The Volkswagen Type 183, more commonly known as the Iltis (German for theEuropean Polecat), is a military vehicle built by Volkswagen for use by the
German military and under licence by Bombardier for the Canadian Forces and
Belgian Army. Although the two vehicles were briefly offered simultaneously, the
Type 183 effectively replaced the Type 181.
The German military had been part of a cooperative effort beginning in the late
1960s to create what was dubbed the Europa Jeep, an amphibious four wheel drive
vehicle that could replace the small all-terrain transport vehicles being used
by several of the participating governments. With development taking longer than
expected, the German military requested that something inexpensive be built in
small quantities to fill their need for additional small transport vehicles
while the Europa Jeep project was still undergoing design research.
Volkswagen responded to the request, designing an updated version of their
Kübelwagen and designating it the Type 181. But by 1976 the Europa Jeep project
had fallen apart completely, the victim of skyrocketing costs and a difficult
development. Needing a suitable four wheel drive vehicle to take over the spots
that had been designated for the Europa Jeep, the German government issued
requests to several manufacturers to design and build prototype vehicles to be
considered for military use.
Dakar Rally winner of 1980The vehicle featured a variation of the Munga's
platform with newly modified suspension components, a four wheel drive system
based around components from the Audi 100 and a 1.7 litre four cylinder Audi
engine producing 75 horsepower. The design of this four wheel drive system
provided the basis for Audi's Quattro system, which debuted four years later in
1980 on the original Audi Quattro. Earlier that year, Freddy Kottulinsky and
Gerd Löffelmann had won the Paris-Dakar Rally in an Audi-prepared Iltis.
The Iltis, as VW was now calling it, passed the German government's tests with
ease, and was chosen over the equally competent but more expensive Mercedes-Benz
G-Wagen. Production began in the summer of 1978 and the first 200 units were
delivered in November; by late 1979 approximately 2,000 units had been delivered
with 310 units sent to the Luftwaffe and 20 sent to the German Navy. Although
most of the units produced were four-doored with open tops, ambulance,
anti-tank, artillery survey, command and field communications units with varying
bodystyles were produced in small numbers. A civilian model was also offered in
Germany, but found even fewer takers than the 181 had, largely due to price.