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Yugo Turbo - a hot hatch that never happened

Another of our 'What ifs'

2w ago
3.3K

Yugo will probably be remembered down the lane of history as one of the most ridiculed cars of the 80's, as well as the most loved ones, depending on your way of looking at it. Sure it was a crappy car for the Western standards, so bad that even the rock bottom price couldn't really justify that kind of build quality. But in some other corners of the world, it was a 1st ride, love and friends making machine, war hero, family transport and race machine for rookie racing enthusiasts. There was (and I'm pretty sure still is) a special racing class for tuned Yugos, something like a entry into real car racing, after go-karts and things.

Actually, I should continue from that - Yugo was actually a really tunable car, especially considering costs. For a pick pocket money, you could swap almost any Lampredi 128 SOHC engine in it, as they were (roughly speaking, I'm no mechanic) simple bolt on, being the same family of FIAT engines. Lancia Delta 1.6 - Tipo 1.4 - Uno Turbo 1.3 - all of that is reasonable easy to slam under the Yugo's hood and, voila - 100 PS in a feather weight category. Of course, the chassis and brakes need serious upgrading, but that is also something you can lift of the FIAT shelves. Like the Brits would say - cheap and cheerful.

We must go back to the late 80's - Yugo had been some 8 years on the market, had just broke the US barrier and, to be realistic, it wasn't such a bad car in those days. Not that it could match the offerings of VW, Opel, Ford, etc. but relatively acceptable considering it was coming from the Eastern block. You had a choice of three engines with several outputs and even an air-con and automatic transmission available. The 45 was rubbish - utter mess with an ancient thirsty engine and a 4 speed gerbox, but 55/60 was one to go for - great 1.1 Lampredi engine pushed Yugo along very nicely and, combined with 5 speed manual, quite a nippy city car. The 1.3 65 EFI was just too complicated and suffered from bad fuel and bad quality of early injection systems.

So, as part of local university project, in 1988 at Belgrade Car Show, the Yugo Turbo was presented, powered by a locally developed turbocharged version of the 1116 ccm Lapredi engine. The engine was optimized for running under those conditions and early tests showed some really nice figures for the era and class. Boosted at 0.62 bars, it developed 66 kW (90 PS) at 6,000 rpm, along the 130 Nm of torque at 3,000 rpm which propelled Yugo to 100 km/h in measured 9.9 seconds, which really isn't a bad score for a city hatch in the late 80's. Top speed was upgraded to 170 km/h, reachable at 5,300 rpm, so I guess that engine could do highway runs in a pretty relaxing manner.

The car was a pretty rounded up package - things that were left to be addressed were the better suspension/brakes and fine tuning of the turbo, as it had a considerable lag under 2,500 rpm. Coupled that with Zastava just presenting the 'GV' sport cosmetics on regular ones, we could have had a pretty nice, cheap and cheerful hot hatch back than. Not the class leader, but 9.9 sec up to 100 km/h for Yugo money, I would have gone for it.

Unfortunately, Zastava, along with any other serious company in Yugoslavia, had no market sense and money making management, so this slipped as a wasted opportunity. Along the next few years came the breakdown of the country and Yugos became the really crap cars the Web is talking about.

Thanks for reading.

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