Earlier this week, we talked about how Volkswagen has been a consistent industry leader in creating boldly-designed vehicles that can only be described as “Volkswagen.” One of the most distinct VW automobiles is the VW Thing. Due to its unique appearance and enthusiastic (even cult-ish) following, The VW Thing is a vehicle you’re unlikely to see on any used car lots any time soon.
History of the VW Thing
The Volkswagen 181 (its production name) was introduced by VW in 1968, as a European riff on the Jeep, a vehicle partially credited for the United States’ land prowess in World War II. Originally developed for the West German Army, the 181 was built with the mechanics of the Type 1 (Beetle), and early Type 2 (Microbus). The concept for the 181 came from the Kübelwagen, a German military vehicle used during World War II.
The civilian version of the Type 181 was known as the VW Kurierwagen in home country, Germany. As is common with Volkswagen models to this day, it was known by many names the world over. In England, they called it the VW Trekker. Mexico and South America had the VW Safari. It was known as the VW Pescaccia (beastly fish) in Italy.
The most memorable name for the 181, however, was arguably its most appropriate. Either understanding the American fascination for directness, or having just given up on more elaborate names, Volkswagen called the 181 the VW Thing upon its 1973 release to the North American market. A cult following was born that day.
Full of interesting quirks (46-hp engine, separate heater, swappable doors, no glovebox lid, and a folding windshield among them), the Thing was especially popular among youth, despite its relatively high price tag ($20,000 in 2017 money, compared to Beetle at $14,500 in 2017 money). Its inability to meet safety standards led Ralph Nader, and auto-regulation activists, to lobby the federal government to ban the importation of the Thing.
Their efforts were successful and the Thing survived for only two model years in the US Market (1973 and 1974). By the end of the model’s run in the United States, approximately 25,000 were imported. Already popular, their scarcity has madem them a high-value collectors item.
VW Thing Pictures
For this reason, many of us will never see a VW Thing in person. At Joe Heidt Motors, we’ve found some really great images on Instagram* of this offbeat buggy. Enjoy the Volkswagen Thing. There are many images we didn’t include. If you’re interested, the hashtags we searched are #VWThing, #VolkswagenThing, #Volkswagen181 #VW181 #Type181 #Kurierwagen.
At Joe Heidt Motors, we’re fascinated by the history of interesting and unique vehicles. Nobody, it seems, has more of them than Volkswagen. We don’t know if Volkswagen is going to bring back the Thing, like they did the Beetle, and are planning for the Bus, but if they do, we’ll be sure to pass on the exciting news here on our blog.
For more information on Volkswagen vehicles, or to schedule a test drive with a brand-new Volkswagen, packed with the latest technology, contact us today!
*We understand that Instagram’s filters don’t always remove explicit, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate content. We do not endorse any of the accounts featured, and encourage visitors only to click-through and visit these accounts at their own discretion, fully understanding the possibility for witnessing inappropriate or offensive content.