Waiblingen, 5/3/2019 | Company press release

STIHL Contra: The legendary chainsaw turns 60

“Making it easier for people to work in and with nature” – that was the vision that engineer Andreas Stihl had when he set up his company in 1926. The mission of making work easier, with safety and flexible use, continues to drive the chainsaw and power tools manufacturer STIHL to this day. One product that successfully conveyed the company founder’s vision to the world from 1959 onwards was the STIHL Contra, which hit the market 30 years after the first STIHL two-man gasoline-powered chainsaw. The first gearless STIHL one-man chainsaw marked a real milestone – both for forestry work and for the company. In 2019 the “legendary Contra”, which is still a favorite of collectors and chainsaw owners to this day, celebrates its 60th birthday.

200 percent more productivity: STIHL revolutionized forestry work in 1959

In 1959, Andreas Stihl achieved a technological masterpiece with the Contra: The gearless one-man gasoline chainsaw made forestry work much easier. Equipped with a chipper-tooth chain and a diaphragm carburetor capable of working in any orientation, the chainsaw could be swiveled freely in any position with no need for manual adjustment in advance. Thanks to compact and streamlined design, the Contra weighed just 12 kilograms. At the same time, it was more efficient than its predecessor: Engine performance was 6 hp (4.4 kW); the speed at which the Contra delivered maximum performance was 7,000 revolutions per minute. As a result, it was lighter and more efficient than any other product on the market. Forestry companies were able to increase productivity by 200 percent. The Contra made it possible for STIHL to revolutionize the world of forestry in 1959 and set new standards in the field of chainsaws. 

The beginning of a success story

After its official launch, it did not take long for the Contra to become widely known as the one-man gasoline-powered chainsaw with the highest cutting performance. Its triumphant start on the German market would soon translate to global success. The success of the Contra marked a new era for STIHL, as the company achieved double-digit revenue growth with the gasoline chainsaw. The course was set for breakthrough and expansion, as rapid growth made it both possible and necessary to increase the company’s capacities. In the years that followed, STIHL would build new production facilities and an additional new plant in Waiblingen. Over the next 10 years the company’s workforce grew from roughly 640 employees in the year 1959 to more than 1,500 in 1969. STIHL has been the world’s top-selling chainsaw brand since 1971. 

Basis for countless innovations in chainsaw technology

Building on the technical foundation laid by the Contra, STIHL has worked constantly in the years since to further improve the safety, ergonomics, environmental friendliness and performance of its chainsaws. From the anti-vibration system first installed in the Contra in 1965, through the QuickStop chain brake, catalytic converters and emissions-reducing technologies to the launch of battery technology for chainsaws 10 years ago, STIHL has been constantly raising the bar. The latest milestone is STIHL injection technology, which is featured in the STIHL MS 500i gasoline-powered chainsaw. This is the world’s first mass-produced chainsaw to feature electronic fuel injection. An overview of important technological developments in chainsaws can be found in the “Progress” section of the STIHL Annual Report 2018.

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