17 January 2017

eBay Find of the Week: It’s a Thing

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.

14 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jack Dall Kingston Ontario January 18, 2017 at 16:47
    We sold and repaired quite a few of these. They were called a Kubel wagon or the "thing". Doors always rattled on the highway and were a lot if water leaks when it rained.
  • 2
    Jim Wolfe Washington January 18, 2017 at 18:27
    I drove a 1974 Thing from Seattle to Key West and back in the 80s. My sis was with me and liked the drive down to Florida so well she flew home. I was going to come back along the Blue Ridge Mt. Pkwy and up thru Canada but the catalytic heater went out and no shop could fix it...so I opted for the warmer southern route. I had a portable hi watt halogen spotlight that I would put on the bottoms of my socks to keep my feet warm as I drove. (Coming home it was October.) A memorable trip but I wouldn't do it again in that car....although I've done it several times in others.
  • 3
    Jim Wolfe Washington January 18, 2017 at 18:31
    p.s. My Thing had a roll bar also and I rigged up a system where the back of the front seats were plywood with foam cushions so, when removed, the car would sleep two out of the elements, or put the top down and sleep under the stars.....and plenty of room for the luggage under the beds. Nifty!
  • 4
    Bruce C CO January 18, 2017 at 18:50
    I want the garage.
  • 5
    tom harriman sausalito, ca January 18, 2017 at 20:28
    where would I find one?
  • 6
    David clifton Carlsbad Ca. January 18, 2017 at 22:39
    How many miles and what is your lowest price if I paid cash?
  • 7
    Bernard Siegal Dallas, TX January 19, 2017 at 02:07
    With three and half days before the auction is over, I have no idea why any suggestion of the cost of fun should have been mentioned. At this point the bidding is at almost $10,000 and the reserve has not been made.
  • 8
    Tom Sun City, AZ January 19, 2017 at 08:48
    A couple of times I was able to rent what looked like a version of these vehicles in the Caribbean on vacation. It wasn't called The Thing but a Gurgel or something spelled like that. That was back in the early to mid 1980s. What looks like was different was the top was pretty much open if I remember correctly and there were water drain holes in the front floorboard because it rained so often. They were great fun driving and roomy enough for 4 people. I was disappointed when they quit renting them after they aged. It also had a roll cage. What market was Gurgel made for if anyone knows?
  • 9
    ryan hennessy KY January 19, 2017 at 09:28
    Your telling me this thing sold on ebay for $4925.00????
  • 10
    Steve Haas Michigan January 19, 2017 at 10:54
    Sorry for the confusion, the bidding was at $4,925 at the time the article was published. It is still going up and was near $10,000 last I looked.
  • 11
    GR Brea January 19, 2017 at 11:13
    $9600 with three days to go. Reserve not met
  • 12
    Carlos Miami January 19, 2017 at 11:23
    The bidding is up to $9600 with reserve not met. This is a very nice example. I'm guessing reserve is about 20k
  • 13
    butch coultry B.C. January 19, 2017 at 11:49
    Are there many of these Things in Canada?
  • 14
    Steven Haas Michigan January 23, 2017 at 11:28
    Sold for $12,200. That seems like a great buy. Perhaps the seller should have waited for warmer weather?

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