Thing Gallery

Lt Col Hassan's Type 181 Thing

By 1968 the German Army’s ageing DKW Mungas were becoming overdue for replacement. The contract for replacement was secured by VW with the introduction of the Jeep-like Type 181 "Kurierwagen". With ribbed panels the overall “box” shape and soft-top, the resemblance to the wartime Kubelwagen escaped hardly any body’s notice. Designed very much as a utility vehicle with reasonable cross-country capabilities it satisfied the military design specifications. It also later appeared in civilian guise.

Military versions were of course purchased by the German Federal Army, the 181's customers also included the Dutch, Belgian and Austrian armies. The 181 production lasted from 1969 until the end of '79-year model. The first 5 years production came from Hanover after which manufacture were transferred to Mexico Puebla factory. It is also interesting to note that 6.500 cars (RHD) civilian versions were assembled from (CKD) kits in Indonesia. The 181 used the top line Beetle engine for the '70-model year, 1600cc thereafter. Fitting were basic and functional. The windscreen folded flat, all four doors could be lifted from the hinges, the canvas hood folded. The rear seat backs could be folded flat separately to extend the storage space. Extra military fittings were the map reading light, “block-out” lights, front and back. This 181 has since won several awards at VW meets.

It has reinforced suspension and water proofing (the 181 had fording capability of 960 mm) additional bumper bars on the front, four rifle clips, fitted for radio equipment and field medical kit. The paint was olive drab. The 181 came with reduction gears cases on the outer end of the half-shafts of the rear axles. The civilian version was marketed as, “The Thing” in the U.S, the “Trekker” in the U.K and the “Safari” in Mexico. Lt Col (R) Mohd Idris Hassan rescued this Military Type 181 year 1973 from the German consulate in 1993. It was languishing in the store unused for 9 years. It looked tattered but was saved from the elements due dry storage. Surprisingly it only had 23,000 km on the odometer. It has since been restored to better than original appearance. The colonel says when he drives it on the road the 181 attracts more than curious glances. “People are always coming up to me and asking what it is”. “They are surprised when I reply it is just a VW”.

Lt Col Mohd Idris Hassan

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