Despite America’s obsession with size, the Steyr-Puch Haflinger may be convincing evidence that smaller is sometimes better. The Haflinger was a compact Austrian 4x4 built from 1959 to 1974 and named after an Austrian workhorse known for its climbing power and surefootedness. Both are legendary for packing a lot of strength into a small package. Though the Haflinger was imported to North America in small numbers, and even graced the pages of Four Wheeler back in the ’60s, this hefty half-pint is not well known here.
Steyr was already a respected European carmaker when it merged with Austro-Daimler-Puch in 1934. Steyr-Daimler-Puch, now better known as simply Steyr-Puch, then cut its teeth on four-wheel drive in World War II, building a large number of vehicle types, large and small, as well as small arms and aircraft engines. After WWII, Steyr-Puch went back to building cars but also went heavily commercial with trucks, buses, and diesel engines. As is the back story with many 4x4s, military needs motivated the development of a new Steyr-Puch vehicle destined for the Austrian Army.
What emerged in 1958 was the 600AP prototype; a very compact 4x4 designed to replace the WWII-era jeeps being used by the Austrian Army. Like its equine namesake, it was designed for use in mountains. It was small enough to drive on narrow paths in the mountains of Austria, yet it could carry a heavy load for its size, more than a half-ton. The 600AP was unique in that, instead of a conventional chassis to which a powertrain is attached, the powertrain was encased in lightweight castings, connected front-to-rear by a central tube and the drivetrain became the primary structural member. A lightweight frame was built atop that for passengers and cargo. A forward control seating position left lots of cargo space.
The brains behind the Haflinger was Hans Ludwinka, 1904-1992, who pioneered the central tube design and also designed the engine used in the Haflinger. The engine, a two-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled unit, was taken from the Puch 500 compact car, which used a 500cc version. Ludwinka enlarged it to 643cc (39.2 ci) and gave it a 21.7hp at 4,500 rpm output in the first models.
The Halflinger used independent coil spring suspension front and rear in a swing axle format with about 10 inches of total travel at each axle. Portal-style axles were used, which contained additional gear reduction. The amount of reduction at the hub was optional. Ring-and-pinion ratios were 4.22:1 over the entire life of the Haflinger but the early models had four hub ratio options, 2.38:1, 2.54:1, 2.71:1, and 3.0:1. Later models spread the range a bit and narrowed the choices to two, 2.21:1 and 3.55:1. Manually engaged diff locks were standard front and rear. Early models used a four-speed gearbox but from 1961, a five-speed was offered, the main difference being a 6.83:1 “Krawler” First gear was added. The other ratios remained the same and top gear was a 0.71:1 overdrive.
The basic design was approved for production and the first of 100 early production 700AP models were delivered to the Austrian Army in 1960. Soon after, they were offered to the civilian world as the 700AP or the 700LP. AP designated four-wheel drive and LP two-wheel drive. The 700LP was a lighter-duty version with rear drive only but it had a small pickup cab. Shortly after this, the Polycab option was developed, which was a fiberglass cab that could be installed on any 700AP chassis and the 700LP was discontinued. Starting in 1962, the Haflinger was offered in two wheelbases, the original 59-inch and a “long” 71-incher called the 703AP
The Haflinger soon spread across the globe, with civilian dealers established just about everywhere; Steyr-Puch claimed 110 countries. Besides Austria, other militaries purchased Haflingers, including Australia, Britain, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Switzerland. It became popular as a commercial vehicle and was useful on the narrow streets of European cities as snowplows, street sweepers, ambulances and so on. It remained a steady seller all the way to its 1974 demise. Some 16,647 were built from 1959 to 1974, with about 7,000 of those sold into military service. The Halflinger was discontinued not from lack of usefulness but from increasingly stringent regulations for lighting, seating, and emissions. Steyr-Puch had a larger replacement in the wings, the 710M Pinzgauer, which was also a Ludwinka-designed 4x4, and began production in 1971.
Development of the Haflinger, affectionately known as the “Haf” or “Hafi,” can be divided into several eras, the ’59-’61 so-called “Pre-Series” units, the ’62-’66 Series 1, and the ’67-’74 Series 2. Each division marked a further development, but the changes were generally small. The Haflinger changed very little over its 15-year lifespan.
As mentioned earlier, there are U.S. and Four Wheeler connections with the Haflinger. Four Wheeler tested a Polycab Haf in the August ’63 issue and found it odd but likable and very capable. It was pronounced unsuitable for street use in America due to its very low 45 mph top speed. The Halflinger was sold here in small numbers almost from the start, but it was a special model. At that time, the DOT required 7-inch sealed beam headlights and the only way Steyr-Puch could manage that was with a special eyebrow arrangement that has resulted in these models being nicknamed “Bugeyes.” Later North American models also had side marker lights. Distributors were located in Texas, California, Florida, and other places. By 1971, the U.S. version was called the Pathfinder and it wore a nameplate so marked. North American Haflingers are quite rare, but the total number imported is not readily found.
Vehicle: 1971 Steyr-Puch 700AP Haflinger
Owner: Alan Wise
Estimated value: $15,000
Engine: 39.2 ci, 2-cyl opposed, air-cooled
Power (hp): 28.5 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 30.7 @ 3,500 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.15 x 2.52
Comp. ratio: 7.8:1
Transmission: 5-spd transaxle
Axle ratios: 4.22:1 + 2.21:1 reduction= 6.43:1 final drive
Wheelbase (in): 59
L x W x H (in): 112 x 55 x 69
Passenger capacity: 4
Fuel capacity (gal): 8.3 (provision for 5-gallon jerrycan)
Min. grd. clearance (in): 10.3
Approach angle (deg): 32
Departure angle (deg.): 27
Fording depth (in): 14
Curb weight (lbs): 1,420
GVW (lbs): 2,640
Top speed (mph): 44
Fuel economy (mpg): 36