The Volkswagen Thing

The Volkswagen Type 181, commonly known as the “Volkswagen Thing” in the United States, was a compact, off-road utility vehicle produced by Volkswagen from 1968 to 1983. It was originally designed for military use and was based on the Volkswagen Beetle platform.

Here are some key features and details about the Volkswagen Type 181:

Design and Body:

The Type 181 had a distinctive boxy and rugged design, characterized by its flat body panels and a removable roof. It featured a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, similar to the Volkswagen Beetle.


The Type 181 was designed to be versatile and adaptable to various terrains and conditions. It featured high ground clearance, skid plates, and off-road tires, making it suitable for off-road driving. It had a simple and robust construction, allowing it to handle rough terrain with ease.

Engine Options:

The Type 181 was powered by a range of air-cooled engines, similar to those used in the Volkswagen Beetle. Over the years, it was offered with various engine sizes and configurations, including 1.3-liter, 1.5-liter, and 1.6-liter engines.

Military Service:

The Type 181 was initially developed for military purposes and served in various armed forces around the world. It was used by the German military, as well as by other countries such as the United States, Mexico, and Portugal.

Global Availability:

While it had a military origin, the Type 181 was also made available for civilian use. It gained popularity in markets where a practical and fun off-road vehicle was desired. It was sold in different countries under different names, including “Volkswagen Thing” in the United States, “Volkswagen Safari” in Mexico, and “Volkswagen Trekker” in the United Kingdom.


Production of the Type 181 ceased in 1983, and it was eventually replaced by other Volkswagen models like the Golf-based Volkswagen Country and the Volkswagen Taro pickup truck.

Legacy and Popularity:

Despite its relatively short production span, the Type 181 gained a loyal following and has become a cult classic among Volkswagen enthusiasts. Its unique design, off-road capabilities, and nostalgic appeal have contributed to its enduring popularity.

Today, the Volkswagen Type 181 continues to be cherished by collectors and off-road enthusiasts who appreciate its distinctive character and adventurous spirit.


Featured image courtesy of @serious_quiller on Instagram.


For over 50 years, SCAT has developed, engineered, and manufactured the most comprehensive product line in the automotive aftermarket. SCAT has grown from a distributor of specialty Volkswagen parts into the premier manufacturer and distributor of high-performance aftermarket engine components for a wide range of American and foreign engines. SCAT, one of the original founders of the VW aftermarket, is extremely proud of its 42,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehousing facility in Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A., where it houses over 20 CNC machines, 12 crankshaft grinding machines, 8 polishers, 12 rod honing machines and complete in-house manufacturing, engineering, and programming capability. It is with this capability and the capability of overseas manufacturing operations that SCAT is able to deliver the highest-quality and most-reliable performance parts in the industry. SCAT has many new product offerings and continues to offer the most comprehensive line of aftermarket parts for VW.

SCAT is dedicated to continuing our quest for excellence to keep Volkswagens running and performing at the highest level. As always, SCAT wants to thank you for your business and look forward to continuing to service your VW aftermarket performance needs.

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