Mechanically the car used the reliable components of the 127, including the engines. Its lines were simple, square and unoriginal – precisely why Fiat engineer Ghidella had discarded the project.
In Yugoslavia in the early 1980s Zastava, a local car manufacturer, produced models under licence from Fiat and obtained the design of a compact car from the Italian car manufacturer, who had originally planned it as the replacement for the 127, but it was not very innovative and was discarded to be sold to the Kragujevac factory technicians, who launched it as the Yugo at the Belgrade Motor Show in 1980. Mechanically the car used the reliable components of the 127, including the engines. Its lines were simple, square and unoriginal – precisely why Fiat engineer Ghidella had discarded the project. The engine was originally a 903 cc 4-cylinder producing 45 bhp, hence the name Yugo 45, to which was added during production a 1116 cc engine which powered the 55 version and finally a 1301 cc in the Yugo 65.
The car went into production immediately and was very successful at home right from the start, so much so that the top management of the company were prompted to export it to other European countries too, including the UK and France.
In 1985 the car was also offered on the United States market, where it could be purchased at a price of just $3,999. That low price meant that in the early years of selling the car on the North American market Yugo achieved success well above expectations, but which tailed off due to the quality problems with which the car was afflicted, so much so that in a few years the car fell from being a revolutionary sub-compact to winning the little-coveted prize of being one of the worst cars of all time; the prize did not, however, stop the birth of fan clubs for the little car. It was withdrawn from the market in 1992, after approximately 140,000 had been sold.
It should be noted that the model also had a brief life in Italy, where it was sold from 1991 with a non-catalyst engine and therefore not in accordance with the law (also discussed HERE). The years of the nineties were not easy for Yugo, in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo which left the Zastava factories badly damage and unable to restart production until the end of the conflict. After the way the Yugo name disappeared, to be replaced by the Koral name under which the small utility car was made until production ended in 2008. The Zastava brand also continued to produce other models such as the Florida, also derived from a discarded Fiat project for the Fiat Tipo of the late 1980s, and was joined by the model 10, which was essentially a second-series Fiat Punto which was badged as the Serbian brand.
2008 also saw the production of all other Zastava brands cease, 67% of them absorbed by Fiat, which restored the Kragujevac factories, using them to produce the current 500 L, sales for the main market beginning in 2012.
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
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