Everyone hates the Yugo, except these people who love it

Shortly after the Yugo was introduced in 1985 by then-Yugoslav corporation Zastava Automobiles, it became the most hated car in history. Consumer Reports thrashed the vehicle, writing that the engine "struggled and strained to climb highway grades in high gear," the upholstery was "cloth that resembles towel material," and "our 0-60 mph run took 18.5 seconds." Author Jason Vuic who wrote a book about the vehicle called it "the worst car in history." Jay Leno, a noted car buff, turned the Yugo into a punchline that lasted years. Surprisingly though (or not), nearly four decades later, there is a growing number of deep Yugo enthusiasts. From Roy Furchgott's feature in the New York Times:

"This attack 'comedy' started with 'The Tonight Show' and is a sick way to make the networks money damaging people," [Yugoparts.com proprietor Jay Pierce] said with unbridled disgust. "We really need tougher slander laws in this country."

Mr. Pierce is one the Yugo's more assertive fans, who defend the car's reputation with the overprotective affection usually reserved for pet cats that go blind and three-legged dogs.

"You will find people who like it for the obscurity, just for the novelty of owning the unloved," said Valerie Hansen of Columbus, Ohio, who is restoring her fourth Yugo, a rare 1984 model brought over by a Yugoslav expatriate. Its engine is even smaller than the 54-horsepower version imported by Yugo America.

Ms. Hansen said she was attracted to the Yugo for two reasons. First, it speaks to her ancestral Balkan roots. Second, its mechanical simplicity means she can do her own repairs. "You can fix a Yugo with a butter knife and a rubber band," she said[…]

But it wasn't just Mr. Leno (who did not respond to emails seeking comment). Even now car enthusiasts can summon gibes like: "You know why the Yugo has a standard rear window defogger? To keep your hands warm while you push it." Or: "How do you double the value of a Yugo? Fill the gas tank … if it will hold gas."

image: Michael Gil (CC BY 2.0)