2015 Shannons Melbourne Winter Classic Auction

1971 Volkswagen Type 181 'Thing' Convertible (LHD)




Engine In-line flat-four, 1600cc
Gearbox 4-speed manual
Body Work Convertible
Colour White & grey camouflage
Interior Beige
Trim Vinyl
Wheels Steel disc
Brakes Drums


This lot is no longer available

Initially conceived as a lightweight off-road vehicle for European NATO forces, Volkswagen's Type 181 was the hereditary successor to the legendary Kübelwagen and utilised the same rear-mounted flat-four engine, transmission and other mechanical components as the Beetle. The floorpan was, however, based on the wider platform of the Karmann Ghia while Volkswagen lifted the swing axle suspension from its Transporter for early models, later replaced with double-jointed axles and trailing arm set-up from 1973. First entering service in 1968, Volkswagen quickly recognised the potential for a civilian version and three years later began marketing the Type 181 (and its right-hand drive Type 182 offshoot) in certain markets, including the United States (where it was marketed as ?The Thing?), in Mexico (as the ?Safari?) and the UK (as the ?Trekker?). For the home market, Volkswagen badged the Type 181 as the Kurierwagen. Initially powered by an air-cooled 1.5-litre engine, this was later upgraded to the slightly more powerful 1.6 unit and with only 46 horsepower on tap performance was never going to be electrifying, although the lightweight body and stripped out interior helped the power to weight ratio a little. The styling can best be described as 'functional', with flat ribbed panels designed to be easily removed and replaced, while chunky tyres gave good ground clearance and grip on poor roads. The Spartan interior lacked any insulation or trim and abounded in military details, including the rifle racks, a power outlet and even drain holes to allow the interior to be hosed clean. Volkswagen also began production in both Mexico and later, Indonesia. In all some 90,000 were built between 1968 and 1983, when the model was officially withdrawn from sale and replaced with the Type 183 Iltis. Volkswagen successfully promoted the Type 181 as a fun vehicle at a time when beach buggies were all the rage.