For $4,500, This Cabrio Adds Sunburn to Yugo Ownership Travails

Sure, the Yugo has joined the Edsel as an automotive punchline, and its diminutive size implies it may imminently unleash a profusion of clowns. Despite all that, today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Cabrio asks, who's laughing now?

Not so funny was yesterday's 1983 two-door Jetta, and in fact a surprising 62% of the votes were for seriously considering that car's nearly four grand sticker a Nice Price. And that was despite nobody getting the Sammy Hagar reference. That boxy VW and today's contender have a lot in common- they both hail from Yurrup, they each have a SOHC four cylinder engine and 5-speed gearbox, and both are based on an earlier vehicle. Where they diverge is in their reputations, as today's car takes the VW's rep for questionable durability and makes it the Two Girls, One Cup of automotive unreliability. Oh, and also, that Jetta's top was a lot harder to fold down than the one on this 1990 Yugo Cabrio.

Based on the Fiat 127, the Yugo 45 rode the wave of cheap car fever that gripped the U.S. In the eighties. Automotive shyster legend Malcolm Bricklin brought the little Zastava hatches to America like so many Eastern European mail order brides. And just like one of those buxom beauties, getting a Yugo that liked to go topless was just icing on the latke. This '90 Yugo does just that, and as such is the rarest of all the Balkan Bombers to touch tire to American soil.

The Yugo Cabrio wasn't a model created exclusively for the U.S., as Zastava had built convertible versions of the home market Koral in the early eighties. It was however, a last-ditch attempt to stem the tide of red ink engulfing the company, but was too little too late, as a threatened EPA-mandated recall in 1992 spelled the end of Malcolm Bricklin's dream for an Eastern European import empire.

For $4,500, This Cabrio Adds Sunburn to Yugo Ownership Travails

This specific example is claimed to sport a re-done interior and a new top, including the heated glass rear window - to keep your hands warm when you push it, ha, ha. The tiny four seater has also been the beneficiary of a new exhaust system, timing belt, brakes struts and tires, and the rest of the car looks to be in good shape. That's a plus as a major concern with these - aside from having to put up with all the Yugo jokes - is having to replace any of the proprietary bits. Mechanicals - including the 1300-cc, 55-bhp four cylinder and tranny parts - are interchangeable with their Fiat counterparts. Despite that, things like the plastic tonneau and weatherseals aren't going to be found at your local Pep Boys, and they ain't making them any more as the Zastava factories was bombed by NATO during the Kosovo War, partially destroying them, and putting an end to Yugo production.

So if you're jonsing for a funky Euro cabrio and a Vee-Dub assails your manhood to too great an extent, maybe this is the car for you? Sure the Yugo has an unflattering reputation for undependability and has been the savior of more than one late night comic's writer team on a slow news day, but once you drop the top on this buttercup Balkan, all of that will fade away. Rowing through the gears like a spoon through the sour cream atop your borscht, while listening to that free wheeling four's revs climb, is something that is best savored in the unencumbered freedom of an open topped car. If you've never driven a Yugo - open or closed - I can tell you, it's like stepping back a generation as the levels of noise, vibration and proximity to every part of the car around you are like that of a new Fiat 128. . . in 1970. That being said, the experience is still better than driving an auto-manual equipped Smart Car.

And at $4,500, this Yugo is also butt-loads cheaper than a Smart car. For that you get a full folding top instead of something that requires hiding bits of it in the trunk lid. You also get four cylinders to the Smart's three, and a proper clutch pedal and a wonky stick rather than the more modern car's flappy paddles. What you don't get are ABS, airbags, traction control, power locks or the smug look of self satisfaction that seems to come with Smart ownership. Perhaps in place of all those missing elements, the Yugo's 4-passenger cabin and non smug-inducing reputation will suffice.

So, whether you are a clown, or just someone who appreciates unique and storied cars, and doesn't give a rat's ass what other people think, what about that $4,500 price for this 53,000 mile Yugo Cabrio? Is that a price that should make it the top of somebody's list, rather than the butt of their jokes? Or, should the seller drop the price, as well as the top?

You decide!


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