Two is a coincidence and three is a trend, they say, but they likely weren’t talking about Volkswagen Things sitting on air suspensions and sporting less-than-shiny paint headed to auction in January in Arizona with no reserve. In this case, maybe two does make for a trend.
It’s not as though Things—technically the Type 181 civilian version of the Beetle/Karmann Ghia-based four-door convertible Kurierwagen, which Volkswagen sold in the United States in 1973 and 1974— are a complete mystery to bidders at collector-car auctions. Acapulco editions regularly cross the block alongside restored stock examples. These two, however, fall in neither of the above categories.
The example offered through RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction, chassis number 1842322047, still wears its original Alpine Green paint and remained with its original owner until 2016, when air-cooled Porsche specialist Doug Turnbull was commissioned to modify it.
Turnbull left the original interior and exterior alone—dents, scratches, touch-up overspray, and all—and instead focused his attention on the chassis and drivetrain. For the latter, he simply serviced the single-carburetor 1,600-cc flat-four and added a stainless-steel exhaust system. To the former, he added an adjustable air suspension, new shocks and spindles, and a set of Porsche Fuchs alloy wheels. A chain looped around the front bumper gives a nod toward the Thing’s military vehicle roots.
Meanwhile, the Thing that Barrett-Jackson will offer at its Scottsdale auction (chassis number 1842544177) might as well have a machine gun mounted to it. Military-inspired modifications include the rubbed-out green-and-brown paint, the stainless fasteners intended to look like rivets, the cut-down steering wheel, and the blackout headlamps and taillamps.
Though the body remains uncut, the low overhead clearance rollcage, fold-out Safari-style windshield, and massive bumpers give it the look of a tank. The full air suspension gets the Thing low, and the original flat-four has been replaced with a fuel-injected 2.5L Subaru flat-four good for about 220 horsepower.
Both are slated to sell with no reserve. Neither auction house has released a pre-auction estimate for their Things.
The RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction will take place January 17-18 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix; for more information, visit RMSothebys.com. The Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction will take place January 12-20 at Westworld of Scottsdale; for more information, visit Barrett-Jackson.com.