The Volkswagen Type 181 was designed as a forestry/military vehicle to be used in Europe, mainly the German Army. It was built in Europe from 1969 through 1971 after which, Mexico began producing the vehicle. In Mexico it was called 'Safari'. Pontiac had a station-wagon in the mid 1950's named 'Safari', so Volkswagen was unable to use that name in the US market. So the decision was made to label the vehicle, 'The Thing'.
The Thing was a rear engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle based loosly on the platform of the Beetle. With its four doors it appeared to be much larger than a Volkswagen Beetle, however, it was only a few inches wider and weighed about the same.
A Volkswagen air-cooled, 1.6 liter flat-four provided 46 horsepower and 70 foot-pounds of torque. It was capable of achieving a top speed of around 70 miles per hour.
In 1974, Volkswagen introduced the 'Acapulco' Thing. It was basically stock, had blue and white paint, running boards, a few trim changes, a Surry top and either a soft top or a hard top.
The doors were able to be removed; no tools were necessary. The top was convertible with a fiberglass hard top available as optional equipment. With a price tag of around $3,000, it was close to one-thousand dollars more than a Volkswagen Beetle; a high price to pay for a SUV with modest horsepower and no four-wheel drive. Its ultimate demise was its inability to meet U.S. governmnet crash test standards for 'passenger cars' in 1975. It was able to avoid those requirements by being classified as a 'Multi-Purpose Vehicle' in 1973 and 1974.
In 1975 production ceased after about 25,000 examples were produced. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2015
Sold for $17,050 at 2006 Worldwide Auctioneers. The Volkswagen Type 181 'Thing' was a very capable vehicle, built for both military and consumer use. The German government was in need of a durable transport vehicle that was nimble, lightweight, and inexpensive. Volkswagen saw the opportunity and produced the 'Thing' which was an off-road capable vehicle that could be driven on poor roads. The design was simple and was based on the World War German military light reconnaissance Type 82 Kubelwagens. Production began in 1969 at Wolfsburg, German and continued in German until 1971, when production was transferred to Puebla, Mexico. The Mexican produced versions were dubbed the 'Trekker' and 'Safari'. In 1972 the 'Thing' began selling in the United States and was sold until 1974 when it was dropped due to failing to meet the ever-evolving US safety standards. During those two years of sales in the US, it is believed that 25,000 units were sold.
The example shown carries chassis number 183015428 and engine number AM009473. It is finished in white with the interior finished in black vinyl with bucket front seats and bench rear seats. It was expected to fetch between $12,000-$18,000. That estimation proved to be accurate, as it was sold at $17,050. By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2006
Sold for $9,900 at 2007 Worldwide Auctioneers. This 1973 Volkswagen Type 181 Thing was offered for sale at the 2007 Sports and Classic Car Auction presented by The Worldwide Group, in Hilton Head Island, SC where it was estimated to sell for $15,000 - $20,000. It was offered without reserve, meaning the high bid would become the new owner.
This vehicle has been treated to a restoration since new. It is powered by a 1679cc four-cylinder air-cooled engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox. It has removable doors and body panels adding to the allure and versatility of the vehicle. This car has a unique custom top and tonneau cover which helps transforms this 'Thing' from car into a pick-up style truck.
At auction the car was sold for under the estimated value, netting $9,900 including buyer's premium. By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2007
Sold for $11,550 at 2017 Bonhams. The Volkswagen 'Thing', which has mechanicals based on the Type 1 Beetle, had its roots in a military project. Production began in 1969 in Germany, with early units delivered to the German Army, as well as Dutch and Belgian forces. Civilian sales began in 1971, by which time Mexican production had started. Marketing in the U.S. commenced in 1972
The 'Thing' used a Karmann Ghia floorpan and 1,500 and 1,600cc versions of the air-cooled flat four-cylinder engine. The transmissions were also VW-sourced four-speed manual.
Civilian production came to an end in 1980 although production continued through 1938 with production exceeding more than 909,000 examples. Difficulty in meeting safety requirements resulted in withdrawal from the United States market after 1974.
This Pumpkin Orange 'Thing' was acquired by its current owner in 2013. It has been given a recent cosmetic refresh that included replacing the lower rocker panels with new-old-stock, repainting the entire car, and fitting a new tassel ringed Bimini top. The engine is a 1,584cc air-cooled overhead valve flat four-cylinder engine fitted with a Single Solex 34 PICT 3 carburetor. There are four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes and four-speed manual transmission. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2017