VW 181 Facts & Figures

Military users

The type 181's rated payload for military use was 400 kg, and being a general utility vehicle, its uses included command, patrol, dispatch and radio vehicle. Standard military equipment included an axe, headlamp blackout covers, military lighting system, map light, radio suppression, four rifle mounts, spade, starting handle, towing eye, towing hook and a wheel chock. Radio vehicles had an additional 24V, 756 Watt dynamo fitted.
Largest military user was Germany :
From 1969 to 1979 the Bundeswehr (German Federal Army) procured 15,200 type 181s. They were used by all branches of the military, especially the army and the Feldjäger (military police). Approximately 1,000 additional vehicles were delivered to governmental agencies such as the Bundesgrenzschutz (border guard), postal service, forestry department, fire brigade and civil defense/ emergency rescue units throughout the country.
Since 1981 more than 9,000 type 181s were struck off charge. The German government sold them on the open market as well as donated them to the Greek and Turkish armies. In 1992 an estimated maximum of 4,000 type 181s were still in service with the Bundeswehr. This number slowly decreases, as removal from military service is determined on repair and serviceability costs. A number of VW 181s remain in service as of 1999.
Mike Woodhouse's restored German Army type 181 in Feldjäger guise.
Note the blue beacon light - a popular accessory for restored military type 181s!

In addition to the standard accessories (spare tire w/rim; spare fan belt; tool kit; tommy bar and socket; top hinge covers; window bag; floor mats) the German Bundeswehr VW 181s had the following accessories:
  • larger Group 41 battery;
  • front skid plate;
  • brush bars;
  • 4 rifle holders;
  • straps on the inside rear deck for attaching a shovel;
  • strap and holder inside front apron for hatchet;
  • spare fuel can inside spare tire;
  • wheel chock with strap and bracket for inside engine compartment;
  • clip and latch for engine hand crank inside engine compartment;
  • green vinyl covers for the headlights, side mirrors and windshield (some early windshield covers were canvas);
  • tire chains;
  • tire gauge;
  • engine crank handle;
  • metal spare bulb and fuse holder;
  • separate 8 slot fuse box for the black-out lights and warning light;
  • spark proof 7 position light switch with lock-out cam.
For details about the German Army camouflage scheme for the VW 181, follow this link.

Most were fitted with a pulley guard for the generator and all had a brush inspection slot cover. Also, there were nuts welded to holes under to the rear shelf area to bolt down various military equipment. The military VW 181 weighs 55 kgs (dry) more than its Mexican cousin.

Other military users include:
  • Austria: Bundesheer (federal army).
  • Belgium. (Note: the use of VW 181 by the Belgian Army has been questioned. Possibly they were used by Belgian units in Germany? Confirmation is eagerly sought after.)
  • Brunei: the Sultan of Brunei guard has at least six dark blue VW 181s with the seal of the sultanate on the doors.
  • Denmark
  • France: used by units stationed in Germany.
  • Great Britain: British Army on the Rhine (BAOR) used some communications/tactical radio units for use in joint exercises with the German Bundeswehr.
  • Greece: donation from German Bundeswehr.
  • Click here for pictures of 
    Hellenic Navy VW 181s
  • Mexico: Army (EJERCITO MEXICANO), Navy (ARMADA DE MEXICO), and Air Force (FUERZA AEREA MEXICANA) used the 181 from the early seventies up until the nineties.
  • Morocco
  • Portugal
  • Switzerland
  • The Netherlands: Luchtmacht (Royal Netherlands Air Force).
  • Turkey: donation from German Bundeswehr
  • United States of America: units stationed in Germany use many "local" vehicles including many VWs. It has been suggested these included VW 181s.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force used a number of VW 181s for airfield surveillance and security. This example is well armed with a pedestal-mounted .50 cal machine-gun.
Other countries tested the VW 181 for military use. At least one was tested by Venezuela (afterwards it was stored at the VW factory and it still exists).
VW Australia imported two military VW 181s in the early 1970's for evaluation and possible purchase by the Australian Army. They were not successful and these were later sold as surplus with an interesting mix of NATO and Australian military accessories.

More detailed information on numbers used during what periods by which armies are most welcome.

Source: Ken Crimmins (e-mail 97-07-01);  Arnd Klinkhart (e-mail 98-08-13); George Mele (e-mail 98-08-13); Raimundo Molina; Dan Sorkowitz (e-mail 98-08-25, 99-05-12); Hanno Spoelstra; Peter Thompson (e-mail 98-04-27); Mike Woodhouse (e-mail 19-02-1999); Mauricio Rueda Chapital (e-mail 17-1-2004).


See the Danish Army Vehicles Homepage for a camouflaged Danish VW M181 "Jagdwagen".

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Last update: 19-01-2004

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