“The Yugo” An Icon of Yugoslavia

Yugo, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Above is a photo I snapped last weekend while waiting in traffic. The main bridge between New Belgrade and the old city is under repair and has been causing traffic back ups. The “Yugo” or Zastava Koral 55 is an icon of the Former Yugoslavia. They are the source of many jokes both in the US, where they were sold in the 1980’s and here in Serbia.

I love them and hate them. I love them because they are so derided in the media and by people, that it almost makes it cool to drive one. I would love to buy one just to tool around the city in. I would even paint it in our school colors and have it as a “mascot” of the school.

They are an annoyance on the highway however. I wish I had a laser beam in the front of my car that would lift a Yugo in the air so I could ride underneath and then safely place it back down. I think their max speed must be around 60-80 km per hour and I’ve spent many an hour behind them, looking for an opportunity to pass.

The Yugo has a personal connection to me. In my home state of Michigan, the following tragedy occurred:

In 1989, 31-year-old Leslie Ann Pluhar, driving a 1987 Yugo over the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan, died when her Yugo was blown over the bridge’s 36-inch (910 mm) railing by a 50 mph (80 km/h) gust of wind. The incident was widely publicized, with the make of car prominently identified. While Mackinac Bridge Authority’s chief engineer initially thought the car was exceeding the 45 mph (72 km/h) speed limit enforced on the bridge, it was later discovered that Pluhar had panicked when the high winds made driving too difficult and stopped the Yugo on the bridge. The act of stopping the car denied it the downforce generated by forward motion, and along with the car’s light weight, blew the Yugo off the bridge.

I want to read a recent book about the Yugo in America, so expect to see more posts about these cool old cars around Serbia. I asked the guy if he was having car problems or out of gas and he said no. As we got closer to the intersection, he hopped back in and started the car right away. He might have been trying to conserve gasoline, which yesterday was $7.12 per gallon! (ouch!)

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