The list below points out which parts are VW 181-specific and which ones are interchangeable with those from other VW types.
This list is never complete, so if you have anything to add and/or correct please let me know!
- Rear: VW part no. 211 611 047 C
- 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:
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).
CV jointVW 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.
Flasher unitThere'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 stores.
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 points:
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 transaxle.
- 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 the U.S.
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.
Starter motorAll 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).
Steering wheelVW 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 wheel.
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 the front;
- 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 work.
Tie rod: the right tie rod is VW 181 specific, the left one is interchangeable with the VW 1302/1303. VW 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): VW part no. 181 405 103 (upper left); 181 405 104 (upper right); 181 405 151A (lower left); 181 405 152 (lower right).
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).
LinksDownload the VW Parts Interchange Manual at James Genovese's site.
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Last update: 24-12-1999 / 13-09-2002
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