Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
17 - 18 January 2019
Lot 204

1974 Volkswagen Type 181 'Thing'

The Torque Collection


$24,640 USD | Sold

United States | Phoenix, Arizona



Chassis No.
  • Offered from the Torque Collection
  • Derived from VW’s military Kubelwagen design
  • Interesting ‘outlaw’ modifications
  • Adjustable air suspension
  • A delightful weekend plaything

Nobody can say for sure how many examples of the Type 181 or Type 182 – the right-hand-drive version – were constructed; estimates vary from about 70,000 to twice that number. What is known is that the open-topped Type 181 was dubbed the “Thing” for the U.S. market, and some 25,000 units were sold here from 1972 to 1974. They were popular in sunnier climes and their bright colors – Blizzard White, Sunshine Yellow, and Pumpkin Orange, all with black leatherette interiors and tops – shouted “Fun!”

The 181 was based on the VW Kubelwagen, an off-road vehicle first offered to the German military. The steel body featured four seats, removable doors and windows, a folding windshield, and a single round instrument containing a speedometer and fuel gauge. The rear-mounted, air-cooled boxer four and four-speed manual transaxle were borrowed from the Type 1 Beetle. A gas heater was optional. The front suspension was conventional Volkswagen, with torsion bars and trailing arms. Originally Type 181s were fitted with a “Portal” rear axle design similar to the VW transporter to give additional ground clearance and off-road–appropriate reduction gearing. When the 181 was offered to the civilian market in 1973, that layout was replaced with more conventional half-shafts.

This example, sourced from its original Arizona owner in early 2016, proudly displays its original Alpine Green paint with just the right patina. It was then modified in a Rat-Rod like motif by air-cooled expert Doug Turnbull Autosports for the consignor. The 1,600-cc single-carb VW motor was serviced in late 2018. This example has been modified with a stainless-steel exhaust (custom bumper exit), adjustable air suspension, new shocks, tie rods, ball joints, spindles, and a set of authentic Porsche Fuchs alloy wheels. This car’s complete maintenance history, receipts for the modifications, and original manuals are included.