VW Type 181 Thing Restoration
The Boise Thing Group
Thanks for visiting – I have some pictures, new information, and hopefully some good ideas to encourage you to take on the sometimes challenging but satisfying job of restoring your Thing. This site includes a troubleshooting section, as well as a section on restoration methods. I do this so you may see that you can completely disassemble and restore your VW Thing. The speed and level of ‘trick items’ are only dictated by the amount of money you spend and your willingness to take the time to do the majority of it yourself.
We owned Owyhee Expeditions Outfitters from 1989 through 1998, when we sold the business. Outfitting in Idaho’s backcountry allowed us to learn many things that may help you to get the most longevity, performance, and fun from your Thing. We had as many as 7 Things titled to the business at one point. A couple of our guides had their own Things they brought to the game on back-country trips. We learned where and how to improve our cars. We have also had hard, costly lessons on what not to do, and what after- market parts and/or systems will work for your Thing.
While I don’t know everything, I am willing to help in whatever way I can to keep as many Things on the road, as close to stock condition as possible. There are many myths about the Thing and what it can and won’t do. They don’t have to run hot. There are reasons why some do, and this can be set right. Using Things in our business, where the lives and well being of our clients were at risk has given us a bunch of fun and a lot of first hand knowledge.
I build my own engines, sending the machine work out of state. Rimco does all of my machine work. The base platform I use is a 1835cc with a counterweighted crank . I like the 6.8 to 1 compression ratio and with today’s high octane water we are getting for fuel, these engines do exceptionally well and are fun to drive. ETHANOL is bad for our air-cooled engines.
Speedometers, carburetors, and wiper motors can be rebuilt if you take your time, so they won’t cost you your first- born male child. Ninety-five percent of all aftermarket parts are sold based on use for a 1/4 mile strip. There are many after-market parts you do not need, unless you are driving a mile or two down the strip on a weekend. There are a few modern upgrades that not only improve performance, but increase safety. These suggestions are listed in my Worthwhile Upgrades article.
After we sold Owyhee Expeditions, we shifted our focus to long-distance rallies and longevity for daily driving. We’ve hosted annual summer rallies for 24 years. We have a super group of Thing owners who have traveled with us on these rallies since 1991. We’ve been to Glacier National Park, MT (three times); Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana; Pincher Creek, Canada; the fascinating Newberry Crater in southern Oregon; the Lewis and Clark Caverns near Ennis, MT; and the beautiful Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota were super. We’ve also traveled over the rugged Magruder Corridor between the Frank Church River of No Return and Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Areas numerous times. In 2005 we went to The Four Corners Region of southern Utah/Colorado, making Cortez Colorado our base for 6 days. Monument Valley was just outstanding, and the Navaho Guide we hired to go into the back country was very impressed at what our Things could do off-road.
Nowadays, the Rallies have become the highlight of the year. We choose a region we want to explore, and spend 8 – 9 days traveling off the beaten path, discovering the hidden treasures of the West. There seems to be a Micro-Brewery in every town we stay at. Amazing how that works out!
I am opinionated, and do know what has worked and what has failed or not done as advertised. My primary goal is to be able to take my Thing anywhere at speed without any problems. If we have problems we want them to be small fixable ones. Also, I want to retain value in my Things so I try to just take the best of what technology has to offer today and keep the low tech design of the original Thing as intact as possible. So if you’re interested, read on. Hope you enjoy your visit! These cars will surprise you.
– Mike Humeston