The history of the Volkswagen Thing began in Nazi Germany during World War II, when Volkswagen manufactured the Kubelwagen as a military utility vehicle, similar to the Jeep. In 1973, VW introduced the Thing, styled like the Kubelwagen, which means bucket car, to the United States. VW equipped The Thing with a 1,600-cubic centimeter, 46-horsepower air-cooled flat four engine and a four-speed manual transmission. In Britain, Volkswagen marketed the car as the Trekker, and in Mexico as the Safari.
The 1973 Thing had a sports car price, about $3,150, while the price of a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle was about $2,150. Volkswagen built the vehicle on the VW Microbus chassis, gave it removable doors, a fold-down windshield and advertised it as tough and versatile transportation. The two-wheel drive utility vehicle has a top speed of about 55 miles per hour and takes almost 30 seconds to reach it from zero.
Other features include four-wheel independent suspension and a direct line to the vehicle gas tank that powers the optional heater.
Between 1969 and 1980, Volkswagen manufactured approximately 140,000 of the Thing and imported about 25,000 of them to the United States during 1973 and 1974. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader asserted in 1973 that the vehicle did not comply with passenger car safety requirements. Volkswagen ceased importation of the Thing when the 1974 market year ended, the result of Nader's successful campaign to remove the Thing from the United States market.