This special VW which is called ”Jagtvogn” in Denmark, ”The Thing” in the US, Trekker in the UK, Safari in Mexico and Kurierwagen in Germany, was actually developed for the German military.
The car was not only produced at factories in Wolfsburg, Hannover and Emden but also in Mexico and Indonesia.
The car has roots all the way back to the model Kübelwagen, which was produced as a military vehicle for the Germans during the Second World War. This newer model was created with a mix of parts from the VW T1 Beetle, the Bus, and the VW Karmann Ghia. The body itself was of course specially produced as a Type 181 model, but what made the car both special and well-engineered at the same time, was the doors that are easily removed. The windscreen could be folded down and the roof could be quickly folded back. Inside, the vehicle was also simply equipped according to the principle: What’s not there, can’t break.
Although the vehicle only drove the rear wheels with a differential, it was sufficiently high in the suspension that it could be driven off-road, and overall, it was just incredibly practical.
The car was introduced for business and military purposes, but from the beginning of the 1970’s it was also launched for civilian purposes through the Volkswagen dealer.
In the US, however, the challenge was the new and stricter fuel emission requirements, and in 1975 they had to give up selling it in the US, which was one of the major markets. Another challenge was stricter safety standards around lights, windscreen (distance from driver’s seat to windscreen), etc.
However, the majority of all VW Type 181’s produced were for the military, and NATO alone bought over 50,000 specimens in the period 1968-1979. The idea was to keep the Type 181 alive until a new European jeep had been produced, but the project fell through when, for the aforementioned reasons, the Type 181 concept also had to be abandoned in Europe, and the car was replaced by the Type 183, The Iltis model.
In addition to the above advantages, the VW Type 181 was cheap both to acquire and to maintain, which is why it remained incredibly popular throughout its production period.
The VW Type 181 model was produced with 1500 and 1600 CC engines respectively. All with a 4-speed manual gearbox.
Almost all the cars in my collection have in one way or another been on a journey outside the borders of Denmark, but I bought this VW T181 Trekker from a private owner in Viborg.
Right from the start it had been sold to the Danish military, and when they got rid of it, it got civil status. When I bought it, I fixed the engine, gearbox and the whole body in my own workshop.
As a civilian vehicle, I have added extra instruments, interior lights and made extra soundproofing with carpets in the bottom.
Although it is from 1977, the car is fitted with the original VW 1600 engine with 50 hp.
Since it was a ”born” military vehicle, I have painted it in an anthracite grey colour and with a black leatherette interior like the original look of the car.
It’s a fun car on a really hot summer’s day, where you can pull down the hood, peel off the side windows and put them back in the boot, put down the windscreen and, if it’s going to be really wild, take the doors off. Go for a drive on one of the Danish beaches where you are allowed to drive!