Jeep CJ-5 or Yugo GV: Which Autopian Founder Would You Rather Cosplay?

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Folks, today we have a very special Shitbox Showdown for you. We are proud to introduce the Autopian home game! Now you too can pretend to be David or Jason! I’ll fill you in on the details in just a minute, but let’s see who won yesterday’s Showdown first.

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No surprise there. Charisma and a clutch pedal versus dowdy practicality and an improvised trunk latch. You all are my kind of foolish. I know a lot of people were concerned about parts availability for the Subaru, but really, if the seller did all that work, the parts are out there. You just have to look further than O’Reilly for some of it. It’s like a scavenger hunt! Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt?

Now then. It’s only May, but as my lovely wife will tell you, Halloween is just around the corner. Mind you, she starts saying that sometime around November 4th, but the fact remains that it’s never too early to start thinking about your Halloween costume. This year, I predict that Autopian writers will be popular choices for costumes. (Tip: if you want to go as me, it’s easy; just throw a flannel shirt over your favorite Blipshift or old concert T-shirt, and go around complaining about modern music and/or electronic devices.) If you want to go as either Jason or David, you’re in luck; I have found the perfect accessories for you. Let’s take a look.

1978 Jeep CJ-5 – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 304 cubic inch V8, 3 speed manual, 4WD

Location: Golden, CO

Odometer reading: 100,000 miles listed, may not be accurate

Runs/drives? Runs, needs going through to be driveable

I confess I don’t really see the appeal of David’s XJs and ZJs [Editor’s Note: What do you mean you don’t see the appeal of XJs and ZJs? They’re incredibly versatile. They’re great off-road, okay on-road, they can tow 5,000 pounds, they’ve got space to fit your junkyard axle and engine block, they’re powerful thanks to that unkillable fuel injected four-liter, their AX-15 manual transmission is fantastically satisfying to shift, and I could go on and on. They’re absolutely epic! Someday you will drive one and understand the glory. -DT] , but I do love me a good CJ-5/6/7/8. The first vehicle I ever drove was a four-speed 1981 CJ-8 Scrambler [Editor’s Note: Okay, fine, relative to a Scrambler, they’re kinda wack. But most vehicles are. -DT], at the tender age of 14. It belonged to my uncle Bill, a long-haul trucker who taught me to drive over my mother’s objections. He wanted me to learn in his Jeep, because, he said, in his broad Kansas drawl, “If you get good on this, you can drive anythin’.” Thirty-five years behind the wheel haven’t proved him wrong yet.

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I look at this old Jeep, and I’m that 14-year-old kid again. Yeah, it’s a rusty piece of crap that hasn’t set tire to road in years, but that’s only what it is, not what it could be. I think David sees his Jeep projects through that same lens, viewing the potential under all the layers of harsh reality [Editor’s Note: This mentality is my only hope for finding a partner -DT]. So I get it.

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But this thing is rough, at least cosmetically. But the frame looks solid, and the seller says the drivetrain is functional. And the old 304 V8, no matter how maligned a motor it may be, does start and run [Editor’s Note: Hard pass. -DT]. So that’s something.

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The CJ-5 had a tremendously long run – 28 years. It’s still the default image of a “Jeep” in a lot of people’s minds, including mine. For a while, you could build an entire CJ-5 from the J.C. Whitney catalog, if you had a frame to start from. You can still buy damn near everything for these, including whole body tubs. They ain’t cheap, but they’re out there. So even if this is just a frame, a VIN, and a clean title, it can still become the Jeep of your dreams. It just take a little imagination, and a big pile of money.

 

1987 Yugo GV – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.1 liter inline 4, 4 speed manual, FWD

Location: Centralia, WA

Odometer reading: 47,000 miles

Runs/drives? Was running fine, has developed a carb problem

Let’s get them out of the way right at the top: How do you double the value of a Yugo? Fill the gas tank. What do you call a Yugo at the top of a hill? A miracle. Guy walks into a parts store and asks the clerk, “Can I get a gas cap for my Yugo?” The clerk replies, “Sounds like a fair trade.”

Feel better? OK, let’s move on.

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The worst thing about the Yugo is that it really wasn’t a bad idea. Take a license-built car based on a proven design (in this case the Fiat 127/128 platform), bring it over to America, undercut everyone else on price, and rule the small car market. At least that was Malcolm Bricklin’s thinking. And his automotive ideas always worked out so well. So how could the Yugo fail?

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Well, we all know that story. Appalling build quality, dismal performance [Editor’s Note: The fuel injected models, like Jason’s, actually rip! -DT] [Editor’s Note: David is right, at 67 hp, my Yugo GV+ is my highest-power car and it’s shockingly fun. Really! – JT], and not really being any cheaper to own or run than far better cars doomed the Yugo and made it the butt of all those jokes. They sold well enough that there were plenty of them around for parts for a good long while, and most of the few that remain, like this one, seem to be cobbled together from the least bad bits of several cars, and continue to run out of pure spite. Honestly. I think Torch might have the nicest one left. [Editor’s Note: That’s not true, but thanks – JT]

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The photos of this Yugo seem to span a few different eras of its life, so it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re buying. As far as I can tell, the sale includes the car as pictured above, with the GVX wheels, as well as louvers for the rear window, and that spare engine sitting in a tire on a pallet “if you want it”. Considering that Yugo parts were never very sturdy to begin with, and are getting pretty thin on the ground now, a buyer should probably plan on taking whatever they can get. [Editor’s Note: Don’t forget, rocks count as spare parts in a pinch. – JT]

And is that one intact door card actually yellow, or did it start out as beige and slowly fade to that hideous color? A mystery for the ages.

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Really, if you simply must have a Yugo, you should probably take a good look at this one. And then take a good look in the mirror, and seriously consider therapy. Just kidding; they’re actually quite fun little cars to drive, as long as you’re not in a hurry. Sure, some parts will fall off once in a while. If the car is still going, you probably didn’t need whatever it was anyway.

So, my fellow Autopians, the question is this: do you wanna be like Torch, or like Tracy? The choice is yours.

QuizMaker

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71 Responses

  1. I picked the Yugo only because I found a license plate frame from a Yugo dealer at a flea market probably about a decade ago now and I’d finally have something to use it on. Plus I’ve wanted to swap some sportier 4 cylinder into a Yugo since I was in high school and that would finally let me live my dreams.

  2. Please spare me from both cars, but I can add something of value. I’ve seen enough crap 80s cars to recognize that bright yellow door as the foam to make the vinyl lined door feel ‘luxuriously soft’. The brown vinyl has fallen off, showing the yellow foam underneath.

  3. That is cheap for a CJ5, they have gone way up in the PNW. My first drivable vehicle was a rustbucket 68 Commando, it was fun but this cj5 has power steering and should have disc brakes, the two downfalls to that Commando which make it even better. Whoever buys the Yugo may want to avoid the mackinaw bridge on a windy day.

  4. I just really don’t like Jeeps. Work has company vehicles, and every Jeep we’ve had (they gave me one as a daily driver for two years), were always in the shop or about to be. Ran like crap, shook like an earthquake, had parts just fall off, and couldn’t even handle some of the more rigorous off-road areas we had to go to. A Ford F-250 kicked every Jeeps ass off-road in every situation. Young family member loved the thought of them so burned through a ton of money in just a few years trying to keep a succession of them running.

    That said, up against a Yugo?! This is like picking who your prison torturer will be! OK OK Jeep, but I may have to just walk…

  5. Tough call. Whilst Yugoslavia does not exist as a country, Malcolm is still alive. And he founded Subaru of America. And US Yugos were a status symbol compared to Yugo Yugos…..

    But any Jeep, especially if the body is more steel than rust…

    Gotta love ‘Merica…..

  6. 100% going with the Yugo here, reason be damned. I just like them fuckers. As for Jason’s Yugo being the best one left, maybe you mean in the US. I have recently seen a mind condition white one here in Portugal, and not too long ago there was a red RHD with british plates that parked on my street for about a week, so I’m guessing someone was brave/confident enough to do a fairly long road trip in it. I’ve also seen a few nice ones in Budapest but that was almost a decade ago.

    1. There are a lot of nice Yugos left in the US, as long as by “a lot” you mean 100 or less.

      I have a ’91 GV Plus like Jason’s. I’d argue it’s nicer than his, and mine might not even be the nicest one alive. It’s hard to know, because the really nice ones don’t seem to trade as often as basket cases like the one in this article. I’m in a Yugo Facebook group and many of them are “nice”, not “clean”, but man I see an awful lot for sale that I wouldn’t take for free.

      The values of the nice ones are going up though, I assure you of that. There’s only about 1000 left total.

  7. Yeah, only the perverse will pick the Yugo. Had it been a Changli instead (even at the $300 markup to make its price match the Jeep’s), it would have been a real fight.

    And yeah, if that Jeep were in SoCal I’d pick it up today. I too am mystified by DT’s adoration of Cherokees. I’d probably appreciate them more if I ever wanted to spend a lot of time offroading, but I don’t. I have never found them remotely attractive, and most anything would be a preferable drive on pavement. But I always kinda liked CJs. With one of those, I actually would want to drive offroad.

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