There are some things of which it can truly be said “You don’t see one of those every day”, and the Haflinger is one of those things. Made by Steyr Daimler Puch of Austria the Haflinger is a small but serious “climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow…” type of vehicle. Captain Von Trapp, Maria and the children could have used one in that final scene of “The Sound of Music” where they cross the mountains to escape to Switzerland. No doubt the little Haflinger would qualify as one of their favorite things along with “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”
Many firearms fans reading this will instantly recognize the name Steyr as makers of the Steyr range of sporting rifles and the Steyr AUG military rifle. This is the same company that made the Haflinger, its larger sibling the Pinzgauer, and the original Mercedes G class four wheel drive vehicles. Steyr Daimler Puch also made railway locomotives and motorcycles.
Looking at the picture of the chassis above the observant will notice that this design bears a striking resemblance to the Volkswagen. It does and with good reason. It was designed by the son of the man who created the original concept of the Volkswagen – not Ferdinand Porsche – but fellow Austrian Hans Ledwinka. Hans Ledwinka created the original concept car for the Volkswagen whilst he was working for Czechoslovakian vehicle maker Tatra. The car he designed had a tubular backbone chassis and a rear mounted horizontally opposed four cylinder air cooled engine. This car was the prototype Tatra V570 and you’ll find its Wikipedia page if you click here.
Tatra management decided not to go ahead with manufacture of the Tatra V570 but Adolph Hitler saw the design and went to Ferdinand Porsche with a picture and said to him “This is the car I want for my people”. Dr. Porsche collaborated with Hans Ledwinka and created the “Volkswagen”, which was then known as the KDF Wagen. Because Hans Ledwinka was working for Tatra at the time the management at Tatra became understandably upset that Dr. Porsche had essentially adopted a design done by one of their designers and tried to sue Volkswagen. Hitler had a solution to the minor problem of the lawsuit however, he invaded Czechoslovakia and took over control of Tatra.
Hans Ledwinka was not directly involved in the design of the Haflinger however, but his son Erich Ledwinka used his father’s design ideas to create this new all purpose four wheel drive for the Austrian Army a few years after the end of the Second World War. Perhaps as a tribute to his Dad, but also perhaps because his Dad’s design was so good, Erich designed this new vehicle in the way his father would have done. And it worked. The Haflinger quickly established itself as a “go anywhere” vehicle that could go places Jeeps and Land Rovers simply couldn’t. If you got stuck the vehicle was sufficiently light that some human muscle power could get you out of trouble or, if you have enough length of some decently strong rope, you can make a series of “truckie’s knots” to create a pulley to pull the little Haflinger out of whatever miry place it was stuck in.
The Haflinger went into production in 1959 and remained in production until 1975. 16,647 of them were made and given their rugged construction a good number still survive in various conditions of repair or lack thereof as is typical for four wheel drive vehicles. It would be interesting to do a full inventory of Haflingers and compare their survival rate to Land Rovers, of which over two thirds are said to still be in current use.
The Haflinger is quite capable as a road car. It isn’t the sort of car in which you could do a “hot lap” on the local race track but Haflingers are normally licensed and driven on the road as well as off. One adventurous little Haflinger driven by its equally adventurous Austrian owner Ernst Wiese traveled from Vienna to the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula.
You’ll find Ernst Wiese’s book about the journey “10,000 Miles Through Arabia” on Amazon if you click here.
The nicely restored Haflinger in our photos is currently up for sale on eBay. This one is located in Australia, one of many that made their way “down under”. This one is located at Hunters Hill in suburban Sydney in the State of New South Wales, not far from the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
You’ll find the eBay sale page for this Haflinger if you click here.
So if you are a four wheel drive collector, or a deer hunter with extremely good taste in four wheel drives, this could be an ideal little bus for you.
Below is a Steyr video about the Haflinger. Its all in German but if, like me, you can’t “sprechen sie deutsch” then the film is still interesting and informative. On YouTube are quite a few videos of Haflinger owners demonstrating what fantastic little machines these are.
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Haflingers carrying us into the deer woods, these are a few of my favorite things”.
Details of the sale vehicle from the vendor:
Steyr Puch HAFLINGER 700APTL 1963 Restoration Project
- Ex- Tasmania Hydro-electric Haflinger, have details to re-create original HEC graphics and vehicle ID. One of 4 in HEC fleet use with helicopter to survey new dams
- Prior to restoration, body was in great rust-free condition. Before&after photos available.
- Complete professional repaint job, colour-matched to original, every attention to detail
- 95% of work done, now just final re-assembly phase.
- Rear axles mistakenly fitted wrong-way-round and need to be swapped
- Engine fully reconditioned and tested
- Gearbox fully rebuilt with new bearings, selectors, seals etc.
- New brakes all-round
- Will be the best example of its type once completed
- Everything that could be sourced new has been replaced, otherwise reconditioned
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.