Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
Volkswagen Type 181/182
VOLKSWAGEN TYPE 181/182 1 THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO CALL IT
The 181 was known as The Thing in the US. This smacks of a nameplanning meeting gone badly awry, but in reality, what was the Trekker in the UK (the title chosen by Nigel Purden in a competition) and the Kurierwagen in Germany was going to be dubbed the Safari in the States. But GM owned the rights to the Safari name in America, so ‘ The Thing’ was chosen instead, to appeal to younger buyers looking for a funky lifestyle vehicle.
2 IT WAS BASED ON THE WORLD WAR II KÜBELWAGEN
While there’s a style similarity between the Type 181 and the World War II Kübelwagen, that’s more to do with both having military origins. Volkswagen was approached in the 1960s to provide a light military transport vehicle for the West German armed forces. VW saw the potential in extending it into a basic, fun civilian vehicle – after all, it had worked for the Jeep and Beetle-based beach buggy. The Type 181 was a fresh, if deliberately slabby design, though.
3 IT WAS FOURWHEEL DRIVE
The Type 181 (the 182 was the RHD version) replaced the four-wheel drive DKW Munga in 1968 and was itself superseded in 1978 by the four-wheel drive VW Iltis. But the Type 181 was just two-wheel drive. Being so lightweight, with the weight of the engine over the rear driven wheels, and having high ground clearance, reduction gears and a limited-slip differential, it was still highly competent offroad. So being an axle short in the traction department didn’t really matter – and taking the doors off made it lighter still. Richard Gunn ❚ Turn to Our Classics on p24 for the Volkswagen 181 bought by CCW writer Andy Talbot.
VW Type 181 looks like a 4x4, but is actually just two-wheel drive.