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One Southern Owner: 1974 Volkswagen Thing

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

Volkswagen’s memorable Thing allowed drivers to experience a little bit of what life was like driving a military-grade vehicle on the road. Ironically, it ended up as the vehicle of choice for beachgoers and outdoorsmen rather than any sort of utilitarian workhorse. This example here on eBay certainly led a charmed life, supposedly raking up just over 11,000 original miles in the hands of one careful southern owner. 

There’s a steep asking price of close to $20K on this survivor-grade Thing, which does have at least one recorded repaint. The market for a Thing in this condition is a bit hard to quantify, as top tier examples do fetch this kind of money. However, owning a Thing really does require a useful purpose as driving one on the interstate isn’t realistic. So, a target buyer for a well-preserved example like this resides in a narrow pool of possible owners.

However, given how many of these are in project-grade condition and suffering from a life of careless outdoor use, you could make the argument it’s more financially prudent to buy an example like this with few, if any, needs. The interior shows nicely preserved bucket seats and some pricey CoCo-style mats on the floor. The dash retains original instrumentation and no hack jobs are apparent. Doors are removable and in nice condition with no rot.

The big question is whether the mileage can be proven. Seeing as these Things don’t need much to clean up cosmetically, it’s easy to see how a fresh repaint could hide any past sins or signs of high mileage. Odometers break, and the high price in this instance is justified by its provable low mileage. A paper trail showing annual inspections with proof of the gently increasing odometer numbers is a must before plunking down $20K for a beach buggy.

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Comments

  1. Andy

    Some underside and engine bay shots could really help with this. $20k is a lot of money, but what we can see looks very good, and parts are so cheap and plentiful that I’m not sure the correct mileage is that big a deal. I mean, it’s a four door convertible! You don’t see a lot of those these days. Personally I’d drop a 2 liter dual carb and maybe even a 5 speed in this, and mothball the original engine/trans, and if it has reduction boxes I’d go to IRS, and then noise would be the only thing keeping it off the interstate. But then to do all that after already dropping $20k is a lot to ask.

    2+
    • Travis

      I own a 1970 vw thing military green convertible everything original it’s amazing

      4+
  2. Lowell

    I bought a new “74” as a second vehicle and had a blast with my young family. It does the interstate thing as I drove it straight through from Ohio to Florida. I had a hardtop for it and could hoist it off in my garage and take the doors off and have a blast. Ohio’s winters were tough on it, there is a body seam in line with the bottom of the doors and it was a constant battle keeping ahead of the rust. They only introduced the Thing in the states in “73” and “74”. The only difference between the two years was the intake bulge above the rear fender in “74” I owned it for eight years and sold it for what I paid for it.

    7+
  3. XMA0891

    Shortly after he got his license, my brother fulfilled his dream and bought a ’74. As accurately mentioned, it was in “project-grade condition”. He worked forever on it, got it all nice-nice, and on his second or third “maiden voyage” Didn’t The Thing catch on fire and burn. This was before mobile phones; it took a while to get help. He rebuilt it a second time, but never drove it again – Sat in the garage for years – Pretty sure his again-fully-functioning-love was hauled off for scrap. We never talk about it.

    3+
  4. Jack Quantrill

    Supply and demand has taken a toll on these. Not many left, and prices are climbing.

    6+
  5. Clay Bryant

    Used one of these in my imported beer business to call on accounts. Had the hardtop and in an unlikely VW way, the heater you could roast hot dogs on……….

    4+
  6. TBAU

    Always reminds me of a Patty and Selma.

    4+
  7. Vince

    I lived on the west coast of Mexico off and
    on from 1969 to about 1985 . Lived up in
    Sierra Madre mountain range. Most of
    the natives preferred the VW Thing over
    Jeeps.

    2+
  8. Martin

    My dad bought a new off the floor “Thing” back in ’74. Wish I would’ve known better, it slipped away from the family and now I own my own ’73. I can’t see myself ever being without one now. The great fun, attention getting, go anywhere “Thing”. Love them.

    0
  9. Warren

    In the US a red “tenths” digit on an odometer means it has been replaced with a service part odometer at some time.

    4+
  10. Kevin

    I owned one for a few years back in the 1980’s. It was blue and white and had a removable hard top. I traded a 1975 Suzuki GT550 for it. Basically about $500. I have no memory of what happened to it…..sold, traded or what. Wish I still had it. I lived in South Dakota near Sioux Falls at that time.

    1+
  11. Mark in WNC

    Things built for the U.S. market did not have gear reduction boxes, thus IRS. The easiest way to make one more highway worthy would be to install a later year Beetle transmission.

    1+
  12. Luki

    Wrong hub caps.
    Doesn’t look,right.

    0
  13. Peter

    Liked the write-up, and not to quibble, but “…at least one recorded repaint…” takes it out of “survivor” status, as I understand the term (i.e., most, if not all, of the paint would be original in a true “survivor.”)

    Between the repaint and the replacement odometer that Warren noted, I have serious doubts about the mileage.

    Anyone have a current CarFax account to run the…oh, wait–the VIN looks like it’s missing some digits…. 🙁

    @Warren: I’m curious to know more about your comment, below–sounds like you might be a former (or current?) VW technician?

    By Warren:
    “In the US a red “tenths” digit on an odometer means it has been replaced with a service part odometer at some time.”

    Thanks,

    Peter

    0

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