the "Thing" logo.
about 25,000 things were imported by the end of the 1974 model year.
The Volkswagen K?belwagen (bucket/tub car) was a
military vehicle designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen prior to
and during World War II for use by the German military.
information on the VW LOGO
It was known internally
as the Type 62, then later as the Type 82 and based heavily on the Volkswagen
Beetle. A consumer variant of the vehicle debuted several decades after the war
as the Volkswagen 181 for the Federal Geman Army and then for the civilian marquet
Volkswagen 181 named "Thing" in the US, "Trekker" in the UK and "Safari" in Mexico.
Affordable Classic: 1973-74 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing.
After the success of
the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1960s, VW resurrected the idea of an on- and off-road
car, and called it the Type 181 "Thing." Inspired by the WWII Type 82 K?belwagen,
the Thing was updated with the Beetle baseline engine and running gear, but with
the beefier Transporter/Microbus suspension. Also along the lines of the K?belwagen
was its Dumpsteresque?yet practical?styling. The simple doors and standard soft
top could easily be removed, and the windshield folded flat. The rear-engined,
rear-wheel drive car was rugged, and well-suited for unimproved roads.
built in 1969, the Thing wasn't offered in the US until 1973. Power was the standard
Beetle 1584-cc air-cooled flat four-cylinder engine, with 46 chirping horsepower,
coupled to a four-speed manual transmission. In its initial year in the US, exterior
colors available were Blizzard White, Sunshine Yellow and Pumpkin Orange.
1974, the Thing got a slight boost in power to 55 bhp (easily differentiated from
the 46-bhp version by the side scoops instead of flush slotted vents in the rear
quarter panels). The most desirable trim package was called the "Acapulco," and
featured a bikini top and blue-and-white striped vinyl seats. The option list
included a fiberglass hard top with solid door windows, luggage racks, air conditioning
and a padded roll cage.
US sales were discontinued after 1974, while sales
in Mexico continued until 1978.
The Thing has a small but faithful legion
of followers. Panels for the unibody seem to be the most difficult parts to track
down, although rustk?bels are rare. Poor insulation, which led to snow-country
interior temperatures reminiscent of the Shackleton expedition's igloos, kept
many of them off salty winter roads.
A definitive plus for the vehicle
is its extreme commonality of functional parts with the Beetle. It also shares
with its air-cooled cousin reliability and ease of repair, part and parcel of
being a stepchild of one of the best-selling cars ever built. In the Southwestern
states, one can pretty much do an engine rebuild simply by walking along the side
of any road for about 10 miles and gathering parts.
The New Beetle craze
only slightly affected Thing prices. Instead, interest in various oddball cars
of the '70s (Gremlins, Pacers, etc.) has bolstered Thing pricing. Good Things
can be had in the range of $2,600-$4,800. As a gauge of the lower end of the market,
a non-running #4 1974 Thing with hard top (but no title) recently sold at a Midwest
estate auction for $1,600. Pricing may move up somewhat in the foreseeable future,
but not by much. Regardless, in an era of $25,000 Fiat Jollys, the Thing represents
the best way to cruise the beach on a budget.
(source: sports car market,
by by B. Mitchell Carlson)
The Thing's VW hood emblem.
|1973 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing Owners Manual.
|Vokswagen Thing accessory
strobe stripes that were offered with the "181" by the U.S. dealers. The color
is blue and green. These stripes were originally installed on green, white, yellow,
and orange Things. |
Volkswagen 181 Thing
Gute Fahrt magazine.
1973 Volkswagen Thing
ad, From Playboy magazine, July 1973.