Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Impracticality and Safety Aside...

If I had the kind of life in which safety, gas mileage, acceleration 0-60 in under a quarter minute and highway driving were non-issues, I might find myself searching one of these out.
Introduced to the mass market in 1973, Volkswagen's "Thing", otherwise known as the "trekker", the "safari" or plainly, type 181, was slightly more than an 46hp flat four engine, 4 seats and a speedometer. Doors could be removed, the windshield folded forward, the interior hosed out and heat was provided by an optional gas-powered heater that connected directly to the fuel tank. VW sold it as less expensive peer to the then popular 4WD Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser. (Uh, no.)
Perhaps wisely, importation of these beasts was halted after 1974.
My friends eccentric father proudly owned one when we were kids and I can distinctly recall the overwhelming (i.e. suffocating) smell of petrol and the fear of the floor boards opening up like an upside down sardine can when riding in it on the way to school.










7 comments:

Michael said...

My friend's grandfather used to drive one of these in his heyday. After it died, he carried around a picture of it in his wallet. He'd always be going up to people asking, "Wanna see a picture of my Thing?"

Oh, to be old.

jvk said...

Oh man... Your making miss my 68 baja and my 73 westy.
That was some fun times getting dirty transforming and maintaining my vw's!!
http://www.angelfire.com/mi2/bajaproject/main.htm

Thanks for sharing...

JVK

Harlo said...

A '73 Thing was my first car. My pops and I finished the restoration and two days later I drove her from Detroit to Baltimore. She was super trusty.

15 years later, I still believe the Type 1 VW engine is the best engine ever. It just keeps running, in almost any level of disrepair, and with just about anything for fuel.

jvk said...

Harlo, What did the thing have for an engine? My 68 baja has a single port 1500... I loved working on that thing. I installed a 78 bus tranny in my baja so that the gearing would turn the 30" mud terrain's... That little 1500 would get me air over jumps... Good times.

Harlo said...

Mine had a stock 1600 dual port. Didn't have the performance of your baja, I'm sure, but was a blast.. Never should have sold her.

J. Everett Dixon said...

I used to have a '74 Thing similar to the OD green version pictured above. I drove it 12000 miles in 3 months, from Portland, OR to Montreal, to Memphis, Los Angeles, and all points in between. It never once let me down... a few snapped belts and failed fuel pumps, but a VW owner always carries extras.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you know, but the basic design goes all the way back
to world war 2 Germany...their version of the "Jeep". I believe it was called the "Kubelwagen".
Anyway, very cool looking vehicle.