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Volkswagen Trekker | Spotted

Military transport turned civilian runabout, the VW Trekker is going places

By Dafydd Wood / Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Volkswagen Trekker was known by many titles during its time: the Kurierwagen in its native Germany, the Pescaccia in Italy, the Safari in South America and the Trekker here in the UK. It even suffered the ignominy of being officially dubbed the Thing in the United States. A rose by any other name and all that...

And, despite appearances, there are indeed many sweet things to celebrate about VW's utilitarian people mover; for starters, its very existence. Originally designed to fill a gap in the West German army's capabilities while the more complex Europa Jeep was being produced, the Trekker used a formula that had proven effective in the Kubelwagen of two decades prior.

With its floorpan taken from a Karmann Ghia and the majority of its other componentry borrowed from the Beetle - what else? - the steel-pannelled Trekker made for cheap if not especially cheerful transport for West Germany's Cold War forces. Despite its bare bones nature, however, it was decided that by giving the Type 181 a lick of colourful paint and a quirky moniker, a little of its joyful eccentricity could be brought to the fore.

It isn't entirely hard to understand why. Powered by a rear-mounted, air-cooled, four-cylinder petrol engine, which sent its 46hp to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission, the Trekker is in many ways the flip side of the evolutionary coin to Porsche's 356. And, as the ad points out, its desperately poor record in the UK - just 71 were ever sold here - makes it rarer even than a flat-floored Series One E-Type, of which a comparatively enormous 357 examples were made.

It wouldn't be completely impossible, then - despite being an admittedly rather lengthy stretch - to tie the Trekker to some of the more highly celebrated classics ever made when its place in the automotive annals is ascertained. Certainly the Trekker's heritage and rarity are matched by its fun to drive, if not its outright performance; it rarely failing to deliver the sort of smile-inducing experience that's long been the preserve of cars which seem objectively terrible, but inevitably add up to far more than the sum of their parts.

Today's Spotted specifically is a right-hand drive Type 182. Originally registered on November 1st 1975, it was just the sixth of those 71 cars to be brought to the UK, making it - according to its seller, at least - potentially the oldest surviving example on these shores. And having undergone what seems to have been an incredibly thorough, 100-day restoration just five years ago, it looks to be in immaculate condition for its age. With Spring and Summer just around the corner (and in the absence of any comparable Citroen Meharis from the classifieds) we can certainly think of worse ways to enjoy those long, roof-down, doors-off evenings.

Engine: 1,595cc, four-cyl
Transmission: 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 46
Torque (lb ft): 71
CO2: N/A
Recorded mileage: 27,000
First registered: 1975
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £13,500

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