- The Yugo GVS is a classic car that has gone back to the base version that was known as “the worst car ever sold in the United States.”
- Despite its reputation, the GVS is not a terrible car and can start conversations at car shows thanks to its basic and fun nature.
- The GVS had a small 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine, poor build quality, and poor marketing campaigns, but still managed to sell over 800,000 units.
Jay Leno has one of the most incredible car collections in the world. However, some are more utilitarian and basic than others. Very similar to this 1988 Yugo GVS brought by comedian Jeff Dunham Leno’s garage for videos on his YouTube channel. Yugo goes back to basic models classic car designed to get people from point A to point B has become something of a joke, but Leno says the car is a “glorious failure.”
The GVS is an unusual car, and its reputation certainly predates the Yugo, made by the then Yugoslav company Zastava. The GVS was based on the Fiat 128, which somehow became incredibly crude, but with a price tag of just $4,000, it’s easy to see why people would buy a GVS.
Jeff Dunham thinks the Yugo GVS is a conversation starter
1988 Yugo GVS Engine Specifications
Years of production
Naturally aspirated four-row engine
Yugo 55, Yugo 60
(Technical specifications are provided South America)
As Leno and Dunham discuss, the GVS is a car that has been the subject of many jokes. It would be called “the worst car ever sold in the United States” and both discuss that its low price started the car’s troubles. Dunham explains that there have been all sorts of manufacturing and reliability issues, but when it’s working properly, there’s nothing wrong with it. Even Leno admits it’s “not a terrible car.”
Dunham emphasizes that the GVS is a car that will start conversations at auto shows. If you bring it to a car show and park it next to a new $2 million supercar or hypercar, then people will gravitate towards the Yugo. This is because of its basic and fun nature, and Leno compares the GVS to the Tata Nano from India. The Nano was a car that shared the same cheap, back-to-basics philosophy of the Yugo, hoping to democratize the city car market. This, however, fell through given that used cars were available for the same $4,000 price as the Yugo.
The Yugo was first imported to the United States by Malcolm Bricklin through the company he founded, International Automobile Importers (IAI). According to Dunham, the best times for cars were around 1988-1990, and it just so happens that his GVS is a 1988 model. The name Yugo comes from Yugoslavia, although the name itself has an incredible history. The GVS started out as a shortened version of the Fiat 128, and Ladas like the Riva also drew inspiration from Fiat models. Incredibly, GVS production in various forms lasted from 1980 to 2008.
A small unreliable engine powers the Yugo GVS
The cheap and small GVS has a similarly small engine, just a 1.1-liter four-cylinder borrowed from the Fiat 128. It uses a four-speed manual transmission. The engine used technology from the 1960s and 1970s, so reliability was often a headache for owners. But you get what you pay for when it’s a $4,000 car, and the GVS is just about getting people from A to B as cheaply as possible. What didn’t help the GVS’s image were relatively poor marketing campaigns. Leno and Dunham believe that if Yugo had not taken himself too seriously, sales could have been better.
- Notice to owners about problems: Alternator/starter failure, clutch cable, gas leak, electrical failure
- The greatest mileage recorded Self-survey: 140,000 miles
(Data provided by Carsurvey)
Build quality also hampered the Yugo GVS as it was allegedly not consistent depending on the labor and who was working on different aspects of the GVS. The funny nature of the car is further emphasized when Dunham reveals that the spare tire was advertised as part of the car’s safety features. The spare tire is located in the engine compartment, and it is not even mounted in place.
Dunham also demonstrates how to get better radio reception by manually extending the antenna located above the driver on the roof. It’s easy to see why GVS has become the subject of so many jokes. Moving to the back, Dunham mentions that not only can you not open the trunk without the keys, but GV stands for “good car.” Leno then gets a chance to drive the car to see how good or bad the Yugo is and if it lives up to its jokey reputation.
More than 800,000 Yugos were built
Highlights of the 1988 Yugo GVS
- It has a basic 1.1-liter inline-four engine
- He surprises Leno with how well he drives
- Designed as a basic car from A to B for the masses
- Leno and Dunham agree that it’s not a terrible car
- More than 800,000 Yugos were produced
For a small engine, the GVS provides an interesting soundtrack on the road with a guttural roar. Leno says it feels like it has plenty of power, even though the 1.1-liter engine only has 55 hp. Incredibly, 142,000 were sold in the United States, and a total of more than 800,000 Yugos left the factories during the entire production run. The Yugo certainly has a few fans as Leno drives the car, with several people stopping and pointing at the little GVS.
In 2023, the Yugo GVS will cost between $6,000 and $12,000
Yugo GVS prices
Average Used market range
1986-1990 Yugo GVS
(Price provided by Classic.com / Car and driver)
Leno is relatively surprised by how it drives, saying that it drives well and is perfect for a very cheap car. The interior is incredibly simple, with just a few basic buttons for things like the lights and windshield washer. Dunham hit 80 mph on the freeway on the way to Leno’s garage, and he said he handled it well.
The Yugo may be quite attractive, but perhaps its success was hindered by the fact that it came out at the wrong time. Used cars in good condition with a lot more features were available when the GVS came out, which is probably the main reason the car didn’t take off further. The Yugo isn’t the most expensive car on the classic car market in 2023, but they’ve grown. According to Classic.com, 1986-1990 Yugo GVSs do sell for around $10,000. The website recorded a top sale for a Yugo at $12,100, so there’s certainly a niche and enthusiastic market for these interesting little cars.
Source: Jay Leno’s Garage YouTube channel, Classic.com, Yugo America, Car and Driver, Car Survey