1973 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing (LHD) (Car in UK)
Type 181. 46 hp (SAE), 96.7 cu. in. OHV horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, transverse torsion bars with upper/lower trailing arms, swing axle rear suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5 in.
The mass success of Beetle-based dune buggies in the United States during the late 1960s did not escape Volkswagen’s attention, nor did appeals from the company’s considerable Mexican customer base for a vehicle suitable for their rural roads. Volkswagen began with the basic lines of its World War II-era Kübelwagen military vehicle, modernized with redesigned bodywork on a Beetle-derived chassis and drivetrain, with Karmann-Ghia floorpans. Not only were the top and windows removable, but so were the doors, creating an airy ride not unlike a modern Fiat Jolly.
Over 90,000 of the Type 181, as it was called, were produced between 1968 and 1983, in two West German factories; in Puebla, Mexico; and in Jakarta, Indonesia. The model was sold under a variety of names; in the United States, it was dubbed, simply, “The Thing,” and was identified as such on its door sills. Advertised as, “The car that can be anything,” it became iconoclastic as an affordable off-roader for the same quirky learned types who enjoyed Beetles and was a frequent sight at resorts, estates, and on country roads.
Having lived in Southern California and part of the Mohrschast collection for many years the ‘Thing’ has lived a very sheltered life prior to coming to the UK in the latter part of last year. Inspection indicated that much of its Pumpkin Orange finish is original, as is the top, windows, and interior, all of which shows only a gentle patina and remains in remarkable condition for being 45 years old. Because of its originality, it has not lost such charming touches as the original decal inside the doors, warning “Do Not Drive on Public Roads With Doors Off And/Or Windshield Down.”
Now UK registered for the Volkswagen enthusiast seeking the best original Type 181 to be found; for someone pursuing the best runabout for the summer house; or simply for the enthusiast looking for a conversation piece that everyone from the kids to the family dog will love, there is simply no better thing than this Thing.