BY TOM WHITE
The Austrian Puch company was founded in 1903 by Johann Puch as a manufacturer of bicycles. By 1952, the company was building motor scooters, and in 1957 started exporting the Puch 500 motorcycle to be sold under the name Allstate by Sears and Roebuck. In the early 1970s, California entrepreneur Ted Lapadakis became the importer for the all-new Puch 125/175cc machines that were purpose-built for motocross and enduro.
The Puchs were excellent motorcycles, even though the motocross models never became popular here. There were a couple of reasons: (1) Lapadakis was also the Sachs/DKW importer and Sachs/DKW’s popularity overshadowed Puch in motocross. (2) The Puch 125/175 motocross model came standard with a pickle-style silencer, heavily padded seat and a very beefy skid plate. It didn’t look very moto. (3) Puch’s private-labeled Sears Allstate motorcycles weren’t well-regarded in the racing world. (4) Puchs were considered to be excellent desert and ISDT bikes (and Puchs won many events, including the 1972 ISDT in Czechoslovakia).
In 1973, there were 125GS and 175GS five-speed motocrossers and five-speed 125 and 175 Enduro versions. Puch also made a small number of six-speed 125s. The suggested retail for the 1973 Puch 125GS was $850 and the 175GS was $910, though not on the top of vintage collector’s lists; they should be, as they are so cool. Collectors should make sure that their Puch has the huge pickle silencer, coffin-style fiberglass gas tank, naugahyde airbox/carb shroud, Betor forks and Girling rear shocks.
AMA Hall of Famer Lars Larsson recalls visiting the Puch factory in 1972 as a member of the United States International Six Days team. “When I got word from the Puch factory that I would be competing in the 1972 ISDT in Czechoslovakia on a Puch, the Puch officials asked me to visit the factory. They showed me a row of bikes, all specially set up for the ISDT, and pointed towards the best bike in the row and asked me to race that bike in the ISDT. This machine, a 175GS, was one of the best motorcycles that I had ever ridden and was perfect for all six days! I got a gold medal!”
Puch stars included Herbert Schmitz, Harry Everts and, late in his career, Joel Robert. In 1987 the Puch motorcycle company was sold to Piaggio, maker of the Vespa scooter. In Europe, products are still produced under the name “Puch.” In fact, Puch manufactured the original Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon.