What do you think of when you hear the word “Thing”?

Perhaps John Carpenter’s groundbreaking horror classic starring Kurt Russel?

Or maybe the sentient hand scuttling around the Addams Family mansion?

Well, for David Jahn, that word can only mean one…err….thing:

This delightful 1974 Volkswagen.

drvier side front, 1974 volkswagen thing

David drove off in his new Volkswagen Thing 50 years ago and it has followed him around ever since.

“I bought it new in 1974,” he states proudly.

“As a kid, I liked dune buggies and stuff, then I saw this,” he says, gesturing towards his VW. “It had heat and wipers, the doors came off and all that stuff, so I got it instead.”

1974 Volkswagen Thing, VW Rear Blue

But David’s Volkswagen didn’t always match the pristine condition we found it in at this year’s Goodguys Summit Racing Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was originally yellow. I drove it through high school, and it got banged up a little bit, so I fixed it, painted it black.”

cockpit view of a 1974 VW THing
Despite the morning sun marring this interior shot, you can see that David’s added some supplemental gauges and a slick tape deck—presumably loaded with the suspenseful goodness of Morricone. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

A few years later, the transmission went out and the Thing sat for about a decade until David got the itch to get it back on the road. He rebuilt the gearbox and painted the Thing blue in the late 1990s.

“It’s been through many changes over the years,” David explains. “I’ve had it apart and back together a few times.”

2275cc engine in a 1974 VW Thing
Here’s a good look at the Thing’s new air-cooled 2,275cc VW motor and that junkyard Vega bumper. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Though getting the Thing back in action wasn’t a pure restoration effort; David made some key modifications along the way—notably the rear bumper, pulled from a scrapped 1971 Chevy Vega.

“It got crashed a long time ago, somebody hit the back end and bent the bumper. So I went to a junkyard, got that, and put it on.”

Also out back is an upgraded 2,275cc dual-carb flat-four, replacing the Thing’s original 1,584cc air-cooled VW engine. “Stock, it didn’t do too well on the highway,” he admits. “But yeah, it runs pretty good now.”

And that’s an understatement—after making the engine swap a few years ago, David explains that his Thing now eats up plenty of interstate. “I’ve taken to a lot of shows, and even driven down to the Louisville Street Rod Nationals a few times.”

1974 volkswagen VW Thing, rear passenger side quarter
Savvy VW aficionados will notice that David has trimmed down the vent bulges above the rear fenders to make them a bit more streamlined too. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

The classic Volkswagen isn’t the only cool ride in his stable, either. David’s a diehard car guy and he points to a customized 1970s Chevy van parked nearby and tells about a 1955 Chevy that’s nestled in his garage as well.

“I’ve been a gearhead all my life,” he grins.

back seat cargo area in a 1974 VW Thing
“There’s not much room for speakers,” David jokes, so the standalone enclosure behind the fold-down seats is a good solution for blasting tunes over highway wind noise. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

When we asked David about his future plans with his Volkswagen, he quips back simply “I’m gonna keep driving it, and taking it to shows.”

And considering the Thing’s already been with him 50 years, we’re not surprised at all by that response.

Volkswagen Thing Halloween Photo Goodguys filter
(Image/OnAllCylinders – Original Photo by Summit Racing’s Jason Liss)
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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.