1989 Yugo GVL Long Term Road Test - Wrap Up | Edmunds

1989 Yugo GVL Long Term Road Test

Wrap-Up: An Indeterminate Number of Miles in Yugoslavia's Finest

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the long term updates on this vehicle.

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.

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