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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.


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71 Responses

  1. That CJ5 is nicer than mine, maybe I need an upgrade. Also Throttle Down Customs sells after market frames for 76 and later CJ5s. You can buy every piece of a CJ online. There are sometimes guys who will even Reproduce VIN stickers since the original ones can get damaged after 70ish years.

  2. I’m surprised a quarter of the people voted for that horrorshow of a Yugo. And to be clear, the horrorshow is the condition of the car and not the fact that it’s a Yugo. The Jeep at least has the bones for a viable project or a farm vehicle and in certain parts of the country you might be able to replace that motor and still be around the price of the Yugo. Now, had it been the Changli for the price of the Jeep…

        1. Jeeps.
          I mean I think they are absolute trash vehicles, so my first inclination is to think anyone who likes a Jeep is either disingenuous or deranged, but ultimately I am not going to fault anyone their automotive quirks and joys. As the saying goes car choices are irrational, and I can’t think of anything more irrational than a Jeep, so that absolutely tracks.

          Though I think I know the type of Jeep owner to which you may be referring–I suspect they would be douche bros regardless of what vehicle they own.

  3. People really like Jeeps. Except for me. I hate the damn things. Try as I might I cannot fathom the appeal of those wretched things. I’m sure somebody is going to chip in with something about off-roading, but you’re not going to convince me that a Jeep is a better trail vehicle than an ATV or a dirt bike. If the only vehicles left on Earth were Jeeps I would ride a frikkin bike. Fuck Jeeps.*

    Anyhow it’s not that I’m particularly enamored of this Yugo, and certainly not at that ridiculous asking price, but given this choice, and only this choice, I’d take it over the Jeep.

    *Sorry David, though by Jeeps I am really just referring to these WWII/off road cosplay vehicles. Not that I see any great appeal with the rest of their lineup, but–for example–a Cherokee is reasonably inoffensive. I guess.

    Yeah, username checks out.

  4. Honestly, if the engine runs and the frame is relatively rust-free, then this is a no-brainer. The CJ all day. New tub, windshield, etc. from quadratec is like $5,200. New wiring harness. New shocks. Rebuild the diffs and you’re in business. All for maybe $10K if you have a shop do a decent paint job. Versus the average CJ on BAT these days it’s a steal.

  5. Oh this is easy.

    Step 1.) Buy the Jeep CJ5.

    Step 2.) Get a Mahindra diesel ‘off road vehicle’.

    Step 3.) Perform unspeakable Baron von Frankenstein experiments in the depths of your secret lair.

  6. I went Yugo since you meet the worst kind of people driving a Jeep. Not sure about the rest of the country but here in central Texas Jeep owner culture is the worst kind of frat boy, douche culture you could imagine.

  7. That 78 CJ-5 doesn’t have much more rust than my 2015 JKR had after 4 years driving in NE Ohio salt-road country.

    I got new Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs for that JKR after about 3 years. I watched the tire guy using a sledge to get the wheels off the hubs. I asked if that was normal. Response: “It is for Jeeps, these CJD products use alloys that just corrode really fast.”

    I had rust on the rear dif after 2 months. Shock mounts were very rusty after 3 years. Frame rails were already rusting after 3 years. Traded it in after 4…. My Dad has a 2014 JKR and lived in Montana where they use much less salt. It had almost no rust at the same age. So, I am not blaming just the salt or just the Jeep, but they make a really bad couple. Also, Cargill owns a huge salt mine under lake Erie, so I am guessing we use much more salt than average winter cities. There are literal piles inches think on the roads during the winter. Trucks just dump it….

    1. Having lived in both western NY, where the roads are caked in salt six months of the year, and various places throughout New England and the mid Atlantic where they are not, the salt isn’t a corporate conspiracy. It makes that part of the world livable in the snow and ice. I don’t know who benefits from brining the roads like they do here in NJ, but it’s not people who have anywhere to go after a winter storm.

      1. As someone who spent much of their formative years, including their early driving years, in WNY, anywhere north of Maryland can go hang, climate-wise.

        I’ll admit that winter made my college job delivering auto parts a bit more interesting, but in that case I was driving company vehicles. Trying to keep my own teenager-accessible beaters in one piece in that climate was a constant nightmare.

        After moving south, it took me a long time to truly realize that it was possible to have the same exhaust system for ten years. It’s even possible to start an ’80s/’90s car club with actual cars in it!

  8. I unashamedly picked the Yugo.

    I’m betting you can wedge a hot turbo 3 in there and make a ridiculous sleeper.

    The key to having a ridiculous piece of crap is to remember you get to pick whether to lean into the ridiculous aspect, or the crap.

  9. “[Editor’s Note: Hard pass. -DT].” really made that an easy choice.
    If intrepid Jeep whisperer David Tracy won’t touch it then what chance would a mere moral stand?

    1. David destroyed a 360 through neglect. His opinion on engines is pretty much void.

      304’s a damn good engine. I’d rather a 360, but I’m biased, have designs, and I’m willing to pay virgin service block money.
      If you don’t wanna drop 3198951 money (you don’t,) modern piston and ring set, modern bearings for everything, mild Isky kit (I’d probably go with a 256 kit with the anti-pumpdown but 270HL’s also good,) good gaskets, tighten up the tolerances a bit, take care of it properly, and it’ll easily go over 100k without fault. For small money.
      $850 for the whole valvetrain. $360 for cast pistons, with rings. $225 for all your bearings. $200 for every single seal in the motor. Call it $2.5k in machining. $4k all-in, just add carb to flavor. (I’d go with a Carter AFB 550, call it $250. Might step up the intake at a swap meet, but optional.)

  10. Can’t afford to be like Tracy; my town wouldn’t wear it. Although, if I had the coin, I’ve seen ZJs that look really nice, and those I drove back in the day really racked me.. They also seem to command Big Money, which I haven’t got….

    Torch? Maybe a Changli would change my mind, but “no” if it meant Yugo-ing it. I’m sure someone will tell us all about their million-mile GV that hasn’t even needed an oil change yet, but every one I’ve seen — which, these days, can be counted on the fingers of one finger — has been a real Roach Motel.

    All that said, I did just buy a car, one I never thought I’d even look at. It’s an ’07 Toyota Corolla, in pretty good nick despite 160K miles. A local garage mechanic sold it to me for a whopping $2500, and it is a fine replacement for the rusted-out ’04 Tacoma that was sent off to the knackers a couple of weeks ago. The Corolla, despite being a Massachusetts car, has virtually no rust. A miracle.

    The Corolla is gray. So am I. But I can still look in the mirror and, by squinting, see the guy who was hot to own a Ferrari 308 GT4.

  11. $2,500 for the Yugo?! Does it come with another 2 of them not pictured or something? Or some Cherry futures from Bricklin himself?

    That’s more than yesterday’s XT, which will win Radwood prizes that aren’t joke prizes.

  12. Don’t make me choose between DT and JT!
    But there’s seriously no contest here. First, this particular Yugo (casting no aspersions on Torch’s fine little car) is a YUGE pile of feces. For the extra $1000 you’d spend on it over the CJ, you could drop a used engine into the Jeep and be miles ahead in value (and distance, since that Hugo’s going nowhere fast, or perhaps at all). CJ all the way.

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

  15. 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…..

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. That Yugo is overpriced by $2000 and that’s in today’s market.

    David’s opinion on engines has been fully voided – he destroyed a perfectly serviceable 360 through neglect and I can only assume lack of attention span. Completely ruined it.

    Fact is, the AMC 304’s a good engine. First engine to be offered with a real warranty. (Yes kids, new cars used to have zero warranty.) From the factory in the 1970’s they were stout and reliable compared to their contemporaries. Tolerances and materials were shit compared to even the 80’s, across the board. There isn’t a single engine out of the 1970’s that could go past 100k without an overhaul, if you were lucky. Not a single one. Anyone claiming otherwise is just full of shit.
    But note that I said overhaul. I’m talking things like seals, rings, and bearings. And they were designed to be overhauled and rebuilt. That’s why the cylinder walls have so much meat for boring, that’s why they have oversize and undersize bearing sets, and that’s why they sell rings separately. Maybe you need to go 010 over, maybe you just have collapsed rings. Either way, the block and the parts were designed for it.

    Problem is, that CJ5 needs a body. The whole thing. You’re buying a frame, a driveline, and a mostly intact interior and that’s it. Which for a CJ5 isn’t that ridiculous. They’re starting to heat up. Problem is, you need the back half. Tailgate? No problem. Wheel wells? Easy. Firewall, you can have one tomorrow. Tail light panel, ships today.
    But rear quarters? Nope. You’re buying a full tub. $4k unfinished and un-prepped.

    Still, a properly restored CJ5 with a 304, who wants to guess the price? Ready? Anybody under $15k, you’re outta the pool. Trash-modded ‘mudder’ CJ5s with trashy SBC swaps go $30k. A stock, adequately restored ’78 CJ5 with the 304/3spd combo and some rough edges will set you back a cool $15k before tax, and prices tend to go up from there. Proper frame-off restoration, even replacing the whole body, and you can easily get into the 30’s.

    1. I would upvote your post if not for the uninformed rant about 70s engines. I’ve seen dozens of just about every type of 70s V8 going well over 100k with no engine work at all. Not to mention all the I6 engines of all three makers. It’s all the shit around the engines that caused almost the problems, for the most part, and that’s still the case.

      The only 1970s era V8 engines I knew that needed internal work were the ones owned by teenagers and other abusers. And even though the AMC might have come with a better warrantee, it was among the worst of a good group, mainly because of the weaker than average oil pump.

      There’s a reason that the late 70s is when motor oil companies started marketing campaigns offering to pay for internal engine wear and damage if you could prove you used their oil regularly, and it’s not because they liked paying for engines. Engines were pretty good by then. Better now, though.

      1. Tolerances were shit. Everywhere.
        Sure, your Slant 6 would go until the end of time. Because a Slant 6 is designed with tolerances that may as well be measured in miles. It was DESIGNED to be a sloppy, slappy, pile of “close enough.” But please, tell the guys building them since new that the rings are ‘good.’
        Know what the tolerances are? 005 on OOR, 010 on the taper for the Slant 6. Know what minimum acceptable taper is on an LS1? Not greater than 0007, and not greater than 001 on OOR. Ring clearance is even more of a joke, and that’s what seals your combustion.

        Anybody claiming a 1970’s engine even 20 years later doesn’t need internal work is at best ignorant, at worst, actively fucking harmful.
        Oh sure, it’ll run “fine.” Shitload of blow-by from collapsed and worn rings, leaks from every possible seal, fuel mileage non-existent, but “it runs, there’s nothing wrong!” Which was all those promotions were good for. Engine turns over, their oil didn’t cause it. Same as the Slick50 snake oil bullshit.

  19. 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.

  20. I’d buy the Jeep today at that price for the frame, suspension, rims, axels and miscellaneous parts alone. This is exactly what I’m looking for right now! Too bad it’s so far or I’d be on the road right now.

    A new steel, fiberglass or maybe even aluminum shell, engine of choice, and we’re off to the races again, almost as good as new, for under $10,000.

    I’ve seen crappy CJ-5 frame/axel/VIN combos go for $1500 near me.

    Swap the prices so the CJ-5 is $2500 and you’re still nearly stealing that Jeep.

  21. I watch the local CL for every car under $3000, and if I’ve ever seen a CJ or newer pop up, it was actively on fire when the picture was taken. For $1500 I could get it running, spend the summer trying out the Jeep lifestyle, and make decent money on the flip.

  22. I already have a shitbox, so it’d have to be the jeep for me.
    I keep coveting actual 4wd (as opposed to awd ), but, I’m an idiot, so I know it would quickly devolve into ‘bigger tires!…crap: now I need a lift & lower gearing…damnit: need more torques…sheared an axle: better upgrade…’&on&etc….
    I’d end up with 20k in a $1500 vehicle that I then need tow vehicle & trailer for: better stick with awd—AND prudence*!

    *she’s a pretty good backroads partner-but her music choices are a bit shit.

  23. 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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