“At last a car that can be anything.” Especially ugly.
Developed by Volkswagen in 1968 at the height of their “the war is over, let’s appeal to the hippies” movement, The Thing was (and to a small band of admirers, still is) the Monty Python of the automotive world – a vehicle so bizarre that it’s impossible not to love. Originally branded the Type 181, The Thing (as it was known in America), was a redesign of the earlier Kübelwagen which had been used by the German military during World War Two, and while it might have been funny looking, it sure was one helluva automobile.
Unlike it’s militant forefather, the 181 was created for more leisurely pursuits, with a more a laid back (read: stoned) market in mind. Built on the same chasis as the original Beetle (Volkswagen reused many of their past specs for The Thing in order to keep prices down for their more financially challenged customers), The Thing was probably better suited for off road excursions than it was for asphalt. The Safari (as it was known in Mexico) was actually first released south of the border because so many off-roaders down there were already converting existing VW’s into dune buggies and the company wanted a piece of that action.
The actual official U.S. promo shot for The Thing
Cary Grant and the boutonnière. – 1959
Before sponsors. Before blockbusters. Before 3D. Before Indie. Before stylists (the “adult” equivalent of having your mom pick out your clothes for you,) Cannes was just Hollywood’s “business trip,” where the fame hungry would petition to become headliners and the anointed lounged along the French Rivera by day and drank their way through galas at night. Now, I’d be remiss to ever proclaim any celebrity as being entirely genuine but at least these personalities from the late fifties to early seventies looked the part. Whether they were walking down the red carpet, or simply sitting poolside, there was an authenticity to their style that’s hardly ever seen in Hollywood today. Hell, maybe I’m naive, or I’ve just watched a few too many old movies lately, but I’d like to believe that even if the cameras weren’t around, these actors and musicians would’ve dressed just the same.
Vittorio de Sica with the solid white TV fold and grey streak.
I’m not sure how many of you caught it, but in this Monday’s post on shawl collars I threw in a half-serious/half-sarcastic line about Starsky & Hutch as style icons. The line popped into my head as one of those random thoughts that always seem to surface as I approach the end of post and began to feel slightly delusional, and so I hastily typed in there without even really remembering what Starsky and Hutch actually dressed like. For some reason though, the idea of Starsky & Hutch as style icons stuck with me, so a couple hours later I found myself sifting through screen caps and promo shots of the late seventies series, and I soon realized that my uneducated guess was actually spot on, at least to a certain extent.