Johann Puch was born in 1862 in Sakuschak (at that time belonging to the Austrian county Untersteiermark). He grows into a time of increased innovations. With an apprenticeship as a locksmith and some years of travelling and enough operational experience also gained from the military, he founds a manufacturing plant for bicycles in 1890. Already this first companie`s name 'Styria' contains a reference to the county Steiermark. This becomes a characteristic trait for the second company foundation under Puchs own name. Like Daimler and Benz, he leaves his first company behind relatively early.
The second company is founded in 1897 and, besides building bycicles, they start producing motor vehicles in 1903.Their first automobile is developed in 1906. From the end of the First World War until 1934 Hans Ledwinka is responsibly for Steyr`s engineering department. Since 1905 he was chief engineer for the 'Tatra' company and will be again after his engagement with Steyr up to the Second World War. Presumably his successor Ferdinand Porsche benefits from Ledwinka`s developments. A turbulent and economically uncertain time of fusions follows, first with Austro Daimler in 1935 and then with Puch.
After the Second World War the company gets concession to built Fiat cars until the son Erich Ledwinka starts development of an own engine. In the end, this has nothing in common with the standard Fiat engine but with that of the Citroen 2CV with it`s two opposite, air-cooled cylinders and the four- stroke principle. In 1957 it is attached to the body of Fiat 500.
After the road tests of the Puch 500 clear improvements emerge compared to Fiat 500. Those who deal with two-cylinder four-stroke engines might know the substantial difference in mass offset and quietness. Also the cooling system is clearly improved: the air meets the cylinder on top (Citroen: from the front) and leaves at the bottom. By no means standard at the time is the cartridge oil filter. Combined with an engine oil cooler in the blower`s airflow, the engine is well prepared for later tuning measures. Unlike the Fiat, the heating does not lead the probably oily cooling air into the interior. Instead it is fresh air warmed up by heat exchangers mounted to the exhaust pipe (two of them lateron). In place of a starter with bowden cable (without solenoid) the Puch carries the low-noise Dynastarter.
In spite of all this, what`s it that improves the small Fiat`s sales chances ? The reason is that the Austrians take over only very few Fiat parts, except for the car body. The axles, the almost fully synchronised gearbox, the brake assembly with aluminium drums and the electrical system - all is self-made. Moreover, due to the license agreement export is allowed to a few countries only. Germany is one of them of course, but not Italy.
A new generation of car models occurs in 1959 and the less space required for the opposed cylinder engine is added to the interior. Crank windows in both doors provide for sensation. From 1962 the cubic capacity grows to 650 cm ³ and the performance to 14.6 kW (nearly 20 HP), later even to 20 kW (27 HP). The engine has long proved its efficiency which is impressively confirmed in racing events, e.g., by victory in its class at the Rallye Monte Carlo 1965/66. Puch engines are still to be seen later in 500 F`s as from 1966 and very sporadically in Fiat 126.
Being the first car completely designed and developed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch after WW II, the Haflinger appears in 1959, constructed by Hans Ledwinka. Named after his ideals, the workhorses of the same name, that 4-wheel-driven, lightweight cross-country vehicle will do their honour. Initiator for such a vehicle often are the military who, for guarantee of supply and support of the own economy, rather give the respective contract to home country companies. The Haflinger carries the Puch two-cylinder engine in the rear. By a central pipe this engine drives two screw-sprung pendulum axles, the front one of which must be tractable of course. A sensational weight of just 600 kg arises from lack of a real roof. Differentials in front and rear, switchable while driving, complement the already almost extreme off-road suitability. Steep path performance, ramp angle and angle of driving slope as well as the possible slant are unequalled till this day. Such performances require a special carburettor. With the low maximum speed, the gearbox can be switched to walking pace. It is not quiet nor fast, but a workinghorse respected in the whole world.