The history behind this model is very long. My first encounter with the VW Type 181 was in my early childhood, when my father brought me brochures from the local VW-dealer. Among them was a brochure with a “Jeep” with a boxy 4-door body, totally different from all VW’s I knew, but still with lots of details that made it look like a VW. I have loved off-road vehicles and boxer-powered VW’s virtually all my life, so I instantly fell in love with the strange looking “VW Jeep”. Much later I learned that it was officially named “Kurierwagen” in German speaking countries (but often referred to as Kübelwagen), “Trekker” in British English speaking countries (and Type 182 for RHD) and simply “VW Thing” in the USA and in Mexico, where it was built for the US-market.
In my home country at the time (Norway), there didn’t exist any VW Type 181 toys (and hardly any 181′s on the road either), so it wasn’t until a holiday in Germany a few years later that I found a 1/60 scale diecast Type 181 from the company Siku. Needless to say, it became one of my favourite VW toys. As a teenager, I started to collect VW toys and models and also got quite a few Type 181′s, but the largest one was for many years the rather crude plastic toy from Strombecker (about 1/24 scale) and later the somewhat larger plastic toy from The Thing Shop and diecast cars from Jada Toys.
Of course, there are strong connections between my interest in RC-cars and VW-models, and getting a large RC Type 181 was a dream for many years. As no company made one and I don’t possess the skills or artistic talent to make a really well proportioned body from scratch, I was extremely excited when I stumbled over a scratchbuilt 1/10 scale Type 181 on eBay some years ago. Being unique and apparently very well made, I bid quite a lot for it, but still lost the auction. A couple of years later, the same model was offered on eBay again, and despite bidding hard, I lost the auction again! A few days later the seller contacted me and informed that the high bidder had refused to pay and that I could have it. I paid without hesitating and waited in excitement for it to arrive. Well, it didn’t. For weeks the seller told me it had already been shipped, then made countless empty promises to ship. After a lot of communication, the model arrived. A childhood dream had finally come true!
The person who originally built this model, built it to be a replica of his own ex-German Army “Feldjäger” (Military Police) Type 181, but the word deliberately misspelled on both the 1/1 car and model for legal reasons. Having the 1/1 scale car in the garage obviously made it possible for him to get exact measurements, and it’s simply amazing how he combined this with great skills and dedication to turn scrap metal, fibreglass, wood and a little plastic and canvas into a beautiful model. At the time the model was built, the Sand Scorcher hadn’t yet been re-released, so instead of simply using the Sand Scorcher headlights, he had them turned from aluminium. Similarly, as the Maisto 1/10 scale VW Type 2 Samba didn’t yet exist, the taillights were made of metallic orange and red film, looking rather “2D”.
These were two of a few things I improved. Sand Scorcher headlights with golden yellow LED’s (slightly yellow and not white LED’s, as bright white xenon look would be wrong) and I made resin copies of the Maisto Samba taillights, illuminated with red LED’s. The Maisto Samba depicts a US-spec vehicle, which has a slightly different pattern on the taillight lenses than the Type 2 European spec model (which would be correct for the Type 181), but it’s hardly noticeable under a coat of clear orange and red. Also, a Sand Scorcher VW logo was added on the front. Apart from improving the look of the headlight and front fender “protectors” with double screws (like the original) and touching up the paint, I made no further modifications to the body.
The original owner had used the chassis from a Graupner Mercedes-Benz SLK. Not a bad choice, but as a Tamiya enthusiast, I simply had to replace it, and chose the M04, extended to 268mm wheelbase and widened with TL01 suspension arms and ground clearance increased with M05Ra uprights. I would have liked to use an SRB chassis, but the rear suspension is simply too wide.
Also, the model originally had touring car style wide low profile tires and wheels, which I replaced with Buggy Champ front tires and wheels, detailed with the centre part of the wheels off an Esci/Revell Type 82 Kübelwagen (same 5-bolt wheel pattern as the Type 181). The wheels were mounted on the axles using re-release SRB rear hubs.
Furthermore, the diff was locked with CC-01 G-parts, and a CR-01 35t crawler motor installed to compensate for the relatively high gear ratio and large diameter tires. A TL01 bumper was added in the rear and like the M04 foam bumper front mount drilled to accept “upside down” TamTech-Gear style body posts.
As you can surely imagine, the result is not a very capable off-roader, but neither is the 1/1 scale Type 181. As a 4WD version of the Type 181 never existed, I decided against using a 4WD chassis for my model too, but may reconsider it if I should get tired of the model getting stuck. I may also replace the black film windows with clear plastic.