January 1987

By the late 1970s, Americans had grown comfortable with European-sourced cars. By the mid 1980s, Americans were fairly acclimated to cars and trucks imported from Japan. 1986 introduced us to what the Koreans had to offer with their new-to-the-US Hyundai brand.

Not leaving Hyundai much time to take in the lime light, 1987 ushered in another new brand, from yet another nation. It was the Yugo from Yugoslavia.

Wondering what all the people below are so excited about? Keep reading to find out and to see a two-sided brochure the company used to introduce themselves.

1987 Yugo brochure

How cheap is too cheap?
Maybe the inverse version of the old saying, “too much of a good thing,” would apply here.

1987 Yugo GV brochureI think the $4,995 Hyundai Excel (introduced February 20, 1986, as a 1986 model) was about as low on the automotive scale as Americans’ tastes would go. And the Excel wasn’t a half-bad car, for the price.

In January of 1987, I went to the Los Angeles Auto Show and grabbed one of the two-sided brochures from Yugo’s display area. To the right is its cover panel which shows a car priced even lower–as in 20 percent lower–than the Excel. The new low-price setter was called Yugo. Even after having been beefed up for US tastes and safety compliance, it was still shockingly different from what we were accustomed to. Those differences had mainly to do with quality, reliability, and performance. For example, the GV had a top speed of 86 MPH, assuming there was no opposing breeze.

The reason why it couldn’t approach the triple-digit barrier was no doubt related to its 1.1-liter, 4-cylinder motor that produced a full 54 HP at 5,000 RPM and 52 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 RPM. Although, it did only weigh 1,832 pounds.

1987 LA Auto Show brochure (Jan 3-11) Yugo GVTo the left is an image of the Yugo GV from my 1987 LA auto show’s program. (GV apparently stood for Great Value.)

The image was accompanied by the following text, “The Yugo GV, manufactured by the Zavodi Crvena Zastava company in Yugoslavia, holds two interesting distinctions. It is the lowest-priced new car for sale in the U.S., and it is the official vehicle of the USA Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Teams. Powered by a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine, the Yugo retails for approximately one-third of the average price of a new 1987 car.”

1987 Yugo GV brochure backTo the right is the back panel of the two-sided brochure. Listed on it are many of the car’s details. The information is more legible when viewed from the gallery-sized version, but here are some of the highlights:

Did you know that in 1987 a new GV cost $1,200 less than the average used car?

Did you know that Yugo had “an elite team of experts who [would] fly, on request, to any Yugo dealer in the country to provide assistance?”

Or how about the exquisitely-named color combinations: flame red, Adriatic blue, vanilla beige, snow white, nugget gold, and crystal blue. Words can only go so far.

By 1992, Yugo’s American arm took a blow that would ultimately prove fatal for the company. The US Environmental Protection Agency issued a recall on 126,000 of their cars over an emissions issue. Things got even worse locally when, in the early 1990s, the United Nations imposed sanctions on Yugoslavia, forcing an end to Zavodi Crvena Zastava’s exportation efforts. Adding insult to injury, NATO accidentally bombed their automotive factory instead of the one they were using to produce weapons. It took years for the company to recover.

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