In the mid-80s, a group of Zastava engineers set about creating the company's best car to date. Using Fiat facilities and working from a Fiat Tipo proposal by Giorgetto Giugiaro, they come up with a roomy, clean design with a 0.32 coefficient of drag.
The Florida launched to much fanfare and heady expectations on February 19th, 1987
Hotal šumarice, Kragujevac. Feburary 19th, 1987: Zastava's newest car launches. With Zastava president Dr. Radoljub Mičić on hand, the company proudly marked the transition from project "Zastava 103" to production "Yugo Florida."
Several names had been considered; 800, in fact, including Avala. Sonata. Kraguj. Morava. Tara. Sana. In celebration of the Yugo's success in the United States (more than 50,000 had been sold by this point), the car would be known as "Florida," although the "Sana" moniker would be applied in some export markets.
As the press arrived that morning, Zastava's most independent project was still shrouded in secrecy. At 11am, the covers were finally pulled off the pearl white exhibit. The response from the 150 journalists who had gathered for the occasion was positively ecstatic. Kragujevac's latest was proclaimed attractive and spacious: a true family car for the '90s. "The Yugo Florida has been inspired by one of the most modern cars in the industry (Fiat's Tipo, Europe's 'Car of the Year, 1989')... it deserves every success,"
wrote Auto Moto Revije.
MacPherson front suspension and a semi-independent rear marked Zastava's move to all-around coil springs while, inside, things were quite plush for this class: the Florida indicated to its driver when its windshield-washer fluid was low; when its doors were open, and when its bulbs had burned out.
The Yugo Florida was Zastava's best car to date, and its most independent effort
The first production Floridas left Kragujevac lines on October 2nd, 1988.
The project had cost $150 million, of which about a third had gone toward development, with the remaining chunk spent on enabling fully domestic production. The future looked bright for Zastava and its suppliers, such as Teleoptik, which had invested so much in the new car's development. Rumor had it that a sedan version ("Zastava 104") was in the works.
A 71-horsepower 1.4-liter (1,372cc) engine was available at launch, although plans included 1.1-liter and 1.6-liter options, and even a diesel version, using Fiat's 1.7-liter motor. A fuel-injected 1.3-liter Florida, sharing the Yugo GVX's engine, debuted for 1989.
Zastava planned to build between 60,000 and 100,000 Floridas per year, with 70% of production marked for export.
In 1990, Zastava began work on Project 104, a sedan version of the 5-door Florida
In 1990, Zastava began work on Project 104, a sedan version of the 5-door Florida. Meanwhile, that year's Belgrade International Motor Show saw the launch of a 60-horsepower Florida 1.1 which placed particular emphasis on economy. Greek distributors took an interest in this version of the car that much of Western Europe already knew as the "Sana," and an export agreement was signed.
The Florida was on track to join the Yugo Stateside. Exports to Western Europe had proven successful, and Zastava was cautiously optimistic. U.S. testing had begun.
Yet war was brewing in the Balkans.
During the wartorn 1990s, average monthly wages at Zastava dipped as low as $15. The Florida/ Sana, which had shown such promise, spent many of these years waiting for better times, and for the parts needed for its production.
Gradually, Zastava began to find domestic substitutes for the parts it could no longer import.
Maintaining production during the '90s was hard enough - but Zastava managed to continue vehicle development, too. The Florida Poly and pick-up models debuted toward the close of 1998
In 1995, the company showed a prototype Florida pick-up. Zastava Specijalni Automobili
("Zastava Commercial Vehicles") of Sombor was charged with production logistics and, indeed, production began, albeit toward the end of 1998.
The Florida Poly
offered cargo space of up to 3.48 cubic meters and, thanks to a redesigned rear suspension and subframe, was capable of carrying up to 700 kilograms.
Yet Zastava's export market was gone, and its domestic market was much smaller than it had once been. Just 585 Floridas were made in 1998. A more luxurious Business
version was made available for '99.
Florida In: the Next Generation
At the 2001 Belgrade International Motor Show, Zastava showed the results of its cooperation with France's Heuliez design house and PSA/ Peugeot-Citroen. On the domestic automaker's stand sat two new '02 models, the Koral In/ In L and Florida In/ In L.
Florida "In L" models used Euro 3 1.6-liter engines from the Peugeot 306, with engine reprogramming and testing performed by Zastava R&D in Kragujevac.
Sales of this next-generation Florida began in earnest in 2002.