As you’ve likely surmised, Yugo ownership is fiercely rewarding, a near-constant barrage of joys and triumphs that leave one reeling, as though punched into a gleeful, drooling stupor by the twin fists of satisfaction and appreciation. I’m currently punch-drunk from #YugoLife myself, and as I was driving the Yugo over the weekend, I found a fascinating little detail I’d like to share with you: the shift knob doesn’t appear to be too tethered to our reality.
I’ve always known this about the Yugo; when in neutral at idle, the shifter vibrates so rapidly and constantly that if you leave your hand on it, it’ll start to feel numb. I’m not even sure you can actually touch it when it’s in this state, and when I tried to video it with the camera on my phone, I think more was revealed:
That tweet of a vibrating knob got a lot more attention than I ever expected, leading me to believe that there are actually many, many people out there interested in Yugo shift knobs and how, at least in this case, they appear to be very rapidly phasing in and out of reality.
The knob itself is kind of an amazing thing: it’s made of a weird, squishy rubber, and the shift pattern is stamped into it in what I think may be the worst, least legible manner:
Even totally stationary it’s pretty illegible. Why did they do it like this, with the pattern stamped in and the numbers raised? Why not make the numbers just inset on their own, so they can’t wear away? This knob looks like a lipoma cut off of a boar’s abdomen with a shift pattern chewed into it by voles.
Really, though, that’s not important, because if you watch that video, you can see that the knob is having trouble existing in our spacetime. Here, I took another video:
Look how much trouble that thing seems to be having just existing! It’s all blurry and sliding around, seemingly untethered from reality. Based on what I can see, my best guess is that the rubber used to make these was actually part of the protective lining around one of the Chernobyl reactors, and after the disaster the material was sold in bulk to the Zastava factory.
I bet because of its inundation with radiation, the rubber’s atomic makeup was degraded a bit, to the point where it could only really exist in our spacetime for, say, 98.2 percent of the time.
But the price was so good, and, really, if it leaves reality only like 1.8 percent of the time, who cares? Close enough, right? You’re not in your car 100 percent of the time, anyway? Why expect all the matter to exist in that reality the whole time?
Either that, or it’s just vibrating so much the camera on the phone can’t properly capture the motion, because when Yugo engineers heard about automotive noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) standards, they just said “yes, we have all that, standard!”
Let’s see what this vibrating shifter looks like in slow-motion! We have the technology!
Woah! Now it kinda looks like it’s dancing! And, impressively, it’s not even that slow-looking, even in slow motion! At the end it speeds up, so you can compare.
The best part about putting this online has been comments from Easter European people who know these cars well:
So, that translates to “Dude, that’s on purpose so he doesn’t rest his hand on the gearbox.”
...which, as you may have guessed means “This is a pure orgasm.”
That was in Serbian. This one is Croatian:
“Zašto vozači yuga idu u raj? Zato što su već prošli pakao sa yugom.”
...which means “why do Yugo drivers go to heaven? Because they’ve already been through hell with the Yugo.”
Other Croatian comments:
Sad mi je jos gore
That just means, cryptically, “I’m even worse now.”
Then I got a few in Cyrillic characters including
ово није мењач југа, ово је вибратор (this is not a gearbox, this is a vibrator)
Anyway, this is just a vibrating shift knob, and look at all this international enjoyment I’ve somehow sucked out of it.
That’s the thing that the Yugo-haters don’t get. It’s not that I’m not aware the car is kinda a hunk of crap; it’s that I perversely love that it’s a hunk of crap. And when being a hunk of crap means that an ordinary shift knob appears to be breaking the very bounds of our reality, well, then I think you can see why it’s all worth it.