Car: Steyr-Puch Haflinger, 1959

Aspecific little vehicle intended for specific uses, the Haflinger was created with scant regard for passenger niceties and a total focus on off-road ability. Although many were built as pickups and military field cars, some came as open four-seaters, qualifying them as “automobiles.”

1959 Steyr-Puch Haflinger
With an optional rear seat, the four-wheel drive Haflinger—beloved of Alpine farmers—just about qualifies as a car.

The Haflinger was a tiny four-wheel drive contraption powered by Steyr’s flat-twin engine from an Austrian-made version of the Fiat Nuova 500. It was extremely trim— light enough to be lifted and carried by four people—yet could also carry a 0.5-ton payload, which endeared it greatly to Alpine hill farmers. Ingeniously simple, yet stark in appearance, in action it clattered its way up 50-degree slopes with gusto, and scattered mud as it bounced across soggy farmland. Several aspects aided its exceptional off-road ability. Front and rear differential locks kept it moving in the stickiest of terrain, while high-ground clearance was provided by swing axles back and front to keep the axle center higher than the wheel hubs. Similarities to pre-war Tatras were no accident: the Haflinger’s designer Erich Ledwinka was the son of Tatra engineer Hans Ledwinka.

1959 model of the car Steyr-Puch Haflinger
1959 model of the car Steyr-Puch Haflinger
1959 Steyr-Puch Haflinger
1959 Steyr-Puch Haflinger

It was largely unaltered between 1959 and the end of manufacture in 1974, when Steyr replaced it with a similar, but much larger vehicle: the Pinzgauer. As a staple in military fleets around the world, it’s still made today, albeit now by BAE Systems in the UK. Haflinger and Pinzgauer, incidentally are both breeds of horse.

“It retains a cult following among hairshirt hippies and hardcore Hebridean farmers alike. If only Frodo had had one, the Lord Of The Rings would have been a novella.”

Michael Booth, Independent on Sunday Newspaper, 2005

Video: model of the car Steyr-Puch Haflinger

Specification: model of the car Steyr-Puch Haflinger

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Graz, Austria
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: two-cylinder, 39ci (643cc)
LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving all four wheels
BODYWORK: door-less four-seater convertible/utility
TOP SPEED: 40mph (64kph)