I know lots of people don’t want politics in their car blogs, and I get that. So I’m going to try to keep this about the cars as much as I can. But I think this needs to be addressed, because there’s a candidate for governor of the Great State of Michigan that’s basing his initial campaign ad on shitting on a Yugo, and I’m just not going to stand for these lazy-ass attacks on a perpetually-maligned car. Besides, how often does a Yugo come up in a gubernatorial campaign?
The candidate is Kevin Rinke, a 60-year-old rich kid whose family owned a bunch of car dealerships, and he himself appears to own a 1969 Pontiac GTO convertible, certainly a car with a strong, if rapidly aging, following and plenty of muscle car clout.
For some reason, Rinke remains insecure about his V8-powered beast, and chooses to compare it to a very inexpensive people’s car from the 1980s, hailing from the now nonexistent country of Yugoslavia, the Yugo:
He leans pretty heavily on the comparison, calling the car a “pile of junk”
...and eventually using it as a stand-in for a whole host of mythical communist boogeymen he pretends he’s fighting against, and suggesting that the Yugo represents “failure.”
I think this is where the root of my problem with this ad lies. Sure, the Yugo is a bit of a shitbox, I won’t argue too hard with that. While I certainly have fun with mine, I’m not going to pretend that my side view mirror didn’t fall off when I drove it this weekend, for example.
Yeah, parts fall off sometimes, sure. But it’s all about context here—the car is 30 years old, it’s never been restored, or, really, even ever cared about or maintained all that well. It’s holding together maybe out of spite more than anything, but the fact is this little jerk still runs like a champ, and those 67 socialist horses whip it around in a way that sure feels like fun.
Want to watch me defend the Yugo even more, on video? Feel free:
Also, the Yugo being used in his ad looks to be much, much nicer than mine.
The Yugo was a car that sold for $3,990 new in America, around the time when the average cost for a new car was over $10,000. This thing was less than half the average cost of a car, even if you factor in that a more realistic Yugo price was likely in the mid $4000s.
Engineering a car that cheap that is actually usable is an achievement, and these things were used, by the thousands, all over Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Britain, and plenty of other places, including the U.S. They’re still being used for real work, for real people today.
A muscle car like the GTO is certainly fun, but it’s not like it’s a huge engineering challenge. The formula is big engine in not-so-big car and you’ve pretty much got it.
Plus, the Yugo sold about 745,000 cars (141,651 in America), while the total number of Pontiac GTOs of the second generation, between 1967 and 1970, of all kinds, body styles, engine types, models, etc., comes to about 282,000.
Just based on the raw, deeply capitalist metric of numbers sold, it looks like the Yugo soundly wins.
There’s also the fact that the very concept of the GTO—and, arguably, the muscle car itself— was conceived by the famous John Z. DeLorean, the son of a Romanian immigrant. So, really, both of the cars in this ad have at least some Eastern European origins.
This is all just such a stupid, hacky comparison. If you really wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison of cars of the same category from a socialist Eastern European country that doesn’t exist anymore and an American offering from the same era, in the same category, I’m not so sure the results would be as useful to Kevin’s strained analogy there.
Remember the Chevy Chevette? Or, if you want to be a stickler for Yugo-to-Pontiac comparisons, we could compare it to the Pontiac-badged version of the Chevette, the T1000. Here, this robot will tell you all about it:
More expensive than the Yugo, more archaic design (the Chevette/T1000 was still using a front engine/rear drive setup instead of a more modern FWD/transverse engine layout, but not for driving enjoyment reasons, I promise you) and build quality that, as anyone who was alive during that era can tell you, if they haven’t been to therapy to block it from their memories, sucked.
And I didn’t even mention the Vega.
The dude calls Michigan’s current governor a socialist and accuses her of “acting like a queen.” Well, what is it, dummy? Are you against the socialists or the monarchists?
Look, GTOs are great and I’m all for people enjoying their cars. This guy should enjoy his GTO! Go drive your car and do burnouts or whatever you want! Mr. Rinke can drive around and wonder exactly what CRT is and if he should be even more angry about it and if it has anything to do with how big TVs used to be.
Also, maybe he could adjust that shift knob so it’s not all angled the wrong way, too.
Jeezis, here it is 2021 and this old dipshit still beating the very, very dead horse of the Yugo. How many of his constituents will have any idea what the hell he’s going on about? I mean, not counting gearheads like us, I mean normies. Is a Yugo really the most current punching bag they could find? They haven’t been sold in America since the end of the last century.
If his goal was to just hear as much of Michigan roll their eyes and say “OK, Boomer,” then I suppose he’s achieved a real triumph here.
So, Rinke, feel free to waste your money on this (likely doomed) campaign for governor. Just leave the Yugo out of it.