Jeep successors
VW Iltis
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Ford M151
Hanno Spoelstra 
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H.L. Spoelstra
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Last update: 15-05-2002



VW Kubelwagen
Military Portfolio,
1940 to 1995
A book consisting of reprints of original road test reports and other articles that appeared in leading motoring journals during the period concerned. Many VW types covered, 
including the Iltis.

Canadian Army Iltis

Canadian Iltis damaged in Sarajevo

Canadian army jeeps then and now

Belgian Army site (search for 'Iltis')

Alfred´s Iltisseite
(in German - with many links to other Iltis sites)

VW-Iltis Typ 183
(commercial site, but with some reference material in German)

Interview with Dr Fritz Naumann, Audi's head of product development (read background information on the development of the Iltis)

The prime source for military vehicle info on the internet

Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) Online

Mod 181 und Iltis sites on VW-Scout

Volkswagen Iltis (Typ 183)

The Bundeswehr's first field car

In 1954 the newly formed German Bundeswehr (Federal Army) invited the German car industry to submit pilot models for the new Army's Lkw 0,25 t gl (Lastkraftwagen, 0,25 ton, geländegängig; or: truck, ¼-ton, off-road). As the Bundeswehr would have liked to procure a further-developed variant of the Type 82 Kübelwagen, Volkswagen was also approached to get involved. But Dr. Heinz Nordhoff could not really be interested in what - for VW - was a small-scale production of four wheel drive field cars. And they had their hands full on civil car production.
Eventually, Auto Union's DKW Munga was selected and it was in production from 1956 to 1968. Out of a total of 46,750 built, about 28,400 were procured by the Bundeswehr.

Volkswagen gets involved in field car manufacture

In the 1960s France, West Germany and Italy started a joint project for a new 500 kg (4x4) amphibious vehicle which became known as the 'Europa-Jeep'. Awaiting the arrival of this vehicle the Bundeswehr decided to procure a stop-gap vehicle to replace the DKW Munga, which was really getting outdated near the end of the 1960s. From 1969 Volkswagen built 15,200 type 181 multi-purpose vehicles for the Bundeswehr as a temporary substitute. It was largely based on commercial VW vehicles to keep development and production costs down. This resulted in what was in effect a modernised version of the WW-II era Type 82. Like the original, it had rear wheel drive only (with optional self-locking differential) and therefore it had a limited off-road capability. It was however, perfect for liaison duties etc. and it was classed as a Mehrzweckwagen (multi-purpose vehicle).
When the 'Europa-Jeep' project was finally cancelled in 1976, the Bundeswehr issued a new requirement for 8,800 4x4 vehicles with a cargo capacity of 500 kg both on and off roads. The amphibious requirement was dropped. Both Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen were approached to build prototypes for trials.

Volkswagen, meanwhile, had acquired Auto Union in Ingolstadt in 1965, dropped the DKW marque and let the name Audi re-emerge. Audi, being the successor of the original Munga manufacturer, was interested in producing field cars for the Bundeswehr. Volkswagen really only furnished its name and the capital needed. During the fall of 1975 the first talks took place, and in May 1976 a contract was closed for the delivery of ten prototypes the next November.
Apart from having experience with the Munga, the pressure of time led to the step to further develop it into what became the VW 183 Lkw 0,5 t gl, alias Iltis. The drive line and front and rear axle were of the same concept: independent suspension with transversal leaf springs and wishbones, interchangeable suspension components and drive shafts front and rear and the front differential incorporated in the gearbox.  The styling of the bodywork reminded of the Munga's shape, and in fact the rear half of the prototype bodies were hardly more than that of the Munga's elongated variant. The production version of the Iltis bodywork had several improvements such as under-bonnet stowage boxes incorporated in the front mudguards. Many automotive components were sourced from contemporary mass-produced cars: the 1.7 litre, 75 horsepower engine originally came from the Audi stable and was used in the South-American versions of the Volkswagen Passat. Likewise, the gearbox/differential housing and clutch were taken from the Audi 100.
In 1977 the Volkswagen Iltis was selected for production, which started during the summer of 1978. The first 200 examples were delivered to the Bundeswehr on 30 November and 52 more followed in December. By mid-1979 the Bundeswehr already had some 2,000 in use. In 1979 and 1980 3,400 Iltis' were built, followed by the last 1,800 for the Bundeswehr in 1981. At the end of 1982 production ceased after the last 119 examples were built for the civil market. The grand total had been set at 9,547 examples.
Of the total of 8,800, the Bundeswehr got 8,470 units, 310 went to the Luftwaffe (air force) and 20 examples were in use with the Marine (navy). Bundeswehr variants include ambulance, anti-tank (with MILAN ATGWs), artillery survey, command/radio and field telephone cable layer.
The Bundeswehr later replaced the VW Iltis with its former contender, the Mercedes G-series. Surplus Iltis' were passed on to Greece, Turkey and even Estonia, which received 250 examples in September 1997. Others were sold off to the surplus market, because of which the Iltis has become available to private collectors as far afield as the USA and Japan.

The French connection...

In the late 1970s, after withdrawing from the 'Europa-Jeep' project, the French Army invited the French automotive industry to come up with proposals for a new light all terrain vehicle to replace their ageing Jeeps (Hotchkiss M201, Willys MB and Ford GPW). Citroën presented a modified CX-engined Iltis as the Citroën C44, and other contenders were Renault with their TRM500 (a re-engined Fiat Campagnola) and Peugeot with their P4 (Steyr-built Mercedes G-series with Peugeot engine and drive-line). In 1981, an order for no less than 15,000 Véhicules Lègers Tous-Terrains was awarded to Peugeot, mainly because of the greater number of P4 variants they could offer.

...and the move to Canada

After the completion of the Bundeswehr contracts in October 1981, Volkswagen sold the world-wide manufacturing and marketing rights of the Iltis to Bombardier Inc. of Valcourt, Quebec, Canada, as Volkswagen orientated all its products towards the civilian market.
In 1983 Bombardier advertised the vehicle in the military press as a "state-of-the-art" ½-ton utility vehicle, which could be "equipped with a gasoline or diesel engine".

In 1984 the Canadian Government ordered 1,900 Iltis' to replace the Canadian Forces' M151A2 jeeps then in Regular Canadian Army service (the Canadian Army, Militia (reserves) were equipped with the M38A1CDN jeep.) The order was valued at 68 million Canadian dollars, including spare parts, training, etc. Deliveries were to take place during 1984-1985. The Canadian Iltis was manuafactured in four distinct variants:

  • standard Iltis;
  • Iltis Field Ambulance;
  • Iltis Commander's Vehicle;
  • Iltis Signals Line Vehicle.
  • The Light Reconnaissance Vehicle is basically a standard Iltis and the Canadian Airborne Regiment mounted the TOW on the Iltis as well.

    Bombardier saw its hopes to sell the Iltis abroad fulfilled with a Belgian Army order for 2,500 vehicles in 1985. As the Iltis was originally a VW product, the Canadian licence-version was supplied through Volkswagen-Brussels NV. The Iltis (including ambulance versions) replaced the ancient Minerva/Land-Rovers and Willys CJ3A Jeeps. To replace the armoured Minerva in service with l'Escadron Recce of the Regiment Para-Commando, the Rocourt Arsenal modified a number of Iltis' into Recce vehicles. They have a two FN MAG machine-guns, one in front of the right front seat, the other in the rear pointing rearwards. A luggage rack has been added to the rear, and the spare wheel moved to the right rear side.

    The Iltis was also built for the Cameroon armed forces.

    Canadian troops used their Iltis' during Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait. Both the Canadian and Belgian UNPROFOR troops used the Iltis in former Yugoslavia in 1994.


    • Boschen, Lothar, Das große Buch der Volkswagen Typen. Alle Fahrzeuge von 1934 bis heute. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag, 1983, p.551-555. ISBN 3-87943-799-8.
    • Foss, Christopher F. (ed.), Jane's Military Vehicles and Ground Support Equipment 1983. Fourth Edition. London: Jane's Publishing Co.Ltd., 1983, p.255, 265-266. ISBN 0 7106-0766-0.
    • Hogg, Ian V., and Weeks, John, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles. London: New Burlington Books, 1980, p.284. ISBN 0 90628 675 1.
    • Jane's Defence Weekly, 10 September 1997, p. 23.
    • Kaminski, Cal, 'Kaufberatung: Käfer, beinhart! VW 181: Der Kübel ist das Billig-Cabrio schlechthin, aber viele Exemplare tragen deutliche Kampfspuren vom Bund'. Markt Klassische Automobile und Motorräder, no.8, August 1992, p.30-34.
    • Reuss, Hans-Jürgen, 'German Logistics Vehicles'. International Defense Review, no. 12/1985, p.1995-1999.
    • Schwartz, Egbert, 'Der Zivieldienstverweigerer: VW Iltis 1978-82'. 4x4 Allrad-Magazin Special: Allrad Klassiker, no. 4/96, August/September 1996, p.24-27. ISSN 0946-0780.
    • Vanderveen, Bart, 'Auto Union's DKW Munga. The story of a 1950s' German Field Car'. Wheels & Tracks, no. 45, October 1993, p.28-37.
    • Vanderveen, Bart, 'VLTTs for the French Army: The days of the WWII-type Jeep's active service in France are numbered'. Wheels & Tracks, no. 1, October 1982, p.30-33.