Ads on Test: 1973 Volkswagen Type 181


Classic Cars magazine

by Matt Richardson |

It's strong money, but when did you last see a ‘Thing’ for sale, especially in such impressive condition, asks our tester, Matt Richardson

This Type 181 is a very rare Volkswagen in the UK. It’s not based on the World War Two Nazi Kübelwagen as many think, but was an all-new post-War design – and in a fun colour like this it’s an entertaining and likeable car that would be huge fun over the summer. The recorded mileage is amazingly low and the condition suggests that it’s correct, though that can’t be confirmed.

Known as ‘The Thing’ in America and ‘Trekker’ on our shores, whatever you call it, this Volkswagen is a bit of a monster to drive. It’s loud, slow, crude and... great fun. The engine revs as noisily as it should, and although the power output might be low, it’s not a heavy car so has a surprisingly good turn of pace.

On its tall tyres the ride is quite cushioned, if a little bouncy. Steering is very light with no weight on the front axle, but there’s no feeling of anything loose or worn and the gearchange feels nice and accurate, despite such a long linkage to the rear-mounted engine. The brakes are not overly powerful but work as they should and don’t pull to either side under load.

The pumpkin orange paint glows, making the stark shape look positively jolly. The finish is excellent, and vendor Stone Cold Classics believes it to be original despite wearing virtually no chips or marks. There is no visible corrosion to the upper panels or the chassis and floorpans. The decals are undamaged on the sides and rear. The black soft-top is huge, covering the four-seater cabin, and is in great shape, free from fading and with no rips or tears.

The windscreen, which can fold flat onto the bonnet, is impressively free from chips and scratches. The wheels have good paint and chrome hubcaps in fine condition, and are shod in chunky General Grabber AT tyres with deep go-anywhere tread. The lights and lenses are all bright and clear, and what little brightwork there is on this car shines with no pitting.

Classic Cars magazine
©Classic Cars magazine

The basic cabin has little in the way of comforts or instrumentation and is designed to be weatherproof, so the seats are simple vinyl pads, free from wear, cracks and sagging cushions, and the floor has varnished wood slat mats. The dashboard has just one dial and a couple of switches and heat comes from an Erbspacher unit located under the front bonnet. It’s all in superb condition, the painted dash and door panels all have a good finish and the seats are like new. Lap seatbelts have been added to the car.

Classic Cars magazine
©Classic Cars magazine

In the rear engine bay, the standard VW air-cooled flat-four looks to be in good condition, with no oil leaks, and fresh-looking service items, such as the distributor cap and HT leads. Like many imports from the United States it has lost its history file, but the vendor can confirm it is a Mexican-built example. The heater and fuel tank appear new and it has been serviced by the dealer since arriving.

The price is high for a car with no service history but it’s so rare that it doesn’t generate sufficient sales data to enter our price guide. Could you find another?

This VW Type 181 is one of four Ads on Test in the latest issue of Classic Cars.

Engine 1584cc flat-four, ohv, one Solex 34PICT-3 carburettor Power 44bhp@3300rpm Torque 72lb ft@3800rpm Performance Top speed: 68mph; 0-60mph: 24sec Length 3780mm Width 1640mm Mpg 31mpg

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