The cheapest car sold in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s — the Yugo — has recently become kind of ironically hip. Once the butt of countless jokes, it’s certifiably cool in the U.S. these days. But in Serbia, even over a decade since production stopped at the Kragujevac plant (which, incidentally, NATO bombed in 1999—Fiat later rebuilt it and it now produces the Fiat 500L), the Yugo remains a decent option as cheap transportation, and it is anything but cool. In fact, the Yugo is so uncool that when this Serb owner set about disguising the orange car you see above, they didn’t choose a BMW, Porsche or a Cadillac — they chose a SEAT. Just a SEAT.
There’s something charming about a cheap economy car dressed up as something cooler. Fierarris (Pontiac Fieros dressed up a Ferraris) are a great example; Beetles disguised as cool sports cars are also lots of fun; and then there are all the Japanese vehicles converted into luxury and sports cars by coachbuilder Mitsuoka. The whole concept is aspirational — as if the owner and the car are both saying “This is who I want to be, so I’m going to look the part.”
Dress for the job you want, they say.
That’s what makes this Yugo in Kruševac, Serbia so great. The owner gave the vehicle Lamborghini doors, then instead of grafting on a Lamborghini face, they screwed on the face of a SEAT. A SEAT. The economy car.
I’m not disparaging the Spanish SEAT brand, but let’s be real here for a moment: The modern SEAT isn’t exactly a desireable car, in part because everyone knows a SEAT is just a rebadged Volkswagen. (To be sure, some of the hot hatches are awesome).
This Yugo 55 — which my new Serb friend Dragoslav sent me (I visited him with my $600 diesel manual Chrysler minivan last week on my way back to Germany from Turkey) — is self-aware. It understands that it is but a humble Yugoslavia-built economy car with a 1.1-liter four cylinder engine making 55 horsepower. The econobox knows that trying to look like a high-end sports car would be futile and honestly a little embarrassing. So instead, the machine chose to dress up as a Spanish VW-based hatchback.
This particular machine is a 1991 Yugo 55 (also called the Zastava 55 in Serbia), sharing the same little engine as the Fiat 128-based Zastava 101. Bolted to that motor is a five-speed manual feeding a little bit of torque to the front wheels.
The cabin features an aftermarket steering wheel and some leather SEATs out of...some car. I honestly have no idea which one, but I bet one of you obscenely-nerdy readers will tell me.
The car, for sale on the famous car-sales website that we all know and love, mojtrg.rs, has an asking price of 650 Euro, or roughly $765. I think that’s actually a decent deal, because this nip-and-tuck looks fairly involved!
It looks like most of the car’s panels have been modified. The fascia is of course totally new; the hood features an aggressive bump instead of the scoop that the Yugo has, plus the hood extends down to meet the Fascia; the front fenders have unique lines not present on a typical Yugo 55 (perhaps they’ve been massaged with Bondo?); and the quarter panels feature a sharp horizontal line that gives the car a bit more of an aggressive look. One of the wipers is gone (maybe to make it more like a Mercedes, with its Mono-Arm wiper?) and there’s a big wing on the rear hatch.
It’s amazing. It’s humble. It’s self-aware. It’s a Yugo disguised as a SEAT.