The car referred to as the Fico or as it is officially known, the Zastava 750 and 850 is a quirky car from my childhood that is siblings with the Yugo. Both of these cars originated from an agreement with Fiat and are still living on today in great numbers in the Balkans.
The factories where these vehicles were produced go all the way back to the 1850's and the origins of Crvena Zastava (Red Star). These factories produced everything from weapons, to parts, and military and civilians vehicles. In the run up to the Second World War, the Zastava factory got its first taste of vehicle assembly when it assembled Chevy trucks for the local market. During and after the war the factory also assembled a little over 100 Willys Jeeps.
The actual assembly of Zastava vehicles as we know them today started in 1954 when Zastava signed a contract with Fiat to start producing vehicles. The first vehicles to be produced were the AP-55, 1100B, and the 1400BJ which were all based on their corresponding Fiat counterparts but had Zastava markings.
The Fico as it was affectionately known by the locals was based on the Fiat 600 but was referred to as the Zastava 750 as it was equipped with a bigger 767cc engine. This little car would end up being produced from 1955 all the way to 1985 and had a production number of over 923,000. The first models featured a 767cc engine that made 23hp and as time went the engine was enlarged and the last models made 30hp.
The first exports of Zastava vehicles started in 1965 when 6000 vehicles were exported to Poland and agreements with Finland, Columbia, and Greece followed. In the 1960's, Zastava upgraded it's line and replaced 1400 model with Bertone designed 1100 model that was also shared with Fiat, NSU Fiat in Germany, and Steyer Fiat in Austria. The vehicles started out with 36hp engine and by the end of its run in 1969 featured a 55hp model.
The Zastava 1300 started production in 1961 and was called the Yugoslavian Mercedes. It was rear wheel drive and featured disc brakes on all 4 corners along with a powerful 72hp motor. The vehicle became a favorite with the local upper class. The 1300 is still referred to as the best vehicle Zastava ever made.
The first Zastava designed vehicle went into production in 1971 and was called the 101. Even though it was designed in house it still had Fiat 128 underpinnings. It was referred to locally as the Stojadin and the millionth model was produced in 1991. In its lifespan, there were 1.27 million examples produced. The next model that was released was the Yugo and the production of the Yugo 45 started in 1980. The first Yugo off the line was gifted to Tito.
The contract for US Export was signed in 1984 and the first Yugo 55 GV was sent off that month. In all, there were just over 141,000 Yugos exported to the US. The Yugo was not successful on the US market but local production continued and the Yugo was produced all the way up 2008 when the last vehicle rolled off the line. There were a total of 794,400 Yugos produced. Alongside the Yugo, the Florida model was introduced in 1987 and about 30,000 vehicles were produced. At its peak, Zastava employed over 53,000 people.
With the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 90s and the economic sanctions, Zastava stagnated up until 1998. It got up and running for a while but was again shut down in 1999 as a majority of the facility was destroyed during NATO bombing. Overall Zastava produced about 4.5 million vehicles and exported 650,000 of those to 76 countries. The last vehicle produce was the Zastava 10 in 2008, at which point, a new agreement with Fiat was signed and the factory was retooled to produce Fiat 500L, which it continues to produce today.
Hat tip to wkiernan for reminding me to finish this article