Much as the classic cars gathering at Amelia Island in March have begun to compete with Pebble Beach's annual concours in scope and beauty, the collector-car auctions around the Amelia Island event have swelled to new heights. Last weekend kept the trend alive, with more than $100 million in classic machinery sold, with 20 rare Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Mercedes drawing more than $1 million apiece.
And then there's this, a 1974 Volkswagen Type 181, a.k.a. Thing, that set a new world record price for VW Things during the sale at Gooding & Co. You'll never believe what this Thing is suddenly worth.
One of several customized for an Acapulco resort, this surrey-topped Thing is rare but not exactly museum-quality; it saw several years of use around said resort and came to Gooding billed as fun driver, not a conservatory piece. Things were slow beasts, what with their 46-hp engines and 0-60 mph times of "mix me another mai-tai while you're at it," but as they were based on widely available VW components, care and feeding has been fairly easy.
There's a precedent for these types of runabouts; the Fiat 600 Jolly has a small but ardent fanbase, and one of those sold for $63,000 in the same Gooding auction last weekend, although Jollys are far rarer. According to Hagerty, this exact Thing had sold for $22,500 in 2010, and the pre-auction estimate of $25,000 to $35,000 seemed optimistic without being delusional.
And yet when the hammer fell, this Thing had set a new world record at $52,800. We're fairly ecumenical in our appreciation of old metal, but that's serious coin for a car that can't outrun rain, although prices on many older VW classics have been rising. If you're the seller of a Type 181 who thinks this sets the new bar, we'd suggest tempering your enthusiasm just a bit. Market corrections can be a hell of a Thing.