1989 Yugo GVL: 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