1989 Yugo GVL: Monterey Car Week - CNN and the Concours d'LeMons
by Josh Sadlier, Senior Editor on September 10, 2015
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