Thursday, May 7, 2015

5k: That Thing You Do: 1974 Volkswagen Thing Type 181


 I'll never forget the first time I watched John Carpenter's 1982 remake of "The Thing."   Unlike the original Howard Hawks version (a 1951 classic shot in black & white, starring the gorgeous Margaret Sheridan) the remake was absolutely terrifying, and it put the dung in my dungarees.  The thing about Carpenter's Thing was that you never knew who had been turned into an evil doppelganger and the suspense came from what was concealed.  It is sort of exact opposite of Volkswagen's Thing, which has everything exposed, from the floorboards to the passengers.  Find this 1974 Volkswagen Thing here on eBay currently bidding for $2,650 with 1 day to go, located in Tucson, AZ.



The Volkswagen Type 181 was sold as the Kurierwagen in Germany but used the name Thing for the US Market - making the answer to "what is that thing?" a simple "yes."  The Thing used a Karmann-Ghia floorpan and various parts from the Beetle, Transporter, etc.  The Thing was originally designed to be a short term stop gap production vehicle until the NATO shared Europa Jeep was developed.  How anyone could expect a bunch of people who routinely riot and stab each other over rival neighborhood soccer games to be able to cooperate to design a mass production light military vehicle is a mystery to me and needless to say the Europa Jeep was a stillborn catastrophe and as a result, more than 50,000 Things were released from the factory.


Powering the Thing is a rear mounted 1.6 liter flat-4 making about 50 horsepower and 50 ft-lbs of torque and puts the power down via its 4 speed manual transaxle.  Don't expect to go anywhere quickly, but rest assured you will reach your destination.  Unlike modern VAG engines, VW's aircooled flat-4 is legendary for basic ruggedness and easy roadside repairs.


The Thing was engineered using all the best 20th century modernist architectural rules, particularly the axiom that "form follows function."  Nothing was added to the Type 181 that wasn't essential for military transportation in a war zone. 


 See a better example of form follows function that actually turned out pretty interesting from an aesthetic stand point? tips@dailyturismo.com

12 comments:

  1. These are brilliant little cars. Though I'm practically the president of the Anti-German Cars Club (nominated), these things absolutely rock. Just fantastic. They are not chock full of amenities, safety or sophistication as noted above, but still.

    Surely you will be torn asunder for bringing such an off topic element as movies to this vaunted discussion. All that is automotive holy has been desecrated, fouled and besmirched.

    The original 1951 film was titled, "The Thing from Another World". As noted, the 1982 remake was just "The Thing". I have a replica of Kurt Russell's hat, which I wear proudly. There was an additional remake released in 2011. It's pretty darn good, too. All three movies have been released with alternate titles.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IBCWdlr-fA

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    Replies
    1. The Lincoln Continental and Jeep Wrangler are the other factory convertible four-doors that come to my mind. Can you come up with any more?

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    2. Ahem......plus there are plenty more if you go back to the 30's and earlier.

      [img]http://www.topcarrating.com/hummer/1992-hummer-h1-convertible-2.jpg[/img]

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    3. True but I'm thinking 1960+, non-commercial, non-military of which a normal Joe could walk into a dealer showroom and buy one. The Humvee is a good one! What else?

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    4. One of these dork-y things:

      [img]http://www.visionale.net/wp-content/uploads/2011-jeep-wrangler--2.jpg[/img]

      They just look wrong to me as a 4 door.

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    5. Thanks, G! I believe that's a Wrangler, though. The search continues...

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    6. And before somebody goes there, let me cut them off at the pass. This car pictured is not OEM. I've argued this one till the cows come home before; Chrysler/Dodge never made these as production models. Believe me, I checked.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/HPPqCwp.jpg?1[/img]

      This (fo' do' droptops) would have made the most boring and shortest Thursday Twister ever.

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  2. Clever title for the post. One of my favorite movies. We all wanted our high school bands to do the same as the Oh-need-ers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs_h7YdIe_k

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  3. One of my all time fav flick is John Carpenters "The Thing" You Gotta be "F"in kidding me !

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  4. Funny when i did my time in the Army stationed in "K-TOWN" Germany drove all over that country the German Army used the thing as there jeep.When they came out in the US 73-74 was not really crazy about them but for some reason i wanted one a couple months back hard to find one in nice shape for under 10K. The Thing shop in the Phoenix Az area has a lot of parts for these would want a bigger motor for myself and a lot of people do this anyway.

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  5. My parents had an orange Thing when I was a kid. It was really a fun vehicle to drive around in. My sister and I would swing on the roll bar like monkeys. This was pre-lawyer and pre-carseats.

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