Now I have to admit that until a very kind man by the name of James messaged me on my Facebook page (facebook.com/alexthehoarder) I hadn’t even heard of Faller and the Hit Car range. But as soon as I saw this little Volkswagen, I had to have it.
The Volkswagen Type 181 is a curious little vehicle but one that has gained a cult following. Built between 1968 and 1983, the 181 has its origins in a stalling military vehicle project in the early 60s. The “Europa Jeep” was developed to equip NATO armies in Europe with a common, mass-produced, lightweight all-terrain vehicle. The project proved to be painfully time consuming and the West German government needed an interim solution, and turned to Volkswagen for assistance. The Type 181 was the result.
Despite being intended to fulfill a government request, Volkswagen took the decision to also produce the Type 181 commercially. South American markets were interested in a vehicle that could handle rough, rural roads better than the Beetle and the popularity of beach buggies was soaring, which helped convince VW to put the vehicle into general production. Production began in 1968 and ended with the last military versions in 1983. To keep costs as low as possible, the Type 181 shared its floorpan with the Type 1 Karmann Ghia, and a flat-4 engine derived from the unit used in the Beetle. Depending on the market the Type 181 was know by various monikers: “Kurierwagon” in West Germany, “Trekker” in the UK, the “Thing” in the US and “Safari” in South America. Sales to both military and civilian customers were strong and over 70,000 were built.
Faller are a brand more known for their railway models but between 1969 and 1979 they produced a line of 3 inch cars under the “Hit Car” name. The cars utilised plastic bodies and diecast chassis with low friction wheels to compliment Faller’s range of tracks and accessories. And there was a relatively large range of desirable cars in the line-up: BMW 2000CS, Ford Capri, Porsche 911, Porsche 914 and Ferrari 330 GT.
The VW 181 is in my opinion one of the more appealing models in the series. There’s not a great deal to it and the construction is incredibly simple. Even the axles aren’t capped: they simply have their ends bent over to keep the wheels on!
Despite the simple construction, the details on this are actually rather good. The corrugate body panels of the real car have been replicated well and they’ve even taken trouble to mould a windscreen into the body in the folded down position as well as a license plate.
The metal base gives a relatively pleasing weight even with the plastic body and in a cool touch even has the specs of the Type 181 printed on it.
It’s got the retro charm that I love with older toys and I’m really very taken with it. Throw in a bit of obscurity and rarity and it’s a perfect fit in my eclectic collection.