The Volkswagen Thing

If you were around during the early part of the 1970s, you invariably saw some sort of box-like, weird, jeep-looking sorta, well…thing start to turn up on the streets here and there. When you asked your buddy what the heck it was, you wound up in one of those Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” types or conversations.

You: “Hey, did you see that thing?”
Your Buddy: “Yeah, I like those Things.”
You: “What is it?”
Your Buddy: “The Thing.”
You: “Yeah, the thing, what is it?”
Your Buddy: “The Thing.”
You: “Yeah man, that thing, what was it?”

And so on…anyway, the car that we came to know as the Volkswagen Thing here in the United States was called the Type 181 Kurierwagen when it was originally produced in Germany in 1969. The car was essentially based on the German military vehicle called the K├╝belwagen that was used during World War II. VW was first asked to produce such a vehicle for military purposes in the 1950s, but they begged off until the late 60s when they identified a demand for such a vehicle in the consumer marketplace, specifically in Mexico. The Mexican version of the car was called the Safari.

The Volkswagen Thing hit the American marketplace in 1973. It shared its chassis with the VW bus (pre ’68) and was powered by a 1600 cc 4-cylinder capable of an astounding (not) 46 horsepower. The Thing appealed to many younger people and outside-of-the-box types, and it was reasonably popular despite its rather hefty price tag. The 1973 VW Thing actually cost more than the Beetle, going for $3150.

This was the era when the consumer advocate Ralph Nader was making a name for himself putting the automotive industry under the microscope. He deemed the Thing unsafe and did all that he could to get it off the market, and he succeeded. The car remained in production through 1974, and after that it was no longer imported to America.

There were a total of about 25,000 VW Things imported to the U.S. in all, so they are rather rare as well as being a very unique oddity. These cars can be quite valuable, with low mileage, perfect specimens fetching upwards of $15,000. A fully restored Thing was purchased for $40,000 at a Barrett-Jackson auction. The Thing was certainly a fun car to drive, and it would be a very cool acquisition if you came across one today.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

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