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Is the Yugo really the worst car of all time?

Have you ever owned a car that could win awards? Awards of awfulness, ugliness, and total pieces of junk?! Well we want to hear about it!

This week on Car Talk, we had a call from Father Bryan who had a bone to pick with Tom and Ray. See, Father Bryan didn't agree with their choice of his beloved Yugo as one of the worst cars of all time. Now it's your chance to prove Father Bryan right by nominating your own automotive heaps. We know you've got them... cars you were too embarrassed to park in the office parking lot, cars that caught fire, or real beauties that shed parts along the highway.

So share your stories of automotive woe and intrigue right here.

Yours in jalopy ownership,

Tom and Ray
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

How can you compare the Yugo with a Trabant? After all, the Yugo started out as a fairly respectable FIAT 128, although the Communist downgrade did hurt. The Trabant, although probably also a derivative, was much more an original design of Socialist Worker Truth, i.e. that when you are the only game in town, it doesn’t matter how bad you are. These cars didn’t work well in their original form, and went downhill (if possible) from there. A FIAT 250 was quality in comparison, both in engineering and safety…

The Yugo, in my experience, was the worst vehicle I ever saw. My neighbor had 3 engine changes before he sold it for parts. It had about 3500 miles on the clock when it was towed from his driveway. Loan value for the Yugo dropped to $50 for all years sometime in the late 80’s at my credit union in Wichita. The local dealer had more Yugo’s in for service than he did on his lot and showroom. There is possibly a worse vehicle but I can’t imagine how that would be possible. I’m glad I never experienced a Trabant from what I hear about them.

I think the the Renault Dauphine that was imported from the mid 1950’s through the mid 1960’s has the Yugo beat in the worst car department.

It had about 3500K on the clock…

I think that even with three engine replacements, 3.5 million miles is impressive for any car.

Could it be that it was just 3.5K (3500)?

I think you have a good point there Triedaq

Wasn’t the rear defrost option so you could keep your hands warm while you pushed it in winter time?

Kinda reminds me of the scene in Married with Children where Griff an Al come home and Al mentions he liked Griff’s Geo because it was so much easier to push than his old Dodge.

There’s the old story about the guy walking into a parts store and asking “can I get a gas cap for a Yugo?” Parts guy replies “Sounds like a fair trade to me.”

I’m going to say the Reliant Robin beats the Yugo for worst car. At least the Yugo didn’t roll over if you took a corner faster than 5mph.

My 1972 Volkswagen van has caught fire, has shed parts along the highway, and I’m still embarrassed to park it in front of the house. But lost in this discussion is what happened to the deer Father Bryan hit in his Yugo? And was Father Bryan driving? There’s an untold story there…

Dear Click and Clack;
It was with some empathy that I listened to Father Bryan’s lament of your denigration of the Yugo, a car (and I use that term loosely)that seems to have given the good father many years of faithful service (one can only hope that the members of his flock are so diligent). If it may afford the good Father some relief there is another car which likely trumps the Yugo for poor performance. Now these vehicles, once the pride of the People’s Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) are now coveted collector’s items…luckily the body was made out of heavy gauge steel and thus doesn’t rust quite as readily as other vehicles and parts may be easily found and as the Trabant never went very fast there is generally little damage done to the body work…a deer, such as that which sent Father Bryan’s Yugo to the Happy Hunting Ground would hardly have phased the Trabant. But then deer generally move faster than any Trabant could possibly do and thus there is very little evidence of vehicle/animal body damage in the history of the Trabant. At any rate, the Trabant was produced at a factory in Wittenberg, East Germany which was also the home of the famous German preacher Martin Luther. Luther was known for nailing his dissenting views on religion to the door of the cathedral in Worms. Now at that time Luther stated that he felt compelled to do so and his statement “Hier stehe ich. Im Gottes willen Ich kann nicht anders!” which translates as “Here I stand! God help me I can do nothing else!” became the unofficial motto of the Trabant owner This, of course from the frequency with which the Trabant broke down on the side of the road. Now, the hardy East German public, by that time rather used to disappointment in the realm of consumer goods, tried to rationalize the Trabant’s flaws by applauding such features as its rear window defroster – which kept you from getting frostbite when you had to push the car; and it’s dual exhaust pipes which, once the Trabant finally gave up the ghost, allowed you to use the car as a wheel barrow. And so, gentlemen, you may gently inform the good Father Bryan that all things considered the Yugo really was not that bad. Thank you for your time. Best wishes, Frederick J. Chiaventone…novelist/screenwriter/historian (former career Army officer with a lot of time stationed in Germany)

For Leslie Ann Pluhar, a 31 year old woman from Royal Oak Michigan, the answer would be yes, if she could answer. She was in her Yugo as it blew off the Mackinac Bridge in 1989, plunging 150ft. to the Mackinac Straights and another 100ft. to the bottom.

3.5K is correct or 3500 miles.

From what I’ve heard the Yugo should be the winner of the worst prize. Problem is that it was based on a Fiat model that when Fiat put it together it was a good car. Yeah the Fiat rusted but at least mechanically was a good car.

The worst car I ever had experience with is a friend bought a Simca new sometime around 1965. This was a total junk new car. He had problems with it from day 1 and it didn’t last long.

The worst car I owned personally was a Renault 18i purchased new in '81 from an AMC dealer. The AMC/Renault joint effort was supposed to save AMC. The 18i was a decent car but arrived in America missing important parts such as the AC compressor. The cars were hurriedly prepped for sale in the US and the job was botched from the start. Good little motor and tranny, but lots of issues with things like heat. When it was about 4 years old it would run intermittently and it was time for a dependable car.

It was certainly ONE OF THE WORST. But communist countries produced all sorts of garbage because the consumer had no choice.

In East Germany, the Trabant (mentioned already), the Wartburg, and the Moskvitch were all-time disasters.

In Russia, the Gighuli (also known as the Lada here) and the Pobeda (a 4WD disaster) made Russians long for used cars from the West.

I once drove the Russian deputy minister of power around in my 1966 Chevelle Malibu in a dark RED! He loved the car and the smooth and quiet 283 V8. I did not have the heart to tell him it already had 90,000 miles on it at that time. Getting a complement from a Russian Apparatchik member is a rare occurrence.

Asian countries go from producing really bad cars to very good ones over a period of 25-30 years. Wait for the first Geely cars to arrive at you friendly Geely-Volvo dealer.

Dear Click and Clack;

 Ooops.  Earlier I sent in a note exonerating Father Bryan and his unfortunate Yugo saying that it was better than the Trabant but I spoke too was not the Trabant that was the worst car in the world produced in Martin Luther's was the Wartburg! Thus, the Germans, having prided themselves on always producing the best things that can either roll or explode, were horribly embarrassed to have produced two pf the most unreliable automobiles in history.  Sorry for the would seem that East German engineers had somehow taken control of my thought processes with rather sub-par results.

Frederick J. Chiaventone - novelist, historian, screenwriter

Wow. Here’s a little more insight into that tragic event:

In the top five? Certainly. The worst? No. I submit for your approval the number one worst car (at least in the USA). Drumroll Please…

The Le Car. At least the Yugo had four lugs on each wheel. This pile o’ crap was too cheap even for that! Three lugs! An engine so gutless, the 1 cylinder Kohler engine that powers my Craftsman lawn tractor could whoop it 0-60 of you installed it into the Le Car in place of it’s engine. It’s the car that argued more vehemently for the virtues of public transportation than any other in the USA. A Yugo compared to that is like a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham compared to a Hyundai Excel (another worst five candidate).

I think the Trabant and the Tata Nano have the Yugo beat.

 "At least the Yugo didn't roll over if you took a corner faster than 5mph."
 But they could blow off a bridge.  Oh, actually, vanagon man already wrote about that just two posts below.  Apparently the car didn't even blow off while moving, it was STOPPED on the bridge when a gust came through the metal grating and blew it over the 3 foot railing.

 Anyway, I think Yugo was probably the worst.  But I did have a 1989 Dodge Shadow that was pretty bad.  Anemic air conditioning (which broke, I repaired and recharged it with R134A, and it broke AGAIN -- Dodge had changed from their "tried and true" indestructable compressor to one that was too weak to handle the ~10% extra load R134A puts on the compressor.)   It was dead slow (it was geared to take off up to 50, then run out of any semblance of acceleration, which made merging onto the interstate hair-raising), it got lower gas mileage at 70MPH interstate speed than it did in town (20MPG city, and although it'd get almost 30MPG at highway speed, it plunged to 19MPG at interstate speed).  Stuff kept loosening up on it, I was tightening bolts on it at least twice a week so the rattles would not drive me mad.  It blew the head gasket (and did for the previous owner as well).  Ultimately, it lost compression on one cylinder, and I sold it to somebody who did something to it to block the fuel flow to the dead cylinder, and kept driving it as a 3-cylinder car.  The performance versus gas mileage was the worst to me -- I had a 1985 Chevy Celebrity that was bigger, appeared much less aerodynamic, had the same size engine (2.5L 4 cylinder), but got 30MPG at interstate speed and although also slow, would keep accelerating consistently up to about 80 so it was possible to merge onto the interstate with it without loosing hairs.
 Hyundai amazes me.  They went from, up through the 1990s making some of the worst cars on the market reliability-wise, to making some of the best, within a year or two.  THAT must have been a serious crash program.