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Time For A Safari? 1973 VW Thing

If you were going to take a safari, where would you go? I’d go somewhere warm and dry, but the person who took this 1973 VW Safari—I mean, “Thing,” for the US market—has chosen another path, a leafy  abode which is picturesque but likely hasn’t done the little vehicle any favors in terms of preservation. Still, at an asking price of $6500, this Thing might be a good candidate for restoration, if you can get to Flowery Branch, GA, in the greater Atlanta area (by the looks of the craigslist ad).

The Thing, or more broadly the VW Type 181, was manufactured as a purpose-built military vehicle from 1968-83. It was first sold for civilian use in 1971. In various parts of the world, this  four-door convertible had names like “Thing,” “Safari,” “Trekker,” and others. Back when it was being sold new, it was an interesting alternative to the more commonly seen VW Beetle

Where would you start on this one? It’s listed as having all original parts and is described as a great restoration project. Though the ad presents minimal information, I’m guessing that the fact that it mentions that there are original running boards, windshield frame, top frames, and hubcaps means that these parts are difficult to find or frequently not part of the package when one buys a barn find version of this model. Looking at the photos offered, the one concern that might present itself is corrosion, and one image seems to show rust-through in the unibody. VW experts, please weigh in on what we’re really seeing there, as there is also undercoating apparently flaking off of this same area.

The condition is described as “fair,” and there is mention of a dual port engine being present, but there’s no indication as to the last time the car was run, nor whether the engine turns as it sits, and no mileage claims. So just assume that, if you make this your new winter project, you’ll be doing a total strip down and repaint, along with finding seat materials and upholstery, a top, and all the other soft bits, plus mechanicals. Is all of this a bit overwhelming? Not for the dreamer who has always wanted a Thing, with its slab-sided charm. All you need is a pith helmet and a pair of big binoculars, and you’ll be ready to chase the elephants, rhinos, and zebras that will surely appear in your neighborhood when you go on safari. Or Safari, depending on where you live.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Unless they were added by the owner I’d say the side vents put this as a ’74 model. Either way, it’s pretty rough and not worth the asking price.

    Like 16
  2. Strange Brew

    Suddenly my 73 seems like a much more viable project. Thanks 👍

    Like 5
  3. Jamie

    I certainly remember when these were new!
    Gimme that Thing
    Gimme that Thing
    Gimme gimme that
    Gimme gimme gimme gimme that Thing!

    VW used to run that commercial around the clock!

    Like 5
    • abbaguy

      Can’t go wrong with a little ABBA

      Like 1
    • HoA Howard A Member

      Thanks, Jamie, I forgot all about that until just now. Actually, the song was “Gimme Dat Ding”, and I think VW changed it enough so I doubt the Pipkins got any royalties.

      Like 0
  4. Kurt Member

    Shame on whoever left this Thing out in the elements. If they had just taken care of it they might get what they’re asking, but not in this state of “delayed maintenance”. Pass (at that price).

    Like 9
  5. Troy

    I think it’s cool, steep price but it does say or best offer and cash talks every thing else walks. If I had the time and money I would drop the body on an older Ford Aerostar frame with the 4.6 and 4wd then see if I can get it entered into the off road games in Hurricane Utah in March

    Like 1
  6. Jack Quantrill

    I almost bought a pink one for $1,000. Wish I could go back!

    Like 2
  7. chrlsful

    “…your new winter project…”
    and spring, and summer, and fall, and…
    this is even rougher than the last one AND

    still no info on the tv show abt the 2 teen girls
    (not twins) raised separate (till episode 1, 1/2 way)
    that the poorer 1 (raised by their mother) had after
    moving in with the more wealthy sis. Yup, her 1/2 dad
    gave her (the more artistic) one of these to run around in.
    Any 1 know the show name?

    Like 3
  8. DavidL Member

    Rented one in Hawaii. Never ridden a more uncomfortable car.

    Like 1
    • TC

      They list it under “auto parts” bc they charge for cars + bikes.And it really is just a parts car.lol

      Like 0
  9. Bob Washburne

    No mention of a title. Maybe that’s why the ad is listed under ‘auto parts.’

    Like 1
  10. chrlsful

    any know the ol TV show name mentioned above (12/3, 11:37)?

    Like 0

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