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Zastava and Yugo. Undervalued and endearing

Once upon a time there was a lot of catching up behind the Iron Curtain. This was carried out in the former Yugoslavia, in the part that is now called Serbia, by building 'western' cars under license. By building Fiats under license. And that all happened with Zastava.


An old, renowned brand

Zastava started as a cannon foundry in 1853. From 1930 onwards, Ford trucks were assembled for the army. In 1955 Zastava started the license construction of Fiats. After the Second World War the factory was renamed Zavodi Crvena Zastava (Red Flag factories). In a referendum on August 26, 1953, 96% of the employees of the then Zavodi Crvena Zastava expressed their wish to produce passenger cars. Thus, the era of the licensed Willys Jeeps was said to be goodbye

Together with Fiat

Fiat 1400 was Zastava's first assembled Fiat, but the license-built version of Fiat 600 became 'the face' of the brand. From October 18, 1955 to November 18, 1985, nearly one million Zastava 750s were produced in a span of 30 years. And many of the survivors are now being transformed into Abarths in many stages of professionalism. Pay attention to this when buying your next Abarth.

With time

In the mid-102s, Zastava's management decided to develop a new model. Initially it was to be called Zastava 1981, but the name was dropped in 45 and the car was released as Yugo 128. It was designed by Zastava with some help from Fiat engineers. It was a shortened Fiat 127 and followed the style of the Fiat 112 and Autobianchi A903 but with a somewhat square appearance. Different variants were made, with 1116 cc, 1301 cc and XNUMX cc engines.

What is in a name?

Marketed as the Zastava Koral, and Yugo Koral, the Yugo was a subcompact hatchback from the time when the main means of transport in then Yugoslavia had only 1 hp. The Yugo was a dream car for the local market. But the drivers also dreamed. They hoped to score hard currency with foreign exports ...

Not a real success

The Yugo has received a lot of criticism for its design and reliability; historian Jason Vuic called it “the worst car in history”. As with many other stigmas, it was all not too bad in practice. Or could you live with it. It was certainly a case of 'Eastern Bloc bashing'. Because what came 'from the enemy' couldn't be good, could it? But at that time, the Yugo did not really fit anymore due to the now better build quality and more luxurious Westerners.

The post-Yugoslav era was difficult for Zastava, as were most other large companies in Serbia. Those suffered under hyperinflation, international sanctions and economic mismanagement. As a result, production almost ceased, and for a long time the company did not introduce new models.

Meanwhile, Zastavas and Yugos are indisputably classics

And they have found a circle of friends that suits them. They are sweet cars for friendly people who do not have an above-average desire for status or perfection. They are 100% nostalgic, technically well-organized and can be used as the ultimate relaxation in the current traffic image. And because not all classic enthusiasts have such a wide frame of mind, enjoying Zastavas or Yugos is reserved for a fairly select audience. This also has the advantage that for a neat Zastava or Yugo you do not have to talk about amounts with five figures.

And the photos accompanying this story come through the Zastava Yugo club. Thank you for that.

Are they not endearing?

And the older brother who drank from the jar of miracle pills


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8 Comments

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  1. The fact that the Yugos had a bad image in the USA was also due to the owners themselves. Lack of proper maintenance was often the cause of the problems. If no valves are adjusted or distribution is replaced and the oil is not changed regularly, that does not bode well. Yugo was also a brand for 'there' for dealers. It was not a priority.

  2. Have had a yellow Zastava Yugo 55L bought new at home in 1985, have driven it until 1996, and apart from some flat tires have never really had any problems with it. Was a fun car to learn to drive and if you can drive it smoothly, you can drive almost any car. Plank gas without actually making any violations, only in city traffic the 22L tank was a bit tight with an average of 10L / 100km. Gearbox ratios were chosen a bit longer to be more economical, so to speak, but to move forward you had to hang on the throttle of the temperamental Italian engine a little longer, which in turn had the opposite effect, but sometimes so nice

    • Around 1980 we went on holiday with the family to the former Yugoslavia. And there my sister and I decided to hitchhike over a distance of about 200 km to Sarajevo. We would meet our parents (with caravan) somewhere there. It was very difficult to get a lift but after a ride with a first model Ford Escort and afterwards with a Trabant from a vet (who invited us to stay with him) the next day we drove with a Zastava 750. That was a fierce ride over mountain and valley with a wild young lady (type murder chick) behind the wheel who was constantly driving full throttle, that engine all the time to the red zone (and over it) of the rev counter chased, blasting gears, screeching tires through hairpin bends and in the meantime the driver kept explaining it enthusiastically ...
      Until she suddenly stopped by the side of the road. A lot of vapor escaped from under the hood (held open with an iron bar), she picked up an empty bottle and collected water from a mountain stream, filled the radiator after a cigarette… all three of that racing machine and full petrol towards Sarajevo. Years before my aunt drove somewhat differently with her Fiat 600. And our Zastava driver remains burned in my memory as: “What a chick…. what a chick !! ”

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