Many of the mechanical parts on a VW
181 are interchangeable with some other model VW. Most come from the type
1, but some type 2, 3 and 4 parts are also used. Check the listings in
a parts manual for a VW 181. Some parts are unique to Things and other
versions of the VW 181.
The list below points out which parts
are VW 181-specific and which ones are interchangeable with those from
other VW types.
list is never complete, so if you have anything to add and/or correct please
let me know!
- Front: VW part no. 181 609 139.
- Rear: VW part no. 211 611 047
- Front: the front brake drum is the same as on the '66-'67 Bug. VW
part no. 131 405 615A.
- Rear: the rear brake drums for the two transaxle set-ups were different:
Chassis serial up to 183 2346 524 (Mexico:
183 2493 402): the rear brake drum (VW part no. 211 501 615 E) on the VW
181 with swing axle transaxle (plus reduction gears) is the same as on
the August 1960 - July 1963 type 2 (Bus) with that transaxle layout. Note:
although the Bus brake drum will interchange with the splines and brake
shoes of the VW 181, the lug nuts are the larger 14 mm size.
Chassis serial 183 2346 525 up (Mexico:
183 2493 403 up): the rear brake drum for the double-jointed ('IRS') transaxle
is easy to identify as it has the 181- part number cast into the outside
face of the drum. There just is not any other VW drum that will fit correctly.
The difference all starts with the stub axle. The type 181 stub axle was
designed to meet a specification for military use set down in the original
NATO contract in 1966. As a result we have an odd combination of CV joints,
stub axles and drums. Only the 181 drum will properly and safely fit the
181 stub axle. VW part no. 181 501 615A.
Hose: as the VW 181
floor pan is the same shape, Karmann Ghia brake lines fit perfectly. Front:
VW part no. 181 611 701 (easily swapped for 113 611 701).
Protection plate - Front:
VW part no. 181 611 369.
- Rear: same as August 1960
- July 1963 type 2 (Bus).
VW part no. 113 501 331D
Bug and Bus CV joints don't have
the same ability to operate at as severe a drive angle as the type 4 joint
used in the type 181. Thus will operate up to an angle of approximately
21 degrees, versus 17 degrees for the Bus joint. However, as a temporary
fix, the Bus joint (VW part no. 211 501 331B) can be made to work.
The type 4 and 181 CV joint can
be fitted to a Beetle transmission. Just use the transmission flange from
the original on the new transmission. It's only this flange that is different
on the trans.
There's only one flasher
for both emergency and turn signals. Although it's a very VW only looking
part, they are available as a Beetle replacement item from most VW accessory
The VW 181 and Beetle transaxles
are basically the same for corresponding years:
Note: also see Gearbox
ratios and codes
Chassis serial up to 183 2346 524 (Mexico:
183 2493 402): the swing axle transaxle is basically a Beetle unit, but
has a higher differential ratio (resulting in lower speed). Also, the differential
is fitted on the opposite side because reduction gears (from the split
screen Bus) have been fitted to the axle ends.
Chassis serial 183 2346 525 up (Mexico:
183 2493 403 up): the double-jointed ('IRS') transaxle came in two varieties:
the pre-'73 models have two side covers, the '73-onward models have only
one. The transaxle is the same as on the Beetle with this rear axle layout,
but it has a higher differential ratio (resulting in lower speed) and uses
different CV flanges. The Beetle transaxle can be used, but note the following
Or as Joe Locicero sums up: "Earliest
Type 1 trans could be a '69-'70 (requires an early style 200mm clutch cover
change to install (final drive is 3.67). The '71-'72 uses the late style
clutch as in a 181. The same final ratio in this group as the group above.
The '73-up is closest to the stock 181 externally but has a 3.60 final
drive compared to the 3.83 of the 181."
Retain the VW 181 CV joints and the
CV joint flanges. The flanges can be easily changed over to the Beetle
Make sure the Beetle transaxle has the
pre-'73 2-bolt nosecone so that the mount lines up. If needed, the nosecone
can be changed over.
Make sure the clutch throw out bearing
is of the '71- onward type. It can be identified by the guide sleeve fitted
over the driveshaft over which the bearing slides. Pre-'71 clutch throw
out bearings can be used, but only with a corresponding pressure plate.
This has a release pressure ring on the three release levers.
About the only part that is probably
not available "new" any more is the front sheet metal panel known as the
apron. All other parts are thought to be available from one or more of
the known U.S. sources. Parts are even harder to find in Mexico than in
As the VW 181 floor pan is the same
shape, Karmann Ghia floor pans will fit. Note: they do not have the stock
VW 181 pressed rib pattern.
Note: to make local
repairs in the door sills, use the skin off an old door - the ribs are
the same shape.
All VW 181s were orginally
fitted with a the starter motor as found on semi-automatic ("Auto Stick")
Beetles. These have just a gear on the end of the starter and not any shaft
or pin protruding past the gear about 2 inches. Some of the transmissions
are not even bushed for stock Beetle starter motor type (on which the aft
end of the shaft is supported by a bushing in the bell housing).
VW 181s, unfortunately,
used two different steering columns and steering wheels. The "early type"
seen mostly on 73's can be identified by the metal trim around the key
switch area, the "late" version, found mostly 74's, has a plastic trim
assembly in the same area. Not only is the trim different, but the steering
wheel spline is different so most 73 steering wheels won't fit 74 steering
columns and vice versa.
The good news is that the "late"
style (74's) is identical in spline and other fitments to most later VWs.
Of Rabbit sports wheels all the splines, compression tubes and even the
horn and turn signals align between the VW 181 and the newer wheel. Also
other VWs and Audi's steering wheels should fit right in place of the stock
The VW 181 and ball joint Beetle
front axles are basically the same. The main differences are that the axle
beam is 'ruggedized' and that the trailing arms, ball joints plus spindles
are changed to raise the front some 2.5".
If your front axle needs replacement,
you have the following options:
replace with a complete ('spindle-to-spindle')
ball joint Beetle front suspension. Note: your VW 181 will sit lower at
replace the axle beam with one from
a Beetle and refit the VW 181 spindles plus trailing arms - if you want
to go stock, remove the brackets from the VW 181 axle beam and re-weld
them to your Beetle axle beam.
Below follows a listing of parts
that are different from the stock ball joint Beetle front suspension plus
their VW part no.'s:
Axle beam: basically the same
as the Beetle's, but with strengthened damper support brackets and brackets
for the outer axle-to-pan supports. VW part no. 181 401 021.
Ball joints: the VW 181 ball
joints are unique to the car. Look at the front end versus a Beetle and
you will see why. The VW 181 spindles are entirely below the trailing arms.
This raises the front of the car 2.5" over the Beetle suspension. Shop
for prices as they can be very expensive. But don't let anyone tell you
they are the same as any other VW part, they are a 181- part number and
are unique to the VW 181.
VW part no 181 405 361A (upper ball
joint) and 181 405 371C (lower ball joint). Manufacturers include Heyd
of Germany (part no.'s V.03.93 and V.03.98).
Spindle: VW part no. 181
405 311A (left); 181 405 312A (right).
Stabiliser bar (sway bar):
VW part no. 181 411 309.
Clamps and rubber mountings
for stabiliser bar: VW part no. 181 498 101. Clamps from the Beetle will
Tie rod: the right tie rod
is VW 181 specific, the left one is interchangeable with the VW 1302/1303.
part no. 181 415 802 (right tie
rod); (left tie rod interchangeable with 131 415 801F).
Tie rod end:
all the tie rod ends are either VW 1302/1303 or type 3.
Torsion springs: VW part no.
181 411 027.
Trailing arms (torsion arms):
part no. 181 405 103 (upper left);
181 405 104 (upper right); 181 405 151A (lower left); 181 405 152 (lower
Wheels and tyres
From 1970-1973 the VW 181 was fitted
with 4.5J x 15" wheels and 165 R15 tyres. These are the same four slotted
wheels as on the split screen type 2.
From 1 March 1973 onwards VW 181s
had unique 5JK x 14" wheels fitted with 185 R14 tyres. These VW 181-only
(they have a 181- part number) are different from other 5JK x 14" VW wheels
in two major respects:
The off-set dimension is greater than
the other 14" wheels such as those used on the type 2. Use bus wheels on
your VW 181 and everything will scrape a bunch.
The original VW 181 wheels are un-slotted,
solid centred. All other 14" VW wheels are slotted.
Largest tyres that can be fitted
to VW 181s are 205/75 R15 tyres. This requires several things to make it
work. First you will need the 15 inch wheels to have the stock offset.
Next, the suspension must be in good shape with no sag to prevent rubbing.
If you are staying with the 14 inch wheels, 205/75 R14s will work nice.
Possibly one can use a 215/75 R14 with little problem as well.
Source: Ken Crimmins (things-digest
V1 #459, e-mail 03-11-1999, 19-11-1999, 12-11-2002); Ian David Harrison
(e-mail of 97-05-02); Todd Hill (e-mail of 3 Dec 1998); Scott Kreisher
(e-mail 98-09-21, 16 May 1999); J. Milo Lanoue (things-digest V1 #259);
Joe Locicero (e-mail 15 Sep 1998, 5 dec 1988); Bob Miller (VW Thing mailing
list digest 8.12.96, 12.17.96, 12.19.96, 12.15.96, 5.6.97, etc.); The Thing
Shop (digest 12.19.97); Vince Things Unlimited (e-mail 17 Dec 1998).
Download the VW
Parts Interchange Manual at James Genovese's site.
Last update: 24-12-1999 / 13-09-2002
Copyright © 1996-2002 H.L.
Spoelstra / All Rights Reserved