Myth Buster

De­bunk­ing the most com­mon old wives’ tales

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

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.

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