Volkswagen has always made some of the most simple and effective motor vehicles. Certainly the Beetle fits that description, but the Kombi was a profoundly successful idea as well. The Karmann Ghia was another great concept, although this time the simplicity was clothed in an Italian suit.
While some of the VW models are well known throughout the world, a few have slipped by almost unnoticed. One such vehicle is the Type 181. This unusual model is actually a redesign of the wartime Type 82 Keubelwagen, and both models were based on the Type 1 (Beetle).
It was designed for the German Federal Armed Forces and other European governments as a modern jeep-style vehicle. Production commenced in 1969 and continued until 1983. Sales were not limited to the military, and the Type 181 was sold in many countries. The Mexican market was very successful, as the Type 181 could travel on the poor roads better than other Volkswagens.
Known variously as the Thing in America, the Trekker in Britain, and the Safari in Mexico, the open car was designed to use existing VW parts. The engine and gearbox was from the Type 1, the reduction gearing from the Transporter, and the floorplan was from the Karmann Ghia.
Like many products that were designed for military use, the Type 181 is devoid of decoration or unnecessary embellishment. It is what it is, pure and simple. If that appeals to you, in a Philippe Stark, Marc Newson, Patty and Selma kind of way, then this needs your immediate attention.