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.”
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.
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
YEAR REVEALED: 1959
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Graz, Austria
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: two-cylinder, 39ci (643cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 28bhp
LAYOUT: rear-mounted engine driving all four wheels
BODYWORK: door-less four-seater convertible/utility
TOP SPEED: 40mph (64kph)
NUMBER BUILT: 16,647