1974 Volkswagen Thing
Through ice, snow and freezing rain, two of our teammates made their way from Portland, Ore., to our home office in Traverse City, Mich., this week in a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. Which got us thinking about how air-cooled VWs make fun, interesting and reliable entry-level collector cars. The simplicity that makes them challenging long-distance vehicles also makes them easy to maintain and a great way to learn the basics of mechanical upkeep.
If a Beetle is too common and luxurious for your taste, perhaps our eBay Find of the Week is more to your liking. This 1974 VW Type 181 (sold as The Thing in the U.S. for the 1973-74 model years) takes that basic nature to a new level. A bit more ground clearance made them off-road capable and its four doors are not only removable but also interchangeable from front to back. Interiors were spartan lacking carpet, and sporting plain vinyl seats and exposed duct-work so restorations are even simpler. Somehow VW even avoided safety regulations that required headrests for front seats after 1967 in the U.S.
The subject car appears to be very correct with only the addition of a roll cage, a glove box cover, and accessory gauges. Unlike the heat-less Beetle our colleagues are flogging through the snow this week, Things were often equipped with accessory gas-fired heaters, as is this example. This still wouldn’t make a 181 our first choice for long-distance winter travel, but spring isn’t too far away. And at $4,925 it’s some cheap fun.