the answer.

Turns out, if you pull the lap belt out all the way, it extends just far enough to connect with the driver-side buckle in the backseat. (Those Yugo engineers thought of everything!) On the downside, that means no one can legally sit behind the driver. But the rear position on the passenger side is still in play, so you can put an additional occupant back there for a total of three.

It follows that, as Kurt sagely observed when I shared my discovery, the Edmunds Yugo is now akin to the McLaren F1 in at least one important respect.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor

Valets Dig It

by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on January 12, 2016

Kurt and I left the office around the same time for a holiday party back in December, piloting the 1989 Yugo GVL and the 2015 Acura TLX, respectively. He beat me, of course, so I had the privilege of pulling up behind the Yugo at the valet stand, creating an assuredly unprecedented TLX-Yugo-Range Rover sandwich.  

Then the valet drove off in the Yugo and parked it next to a dumpster behind a hedge, and I got most it on video.

Unfortunately, I started recording too late to catch the part where the guy couldn't get it into reverse. As I explained in the operating instructions, "Reverse may take 10-15 seconds to locate. It's down there somewhere." This man had evidently not read the instructions. I heard him grunting and cussing as soon as I got out of the TLX, and the Yugo was visibly rocking as he tried to jam the shifter somewhere that made sense. 

Once he figured it out, though, he seemed to have himself a pleasant little experience, as Edmunds Yugo drivers are wont to do.

Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor @ 41,838 miles

The Bullet Goes Billet

by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on January 18, 2016

The insightful lyrics of '80s hairband Cinderella couldn't ring truer after an exceptionally muscled editor snapped the window crank off the Yugo's driver-side door. A pair of mini vise-grips was a brilliant Band-Aid in the interim, but they lacked the mechanical efficiency that comes with a rotating knob.

Unfortunately our Yugo Doctor's parts purveyor was fresh out of replacement window cranks, so we took our search online, browsing large auto part warehouses like RockAuto and smaller specialty sites like the one suggested by Edmunds' blog commenter ab348. This, too, proved surprisingly unsuccessful.

Acknowledging that any aftermarket hardware would likely decrease our chances of a repeat victory in the 2016 Concours d'LeMons' Kommunist Kar class at Pebble Beach, we made the executive decision of convenience over authenticity.

There is no shortage of non-factory options once the aftermarket door is opened. We pondered the irony of fitting a set of $1200 vintage Ferrari 250 window cranks, which would more than double The Bullet's resale value, but instead landed on a more cost-efficient universal solution for $12.59 shipped to our door.

Machined out of solid "billet" aluminum, the chromed-finished cranks came with three sets of hub adapters, a handful of set screws and an Allen key — everything we'd theoretically need for the swap.

Releasing the tension spring of the vise-grips, I was somewhat surprised to find the hub splines were still perfectly intact. I decided to try the spline adapters first.

A perfect fit. That almost never happens, especially when the word "universal" is involved.

In an effort to preserve some of the original factory appearance, I referenced the position of the passenger-side window crank with the window completely rolled up.

With the splined adapter properly indexed, the north and south set screws went in to hold the adapter to the hub.

The crank was then screwed to the adapter with the east and west screws.

Voila! Rinse and repeat on passenger side for symmetry.

It's amazing the amount of convenience a rotating knob adds to the act of rolling up a window. And being machined out of what appears to be a pretty solid piece of metal, Josh Sadlier is going to have a much harder time wearing out these beauties.

Now that we know how rare original Yugo windows cranks are, we might put this spare up on eBay and see if we can recoup our $12.59.

Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor

El Nino Leak Down Test

by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on March 16, 2016

New cars nowadays are subject to all sorts of tests to ensure they're crashworthy, that they don't fall apart rolling down the highway, or flood with water if caught out in the rain or attacked by a sprinkler gone rouge.

After months behind the wheel and an indefinite number of miles covered, we can say in good confidence that The Bullet is 0-for-2 by modern measures. So of course we had to give it the opportunity to go for the Triple Crown and see what would happen if we drove it into an El Niño downpour on purpose.

We drove for a grand total of 56 minutes through the 1000-year storm blanketing the roads of Southern California, and in the end the Yugo emerged surprisingly defiant. Ignoring the emergency pit stop at the local Autozone to replace long-expired wiper blades, not a single interior trim piece or section of blemished upholstery showed signs of rain intrusion. Seriously.

A closer look at the Yugo lends some insight into these results. Thanks to the care and protection of the previous owner, the Yugo's front windshield's rubber seals are healthy, and not baked-through by UV rays.

And even the rain rails, which run the length of the roof and shelter both front doors and rear window seals, show no signs of rust.

Lastly, the rear hatch gutters sport a water-tight drainage design that indicate some engineering and design effort went into this thing.

Our apologies to the Zastava crew, we owe you $5 bucks.

Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ more miles than last.

The Final Zbogom

by Josh Sadlier, Yugo Eulogist on October 3, 2016

Our long-term 1989 Yugo GVL has been gone for weeks, but photo guy Kurt and I still have a small matter to resolve.

We had a friendly wager on the Yugo's final auction price, you see. I guessed $2,200 and he came back with $1,150. No Price Is Right rules, just whoever's closest.

Loser buys the Slivovitz.

As the Yugo Wrap-Up recounts in breathless detail, frenzied last-minute bidding pushed the price up to $2,202. Improbably, I was only off by the two Sacagaweas that our friend Matt included in the transaction.

Fast-forward to the present. Kurt shows up at my desk with a bottle of Bistra Slivovitz, "produced," says the box, "from Serbian plums by application of a special technological treatment." The primary achievement of this technology is a rating of 50% ABV, or 100 proof for the American crowd. "Fresh, sound, ripe plums" are claimed to be involved.

We grab some disposable Starbucks cups for our ceremonial pours. A few minutes in, the high-tech brandy has turned the cup bottoms translucent, and Kurt's has sprung a small leak. I remark that it tastes like a fine tequila. European Correspondent Alistair Weaver, who happens to be passing through, likens it to gasoline.

The Yugo's just a memory now, but our chests burn with affection. You can follow its latest exploits on Instagram at wego4yugo, by the way. May the Balkan Bullet forever speed along.          

Josh Sadlier, Yugo Eulogist @ an unforgettable accumulation of miles


Saying Zbogom

"This just keeps getting better."

Our new friend Matt can't contain himself as we hand him a binder filled with rare Yugo materials (is there any other kind?), including photos and documents from a mid-'80s press kit that one of our staffers procured. He's already got the keys to our long-term 1989 Yugo GVL — two sets, both original, plus the Italian-made metal key for the fuel cap. The man is positively itching to get behind the wheel.

We're standing in a beach parking lot off the Pacific Coast Highway with Matt and his equally enthusiastic wife, Sophie. The transaction concludes when Matt fishes in his pocket and counts out 22 Benjamins plus two Sacagaweas. There are handshakes and hugs all around, and the Yugo fires up one last time in our presence before heading to its new home in Malibu.

Just like that, the Edmunds Yugo Era is over. Our expectations couldn't have been lower, but the Balkan Bullet exceeded them by an almost inconceivable margin. It cost us $950, won first place at a car show, sold for a 132 percent premium and didn't strand us once, despite the ailing carburetor's best efforts. It was as much a goodwill ambassador as a member of the long-term fleet.

There won't be another quite like it.

How We Sold It
Edmunds long-term cars are always offered to employees first, typically at the current TMV price. That's how one of our colleagues stole the NSX for $28,461, with roughly 58K on the clock. It's a pretty cool benefit of working here. In the Yugo's case, there was no TMV, so we simply offered it at the $950 purchase price.


Now what? We got an unsolicited offer of $1,000 from an RM Sotheby's employee, but we felt that would have been anticlimactic. After all, this is the car that miraculously made it from Boise, Idaho,  to L.A. while being all kinds of broken. It was the subject of a KABC-TV segment in which yours truly sagely observed, "There are some savvy collectors out there who have their eye on this car. We might want to sit on it for a while and let it appreciate." It attended The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering and won the Kommunist Kar class at the Concours d'LeMons, completing the trip entirely under its own power. Indeed, it never once needed a trailer, even though we brought one to Boise; our Audi A3, as regular readers will recall, was the one that couldn't make it home.

As such, the Yugo was ostensibly a poor fit for the auction site Bring a Trailer. More like bring some Cockta and enjoy the drive. But we're big fans of the site, so we know it's all about putting unusual old cars in front of an exceptionally knowledgeable community. You can't sell a car with this kind of provenance to some geek off the street, we decided. You've got to throw it to the cognoscenti and let them give it a proper sendoff.

Fortunately, our listing was approved; there's no guarantee, especially when it's the first Yugo submission in the site's history. We set the reserve at $250 — the amount of the auction fee — and settled in to watch the weeklong show.

Remarkably, the reserve was history before the first day was over. It crept up to $1,050 two days later, then $1,151 a day after that. The action stalled there for a while, but you know it always heats up at the end.

Then things got real — $1,352 with two hours left; $1,452 at the 40-minute mark. Now $1,552 with three minutes on the clock, followed by $1,652. We were glued to our screens at Edmunds HQ, emitting involuntary noises with each new bid. One minute to go and up to $1,800. Per BaT's rules, the countdown was reset to two minutes to allow for other bidders. $1,900! Back to two minutes again. Would anyone offer two grand for a Yugo? Yes! $2,001. Another two minutes, winding down to 15 seconds. $2,102!

We had been in communication with all three of the bidders at this stage and figured that Marko, a Wisconsinite of Balkan extraction who promised to bring us a bottle of rakia, would stick it out in the end. But then our man Matt from Malibu delivered the $2,202 knockout blow.

Two more minutes passed without a bid. We had a winner. Matt got in touch quickly and arranged to meet us at the beach later that week.

The Yugo had officially become the first Edmunds long-term car to sell for more than twice what we paid, even when you factor in the $250 fee. This record is exceedingly unlikely to be broken.

What We Put Into It
The math gets a titch less triumphant when you add in the maintenance and repair costs. We forked over a total of $1,010.42 to the Yugo Doctor for various services, including a MacGyvered dual-filter setup for the fuel system. Then there were tires ($338.96) and brakes ($176.28) and a battery ($129.15) and window cranks ($12.59) and the muffler situation ($214.32) and finally the carburetor rebuild and a presale checkup ($486).

Total it up and you're looking at $2,367.72 for roughly 15 months of Yugo care. But the car itself gained $1,002 in value during its stay, including the auction fee, so our net spend (note that we don't include fuel in these calculations) was $1,365.72. Turns out that's another new Edmunds record. No long-term car that we've bought and sold ourselves has ever cost so little to own.

What We Learned
A downhill top-speed run to 91 mph can be genuinely thrilling; so can a 15.3-second saunter to 60 mph, which incidentally took MotorWeek's 16.0-second effort in 1987 straight to a Serbian woodshed. The Yugo's leaf-spring rear suspension is incredibly forgiving, squatting low to absorb just about any irregularity it encounters. The Fiat engine sings when you get the revs up and evinces a seething hatred for you otherwise. The four-speed manual's reverse gate is over there somewhere. Sometimes.

More than anything, we learned that a car's ability to generate goodwill is unrelated to its price, power or prestige. The Yugo made practically everyone who met it smile, from collectors at The Quail to motorcyclists on the freeway. Proudly wearing its #EdmundsYugo bumper sticker on the rear window, it was a rolling brand evangelist and even something of a company mascot. It reminded us that cars are fun, or at any rate they can and should be. 

I wasn't totally surprised when a fellow editor mused to me after the sale, at least half-seriously, "Maybe we should buy it back someday."

Matt, are you listening? Maybe we should.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation. Sort of.