VW Iltis: Boxy 4×4 Veteran Light Utility Military Vehicle

VW Iltis is the ultimate light utility vehicle forged to cater to the military’s needs for a powerful all-terrain vehicle during the late 1900s. In this article, you will learn what makes VW Iltis so powerful and how it led the way for the VW group to create some of the most remarkable Audi cars.

VW Iltis Military Vehicle (1)


Keep reading to find out if owning a VW Iltis today is a good idea!

Ultimate Military Off-roader VW Iltis Specs

Some VW Iltis essential specs include a sturdy light utility vehicle that renders extremely powerful performance to meet all the expectations of a military vehicle. It is available in both diesel and petrol variants, and features a 5-gear manual transmission system. Here are the key specifications of the VW Iltis.

– Engine

VW Iltis was available in diesel as well as petrol variants. It boasted an engine derived from the VW Passat. The displacement of the petrol engine was 1.7L MT (75 hp), and the diesel engine was 1.6L MT (70 hp). It was an in-line 4 with two valves per cylinder with no boost to power the carburetor engine of the Iltis. 

– Transmission

With an all-wheel drive drivetrain, Iltis featured a 5-gear manual transmission system that had low crawler gear. The basic mode on Iltis facilitated a two-wheel drive system. Still, with the four-wheel drive selected, the rear wheels also engaged with the front differential and transfer case to deliver maximum output.

– Suspension and Brakes

The front-dependent wishbone and independent rear suspensions gave the VW Iltis the agility it needed to perform well on off-road landscapes. The 16-inch wheels of this off-roader had four-wheel drum brakes. While the suspensions and wheels work marvelously on the off-road tracks, Iltis does not feel so smooth and comfortable on highways.

– Design and Aesthetics 

VW Iltis is not considered an eye candy automobile when it comes to visual appeal. However, this rudimentary ugly duckling has all the traits and functionalities that are expected of it. Iltis has a compact design that facilitates quick maneuverability on challenging terrains. It has a dimension of 3887x1520x1837mm (LxWxH), a wheelbase of 2017 mm, and a ground clearance of 220mm. 

Aesthetics VW Iltis Design

– Other Specs

A VW Iltis has a maximum fuel tank capacity of 85 Liters. It has an unladen weight of 1300 kg, whereas the curb weight of the vehicle is around 2050 kg. With three doors, an Iltis can facilitate a seating capacity of five people (including the driver). It can also carry a payload of 550 kg.

Iltis could achieve a maximum speed of around 130 km/h with an acceleration time of 21 seconds to reach 0-100 km/h. The average fuel consumption rendered by Iltis is 7.8 km/ l.

– Pros

Here are some of the advantages of owning a VW Iltis:

  • Excellent off-roader, can get through any kind of terrain, be it snowy or muddy
  • Rudimentary-level engineering makes it easy to fix
  • Exceptionally powerful 4×4 drive system and a sturdy build and quality

– Cons

On the other hand, here are some if the car’s disadvantages:

  • Slow and rough on highways
  • Spare parts and accessories are not readily available in the market
  • The best place to buy spares and accessories is military auctions, which may be hard to find and are usually expensive

VW Iltis Brief History

The cold war was at its peak, and the Federal Defense of Germany needed a light utility vehicle that could stroll over the tough terrains. The German military had already embarked on the “Europa Jeep” project in the 1960s to develop a powerful amphibian vehicle with four-wheel drive.

However, the development of an ideal machine took a lot of time. In the meantime, the German military wanted an inexpensive alternative to bridge the demand gap while the Europa Jeep project was still underway. The German automotive giant VW responded to the request by redeveloping their Kübelwagen to develop Type 181— a two-wheel drive.

However, the German military’s Europa Jeep project bit the dust in 1976 after France withdrew from the project due to higher development costs and difficulty. Now the German military was left with a dire need for a suitable four-wheel drive vehicle to accomplish what was expected of the Europa Jeep. So the German government sent requests to several manufacturers to design a prototype vehicle that could be inducted into the army.

In response to the German government’s request, VW decided to redevelop the Munga Jeep that was earlier manufactured by DKW, one of the former Auto Union that was later rebranded as Audi AG. VW named the newly developed vehicle Iltis. It had Munga’s platform with a new and powerful four-wheel drive system to accommodate the German military’s needs.

– Military Prowess

Iltis notched all of the German government’s tests easily and beat its top competitor — Mercedes Benz G-Wagen, which was equally powerful but more expensive. Therefore, the German government went ahead with Volkswagen Iltis and inducted it into service in 1977.

German Volkswagen Iltis

Iltis, with its powerful four-wheel drive system, could easily carry men, machinery, material, and ammunition over any kind of terrain in almost any weather condition. The highly utilitarian nature of Iltis made it the perfect replacement for Munga.

Moreover, that’s the very reason why countries like Germany and Canada inducted Iltis into their armies in the first place. VW started producing Iltis in the summer of 1978 and delivered the first 200 units to the German military by November 1978. And that is how the Bundeswehr, i.e., the armed forces of Germany, got VW Iltis. 

Later, a civilian model of Volkswagen Iltis also appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 1979. The production of the same began soon, and Iltis was made available for civilian purchase shortly after its appearance at the Geneva Motor Show. However, despite being a massive hit in the military, The civilian version performed poorly in the market due to higher prices and lack of comfort.

– VW Iltis, Dakar Rally, and Audi’s Quattro

VW wanted to make a buzz for Iltis to attract buyers like the French army; hence they chose the Paris-Dakar rally for the same reason. However, Volkswagen did not upgrade or modify the Iltis to go rallying other than installing a bigger carburetor and a new camshaft. Still, it proved itself an influential rally car and a powerful machine by winning the second edition of the Paris-Dakar rally in 1980.

Iltis made heads turn with its Dakar rally win, but that was not it. Audi was using VW Iltis in the snowy terrains as a support vehicle while testing it in the snow. The team noticed that the Iltis was performing exceptionally well in snowy landscapes and extremely bad weather conditions with its powerful four-wheel drive system.

Audi then decided to adopt the four-wheel drive system of Iltis in its upcoming road cars under the name of the “Quattro” series the same year that Iltis won the Paris-Dakar rally. The earlier Quattro was an Audi 80 with parts and a four-wheel drive system similar to that of the Iltis. 

Iltis features suspension components of an Audi 100, which significantly accommodates the four-wheel drive system. The suspension system of the Iltis was so impressive that Audi still uses it for its Quattro four-wheel drive system.

It is also pertinent to mention that Audi’s Quattro and RS series have a lot in common. The reason is that the latter was derived from Quattro itself. Without Quattro, there would not have been an Audi RS2, and without an RS2, there would not have been an Audi R8! So, had there not been an Iltis, there would not have been an R8 either.

– VW Iltis Today

VW manufactured over 9,000 units of Iltis from 1978-1988, which makes it a rarity and is thus difficult to get your hands on today. You will have to explore places or even countries to spot this vintage piece of machinery. Nonetheless, your best bet is an auction if you want to purchase a Volkswagen Iltis today.

Although Iltis may be a part of the collection of only a handful of veteran car enthusiasts worldwide, the highest chance of finding one for purchase is in Germany and Canada. This is because VW had its manufacturing unit in Germany from 1978-1982, and later they established a CAD 100 million plant with Bombardier to produce Iltis from 1983-1986. 

You can also come across a few websites offering VW Iltis for sale. However, it may be wise to practice discretion when negotiating with an online seller since there’s a great chance that some of them could be fraudulent. 

So is it a good decision to purchase an Iltis today? VW Iltis is a vintage military light utility vehicle that hardly has practical use today. However, if you are a vintage car enthusiast collecting veteran vehicles, Iltis is a car you would surely want in your collection.

Some Interesting Facts About VW Iltis

Some interesting facts about VW Iltis include the origins of its name, which was derived from a ferret-like animal called a polecat. The various fascinating tidbits surrounding this car explain why many automotive enthusiasts still desire this vintage rarity, even up to now.

VW Iltis Interesting Facts

  • Apart from the German military, The VW Iltis has also served the armies of Argentina, Canada, Estonia, Greece, North Macedonia, Cameroon, Oman, and Belgium. The Belgian and Canadian armies had over 2,500 Iltis cars that remained in service until the 2000s.
  • The phenomenal and powerful four-wheel drive system of Iltis was so successful that it influenced Audi to create the Quattro and RS series with the same technology.
  • Apart from influencing the Audi Quattro, Iltis was also the inspiration behind Citroen C 44. It has a 1.8l Douvrin engine derived from the VW Iltis. 
  • VW Iltis got the seating components from Passat, a luxury-grade sedan from VW. Therefore, the Iltis was comparably pretty comfortable even when off-roading.
  • The VW Iltis had several features that made it ahead of its time. It had interchangeable parts from the Beetle and VW 181. It also featured portal axles designed for elevated ride height and a low-noise ignition system to facilitate clear radio communication for the military. 
  • VW Iltis got its name from a ferret-like creature — a polecat. In fact, Iltis is the German word for a polecat, an elusive and expert hunter.
  • VW sold the worldwide production and marketing rights of Iltis to Bombardier in the early 1980s. They manufactured Standard Iltis, Iltis Field Ambulance, Iltis Commander’s vehicle, and Iltis Signals Line Vehicle until 1986


1. Are Spare Parts of VW Iltis Easily Available?

No, the spare parts of VW Iltis are not easily available in the market today. You will have to rely on a handful of sellers or military auctions for the car’s spare parts. The Iltis was manufactured and sold in 1978-1988, which makes it a vintage and hard-to-find automobile.

2. What if I Want To Sell My Iltis?

If you want to sell your VW Iltis, you can contact an auction house that conducts an auction for similar items or list your Iltis on a website like eBay that allows selling and buying used items. If you have this car, it is surely worth a lot today.


VW Iltis is a vintage war machine that every military car enthusiast would love to have added to their collection. The agile machine could crawl any kind of surface, which added to its huge popularity and use in the military.

  • VW Iltis is a light utility vehicle designed and developed by German car manufacturer Volkswagen with a four-wheel drive system.
  • VW Iltis has excellent utilitarian features. More than 9,000 units of Iltis were produced and were used by armies of many countries, including Canada, Belgium, Argentina, etc. 
  • VW Iltis later paved the path that helped Audi develop its phenomenal Quattro, the result of which is the present-day Audi R8.
  • You can buy a VW Iltis today at various auctions held offline and online, most of them from Germany and Canada.
  • Iltis was available in 1.7l petrol and 1.6l diesel variants that were easy to repair. However, the parts are not easily available these days, and one has to rely on limited sources that are often expensive. 

Although Iltis is not a very attractive vehicle, it was a powerful machine of its time that served several armies worldwide. The limited production of Iltis makes it a vintage classic that is rare to find nowadays.

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