As you may know, the VW Thing Type 181 is made up of parts from the Beetle, Bus, and Type 3. Having said this, any part number that starts with 181 will tell you it is a Thing part only. Obviously, all the body panels are 181, along with the chassis and most interior parts. Any part that starts with 211 is a Bus application. For example the exterior door handles, as well as the air intake snorkel between the carb and the air cleaner is Bus. There are quite a few switches and electrical stuff that was used from the Beetle as well.
Parts that start with 111, 113, 131, and 133 are Beetle. This includes 311 for front bearings. I use Timken LM 11710 for the inner race, and LM 11749 for the inner bearing. Outer race is LM 45410, and the outer bearing is LM 45449.
There are a few 411 items mixed in, just to make things interesting. Your best bet is to get an exploded parts view book for the VW THING. They can be had for around $20 on eBay or individual web sites. You can tell what parts can be acquired at your local VW parts store, or those you need to find at a Thing supplier.
Another example of the mix-match system used to build the Thing is on the brake drums. The front drums are Beetle pre-1969 five-bolt, while the rears are 181 only, and can be expensive to find. The fronts run about $70.00 each for new German ones, while the rears can go as high as $125.00 per drum. I get them from a good supplier for $80, as I usually get 6 at a time.
There are three main suppliers of Thing parts. The Thing Shop in Arizona, California Import Parts, and German Motor Works. One of the best ways to find a part is to type the part number into Google search and the results will show the various suppliers of that part. You can then decide from there if original is available or if you must go with an aftermarket producer. BEWARE of cheap Chinese parts – just sayin…
There are a few other sources as well: Moore Parts Source is a good one, with only one problem experienced in the area of packaging; sometimes it appears they just throw varied parts in a box with minimal packing, and in the rough process of delivery you end up with stuff out of the original packing and occasionally dinged. Kymco is a good supplier as well. They have some decent semi-metallic brake shoes I use.
There are suppliers that cover just about all VW parts, and do have some good inventories of parts applicable to Things. The best of these in my opinion is California Import Parts. Cip1, as it is called, breaks out a lot of Thing parts that are Beetle primarily. When you can look in Cip1’s catalog, and see the Beetle headlight switch will work on the Thing, it makes it easy to get that part and be on your way. Cip1’s shipping has been exceptional.
VW parts are made in many countries; Brazil, Mexico, and Germany are the main ones, while good quality brake, throttle, and accelerator cables can come from Italy. In my opinion, Mexico sometimes has problems with quality, as is the case with Brazil when it comes to heads and some engine cases.
When it comes to wheel bearings I try to stay away from the Mexican ones, as they never held up for long in our off-road applications in the outfitting business. When it comes to master cylinders, the Brazilian-made ones are good for around $40, but the German have proven to be best for about $100. It’s not hard to change master cylinders on the Thing, but you don’t want to be doing it every month.
You will find most aftermarket exhaust systems are made in Taiwan or China. These can offer problems on installation if they were dropped and bent in the boxes during shipping.
I will address aftermarket parts on another page in the web site. The following list of parts suppliers are ones I have personally dealt with.
The Thing Shop www.thethingshop.com 1.800.898.4464
German Motor Works www.thingsforthething.com 1.714.534.1841
Kymco www.kymcovw.com 1.949.642.1835
California Import Parts www.cip1.com 1.800.313.3811
Hot VW’s Magazine has also been a good source for parts suppliers.