A friend of TDC’s named Dave drives what is very likely the coolest vehicle in Southern New Hampshire. You could call it a truck, but take one look at it and you realize that this is no truck. It’s certainly not a car, and definitely not an SUV; it essentially defies description.
When you watch these YouTube videos Here, Here, and Here, you’ll see that it’s capabilities off the road defy description as well. Off-road vehicles come in a range of forms, styles, and functions. Some people think of lifted Jeeps, some think of the different variants of the HUMVEE, while others see custom built rock crawling monsters. Few people, however, think of what might be the most capable off-road going machine ever created. It’s called the Pinzgauer and it was originally built by Steyr-Puch of Graz, Austria in the 1970′s for the Swiss military.
Rights to the Pinzgauer line have changed hands several times and is currently owned by BAE Systems. Take one look at the interior of the Pinzgauer and it leaves a single lasting impression: Spartan utility. Creature comforts are a foreign concept to this off-road beast. But, what it lacks in luxuries it makes up for in incredible engineering, ease of repair, and almost every off-road toy you can think of: four-wheel-drive (there is also a six-wheeled, six-wheel-drive variant called the 712), fully waterproof engine, portal axles, independent suspension, and an entire parts bin of other all-terrain goodies.
If you like big tires, single minded engineering, and badass off-road prowess, this is the vehicle for you. Dave was kind enough to provide some background on his Pinzgauer (photographed here) in an email interview, and also answered some questions on what makes this machine so incredible.
An little background information on you: Where you’re from, what you do for work, your family, what your car/vehicle passions are.
Grew up in southern New Hampshire, and after graduating from one of the local high schools, I’ve spent my entire career working in the high tech, networking field. I was never a computer geek in [high school], but apparently that was my destiny for work… My free time gets divided up by much more pleasant things like a loving wife who not only accepts my weirdness, she actually promotes it and absolutely LOVES the Pinz… We also have a love for big goofy Great Danes and currently have two. We’re actually quite shy, which is rather odd because… if you pull up to an ice cream stand in a Pinzgauer and roll out of it with two Great Danes, chances are good that people will notice! We don’t mind at all though as we’ve met some really great folks and shared lots of stories. Monstrous dogs and weird trucks are conversation starters.
How did you end up deciding on the Pinzgauer? With all the off road and unique vehicles out there, what made you choose this one? What is the intent of owning this vehicle?
I’ve always been geared towards being prepared for whatever… That could mean a long road trip, a weekend camping hiking, snow storms, etc. I’ve also always been fascinated by all things military so that meant that most of the vehicles I was looking at were probably going to be ex-military type trucks. My first target was for one of the M35 Deuce and a Half type trucks but quickly learned that even with major modifications such as bobbing them, they still fell short on off-road type trails… Kept looking and started to research Mercedes Unimogs as they were highly capable. I like the styling and the capabilities and after talking to a few folks, a pattern of extensive maintenance began to become apparent. Folks talked about going for a day-long ride on a weekend and basically spending an hour… doing all the tasks required for a long day. This didn’t sound very pleasant as I wanted to have a vehicle that may require maintenance but not every day. It didn’t take long to see that [Pinzgauers] were smaller yet exceptionally capable and could handle anything that I could probably throw at them as well as being easy on the street… One of the guys in Southern California (that’s where many of these land in the U.S.) called me back and told me about a smaller four-wheel version called a 710K that was owned by a Hollywood producer (Mark Koch who produced the Lost in Space movie.) I was very interested and requested more details. Not long after, the phones were abuzz with quotes from car transport companies willing and more importantly able to transport an almost nine-foot truck across the country. Few more calls, few more faxes and the paperwork was complete. My new Pinz was on its way from Ramona, California to New Hampshire.
What is special about the particular Pinz that you bought? What is it’s back story?
It was found via eBay/Craigslist at a small used car dealership in Southern California. The previous owner had gone to great lengths to refurb it and took on a monumental task of working with the factory in Graz, Austria. I can’t even imagine how much coordination/time and money it took in order to send this vehicle half way across to the world to its factory, complete all the work and get it back into the U.S. To the best of my knowledge this is the only documented case of a Pinzgauer from North America going back to Austria for work. Part of this process included what I would consider some very nice creature comforts such as sound insulation, custom rear windows… and new seats. Although the price was higher than most others that were available, the work which had already been done and the overall condition was well worth it.
What do you like best about it? Least about it?
Overall, I’m continually impressed by the engineering that went into this vehicle, especially given its age and intended use… I’ve heard that when Steyr wanted to create a high mobility military transport they gave the engineers free reign to design whatever they wanted with no cost limits. I’m pretty sure they would be proud that a vehicle they designed in the early 70’s could match anything created today, 40 years later. Although the design aspects may be utilitarian or minimalist in many cases, by design you also quickly realize that it all works perfectly/predictably. There is nothing on a Pinzgauer which does not have a purpose or reason for being… Another favorite is that regardless of demographic, because it seems to cross all, the Pinz makes people smile. Reactions from every age group range from open gasp, sideways looks, triple takes, thumbs up, fist pump and the always appreciated Heavy Metal Rock Horns (those are my favorite.) Never would I guess that while sitting at a stop light, I would look over into the car next to me with four 85+ year old ladies and get a “thumbs up,” or a 20-something with the rock horns. As a former long hair myself, right back at ya!
If I had a complaint about the Pinz, it’s purely aesthetic and that would be the current color. It looks like a giant box of Twinkies and [painting it is] one of those projects which hasn’t been a priority but it will eventually have a new look and color.
What upgrades do you have planned?
Eventually I’d like to find a European style camouflage design for paint and there are a few other functional modification that are in the works. Full roof rack to store camping or off-roading gear. A matching trailer with the same tires and rims that are on the Pinz currently. When fully outfitted, the vehicle/trailer combo will have an approximate range of 1,000 miles with onboard fuel. The rims/tires have been a challenge given the uniqueness of the Pinzgauer bolt pattern, nothing else in the world has the same pattern so everything has to be custom machined in order to fit.
Some of the most common questions you receive:
“What is it?” By far the most often asked question.
“Does in float?” Only for a second until it sinks. On a serious note, it’s got about a 30” fording depth.
“Where did you find it?” Many are surprised by eBay.
“Why?” Zombies… (with as straight a face as possible.)
“Must be tough to get parts?” Surprisingly no, there are quite a few shops in the United States that specialize in them and I’ve yet to find a part that is not available.
“Top speed?” 65 mph, however, it’s happier at 55 mph. With only 89 hp, merging on a highway was not in its design specs.
“Is it 4×4?” Yes, and then some. Portal Axels, split transfer case with five gears in high and five in low… the 4-wheel-drive system is engaged with a set of hydraulic controls on the dash with separate hydraulic lockers for the rear and front axels.
How would you use the Pinz to escape/keep your family safe in the event of a Zombie attack? What do you think is the Pinzgauer’s best Zombie Apocalypse feature?
My guess is the chunky Trax-Us Swampers would probably shed zombie innards without getting plugged up or loosing traction. No need to worry about losing a bead either because the rims are internally bead locked and each is rated at 4,500 lbs. The other nice feature is the Passenger side observation/gunners hatch… Why hop out onto ground level to engage a zombie hoard when you can spring out of the top, staying eight feet above the action.
WARNING: A Zombie Apocalypse is not a joke and is something to be taken seriously. The recommended escape vehicle escape in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse is the Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer (see article above for more information.) This mode of transport is capable of carrying up to eight human passengers in the highest degree of safety and mobility of any road going vehicle. Please be sure to arm yourself to fend of zombie attacks (shotguns and high-powered rifles are preferable) and, as always, be sure to shoot zombies in the head. For more detailed information, please see the book The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks for clear information on how to stay alive during the Zombie Apocalypse.