1974 Volkswagen 181 Thing
4-cyl. 1585cc/46hp 1bbl
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The Volkswagen Type 181 “The Thing” was an updated version of the German military’s Type 82 Kubelwagen. Rather than using the Type 82’s mechanical setup, however, the Thing rode on a combination of a Beetle driveline and a Type II Transporter suspension. Like the rest of the VW lineup, the Type 181 placed the air-cooled, 1584-cc engine in the rear and use the motor’s 46 hp to drive the rear wheels.
While the Beetle had charm, the Thing was much more utilitarian. Nary a curve on the car, it had a removable top, a folding windshield, and hose-it-out practicality. While it would never be confused for a jeep, land Rover, or Land Cruiser on the trail, it could manage to stray off the pavement, and was particularly fun on the beach.
Much like during its two-year production run, the Volkswagen Thing today is a quirky, eye-catching ride. Its bright and wild 1970s colors, combined with the convertible’s boxiness make it stand out in a sea of uniform cars. Models from 1974 are slightly more desirable due to their 55 hp, though condition and color tend to drive value more than model year. Top of the pecking order is the visually unique Acapulco Edition, which is decked out in a blue-and-white striped Surrey top. Cars that retain their original hard top are also popular. Keeping a Thing streetable is not difficult given their commonality with the ubiquitous Beetle, and prices tend to be reasonable as a result. Consequently, buyers can afford to be choosy.