Electric Volkswagen Thing Springs To Life


The latest Icon Derelict combines a classic VW and modern EV into a perfect package.

Icon and its founder Jonathan Ward regularly create amazing machines like thoroughly restored and upgraded Toyota FJ40 Land Cruisers. For the latest in its line of one-off restomods called Derelicts, the team creates its first electric vehicle and uses a wonderfully quirky 1973 Volkswagen Thing as the basis of the project.

Electric Volkswagen Thing

The Derelict Thing, which Ward’s crew dub the Wild Thing, uses an AM Racing electric motor that produces 180 horsepower (134 kilowatts) and 210 pound-feet (285 Newton-meters) of torque, according to the YouTube description. However, Ward says it has 180 lb-ft (244 Nm) in the video. The packaging is absolutely stunning. The components take up just a little room in the Thing’s rear engine bay, and Icon makes all the parts look like they are supposed to be there from the factory. Forty kilowatt hours of batteries take up the luggage space under the hood. Wilwood brakes, adjustable coilovers, and sway bars improve the road manners, too.

Electric Volkswagen Thing

The original Thing in the United States had a 1.6-liter flat four-cylinder with just 46 horsepower. Icon’s upgraded powertrain transforms the little car’s performance. As Ward shows, it can even drift now.

Inside, Icon keeps the Thing’s utilitarian look but adds some modern conveniences. A new, digital display echoes the classic analog gauges but includes info about the battery’s state of charge. The stereo also gets a major upgrade from an array of speakers in the front and back.

Electric Volkswagen Thing

This Thing looks like a blast to drive. In a perfect world, we would take off the hardtop, lower the windshield, and cruise around in this quirky ride all summer. Icon’s client should have a lot of fun with it, too.

Categories: General, Volkswagen

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

11 Comments on "Electric Volkswagen Thing Springs To Life"

newest oldest most voted

Jack Rickard of evtv has two of them.


Jack R. has quite an interesting collection of EVs. The VW Thing is an interesting EV conversion, that certainly must turn some heads in traffic. The original VW gas version was destined for limited sales, due to it obvious horsepower constraints. The EV Thing conversions, easily take care of that OEM HP/torque gas engine limitation.


Which movie was it that tried to pass off a VW Thing as a WW II German staff car? I can’t remember.

Can’t say the design appeals to me. Altho I’m a fan of the “form follows function” school of practical design, in this case simplicity is taken too far. For example, that flat windshield has to give terrible drag. Streamlining doesn’t just make cars look better, it’s also quite practical for energy efficiency.


Wasn’t the movie that you are referring to, was the worst and last installment of the Raiders of the Lost Ark? I think the Car (if it is a VW Thing) plunges off a cliff, in terribly done (early) CGI scene.


The Thing was designed long before auto makers used wind tunnels for car testing and was designed to be cheap in a world of more limited resources…


The Volkswagen Type 181, marketed as the “Thing” in the USA, was first manufactured in 1968. I don’t know how long auto makers have been using wind tunnels to reduce drag, but streamlining as an art style for appliances and automobiles, known as “Streamline Moderne”, dates to the 1930s.

According to Mr. Google, who is often knowledgeable about such things: The Chrysler Imperial Airflow CW, in 1934, was the first production car to come with a single-piece curved windshield.


Something dating back to the 30s can be pretty irrevelant at times such as BEVs dating back to the 1800s which hasnt helped them too much…
I once had a 69 Mistang that had 4 minuature parachutes on it in 2 headlight buckets and two fake side scoops…
Just looking at cars tells me automakers didnt start using wind tunnels for aero designs till probably the 80s…
Just like they never used to care about fuel economy…
Saying a 60s era car is not aerodynamic is just plain silly…

Stephen Hodges

I don’t think it would be difficult to pass one off as a Nazi staff car, as VW made them during the war just as that. I used to like them, but could never say so to my Dad, who had a busy war fighting the Nazi’s, and had a really strong gut reaction whenever he saw one. They were particularly liked by the SS.


The Volkswagen Kübelwagen was manufactured from 1940-45, and yes it was used as a staff car by both the Wehrmacht (German army) and the Waffen-SS.

The Wikipedia article on the VW Type 181 aka “Thing” does say the design (or “concept”) was influenced by the Kübelwagen, but it’s not the same model. In fact, the Type 181 shared parts with the Beetle, the Microbus, and the Karmann Ghia.


Note that the Kübelwagen had, for example, curved fenders and externally mounted headlights, both of which the Type 181 lack.

comment image


US War Department published Technical Manual #E9-803: German Volkswagen. It describes operation and maintenance of the Kubelwagen. PDF at: usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/wwIItms/TME9_803_1944.pdf

Mark C

Lots of folks convert air cooled VW’s into EV’s. Lightweight, stupid simple designs, and plenty of aftermarket support.

Except for terrible aerodynamics and your legs being the crumple zone, what’s not to like.