Volkswagen Thing Auto Transport
The Volkswagen Kurierwagen is popularly known in the United States as the Thing. This is by far the strangest moniker given to a VW automobile. The model has also been rebadged in Mexico as the Safari and in the United Kingdom as the Trekker. This was a small military vehicle produced by Volkswagen from 1969 to 1983, yet civilian sales stopped earlier in 1980. It was inspired in part by Volkswagen's Beetle and was partly an evolution of the Kubelwagen. The Thing sold new in America from 1972-1974. During the 1960s, several European organizations began cooperating on the development of a vehicle to be a lightweight, amphibious four wheel drive model. They were looking for something that could be mass produced for use by various military and government groups. Like the World War II era Type 82 Kubelwagen, the Thing used the components and a rear-engined platform that was derived from that of the Type I Beetle. Civilian sales started in Europe and Mexico in 1971 and in the United States in 1973. The model was inevitably dropped from the American scene in 1974 after it failed to meet the stricter safety standards. By 1976 the joint Jeep project had fallen apart completely and was abandoned. The German government then began replacing their purchases of 181s with a newer version called the 183 Iltis, which featured four-wheel-drive. The name Iltis is German for weasel making this a strange selection. But by 1976 the previously mentioned Jeep project had dissipated as costs skyrocketed. They did still need a suitable four wheel drive vehicle though, so the German government issued requests to several manufacturers to design and build prototype vehicles to be considered for military use. The Iltis, as VW was calling it, passed the German government tests with ease, and was selected over the equally competent but more expensive Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon.