If you have come to this site there is a good chance you are very familiar with the Volkswagen Type 181 and are simply looking to find one to purchase; however the following provides information for those who are not aware or those looking for a more complete understanding.

Volkswagen Type 181 Overview

VW ThingThe Volkswagen Type 181 was a German manufactured military vehicle that was developed out of the Kübelwagen which was the primary light duty vehicle used by the German army during WWII.

Production began in 1968 for the military with 1971 marking the beginning for civilian use in Mexico and Europe with 1972 the first year for the US and Canada. (1972 versions are rare in America with 1973 and 1974 being the more popular production years)

In stock condition the Volkswagen Type 181 is a 2WD, four door convertible with utilitarian features designed for off-road use.

VW Thing BrochureProduction

Model Years: (1968 – 1983)
US/Canada: (1973 & 1974)
Class: Military Vehicle
Body Style: 4-Dr Cabriolet
Predecessor: Kübelwagen
Successor: Volkswagen Iltis


-Wolfsburg, Germany (68-74)
-Hannover, Germany (74-83)
-Puebla, Mexico (70-80)
-Jakarta, Indonesia (73-80)


Engine: 1.5 or 1.6L H4
Transmission: 4-spd Man

Dimensional Specs

Wheelbase: 94.5 in
Length: 148.8 in
Width: 64.6 in
Height: 63.8 in
Curb Weight: 2,006 lb

Volkswagen Type 181 Naming:

Although officially known as the Type 181 or 182 for right hand drive, the Volkswagen 181 is more commonly known by its various nameplates depending on the region internationally. Listed below are the naming variations.

  • Thing – United States & Canada
  • Safari – Mexico
  • Trekker – United Kingdom
  • Kurierwagen – Germany
  • Camat – Indonesia


VW Type 181 Production:

From 1968 to 1980 the Volkswagen Type 181 was produced in various countries including the following.

  • Wolfsburg, Germany – (1968-1974)
  • Hannover, Germany – (1974-1983)
  • Puebla, Mexico – (1970-1980)
  • Jakarta, Indonesia – (1973-1980)


From a design standpoint the 181 shared mechanicals with the VW Type 1 more commonly known as the Beetle, the platform was that of the Volkswagen Type 2 T1 “VW Microbus” and concept of the military Kübelwagen.

VW Thing HistoryDevelopment & Background
The 181 originally came out of the idea for a multinational light utility vehicle to be used by military forces for transport, scouting and other purposes.

Volkswagen was approached to provide such a vehicle, however VW saw the potential for a consumer vehicle as Mexico was looking for a low-cost, easy maintenance vehicle that could handle rural roads better than the Beetle. At the time the VW Beetle was a top seller in South America.  Volkswagen capitalized on design and interchangeability from the Beetle and the Microbus allowing for a low cost solution.

1974 VW ThingSales started in Europe and Mexico in 1971 and in the US for model year 1972. However it was dropped from the United States after 1974 due to stricter safety regulations. It was also dropped from the British market after 1975 due to poor sales however continued to sell well in Mexico and other parts of Europe.

Throughout the 70s it was also used as a fill-in vehicle for NATO forces as the Europa Keep project failed to gain traction.

Although Volkswagen introduced the newer redesigned Type 183 known as the IItis, Type 181 sales continued as the Safari in Mexico and Trekker in the UK through 1980 with NATO purchased military modified versions through 1983.


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