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Six wheels turn­ing: 1977 Steyr-daim­ler-puch Pinzgauer 712K

EV­ERY MIL­I­TARY EN­TITY HAS ITS OWN UNIQUE bat­tle­field to fight upon. The core task is to pro­tect the home­land. Coun­tries in Europe have very home­land-ori­ented bat­tle plans, and their ve­hi­cles are de­signed and built with that mis­sion in mind. In a coun­try like Austria, which is dom­i­nated by the Alps moun­tain range, a ma­jor por­tion of the bat­tle plan in­volves moun­tain fight­ing and re­sults in equip­ment many find unique.

The Alps run roughly 750 miles west to east across eight coun­tries: Ger­many, France, Switzer­land, Austria, Italy, Slove­nia, Monaco, and Liecht­en­stein. The high­est peak is 15,781 feet, so this range of moun­tains gives the Rockies a good run for their money! The Alps are steep, rocky, and jagged, mak­ing road­build­ing a chore. Many roads are nar­row, tight, and densely forested, so from the mil­i­tary stand­point, the ve­hi­cle needs to match the ter­rain. En­ter Steyr­daim­ler-puch.

When Europe had re­cov­ered from World War II enough that it could be­gin to take over its own de­fense, and share the de­fense of Europe in the NATO or­ga­ni­za­tion, each coun­try be­gan de­vel­op­ing their own mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy. Austria, long a high-tech coun­try, had a home­grown au­tomaker in Graz—steyr-daim­ler-puch. The com­pany be­gan in 1934 with the merger of Steyr-werke and Aus­tro-daim­ler­puch, and from then built every­thing from mo­tor­cy­cles to heavy trucks, and a lot in be­tween. In 1987, the com­pany be­gan break­ing it­self up into smaller, more spe­cial­ized com­pa­nies.

In 1959, Steyr-daim­ler-puch de­buted the tiny 700 Se­ries Haflinger, which was smaller even than a Jeep. The Haflinger, named af­ter a com­pact moun­tain horse, was a fine ma­chine in its own right, but per­haps a bit too small. It was pop­u­lar and sold in both mil­i­tary and civil­ian vari­ants in many places around the world. Al­most im­me­di­ately, the com­pany re­al­ized a need for a larger unit. In 1965, Steyr-daim­ler-puch be­gan de­vel­op­ing a larger ve­hi­cle along the same gen­eral lines—a com­pact for­ward con­trol with high mo­bil­ity.

In 1971, the 710 se­ries Pinzgauer de­buted. Pinzgauer is an­other Alps moun­tain horse. It’s also a breed of moun­tain cow, but Pinzgauer own­ers would rather not have you know that! The “Pinzie” was every­thing the Haflinger was, just a lit­tle more “Three Bears” the right size. The model 710 4x4 and the 712 6x6 were the first-gen­er­a­tion Pinz­gauers and came in a va­ri­ety of con­fig­u­ra­tions. The 710 was rated as

a 1-ton and the 712 as a 1.5-ton. The two ba­sic di­vi­sions in each line are the “M” (e.g., 712M), which is a soft top unit, or the “K,” which is a fully en­closed five-door sta­tion wagon. The DK four-door crew cab, AMB am­bu­lance, W work­shop, and FW fire truck were also built on the 712 chas­sis.

The 712 uses a cen­tral tube chas­sis into which much of the pow­er­train is con­tained. The 2.5L air-cooled four mounts up front and is off­set to the driver side of the cen­tral tube with a five-speed ZF trans­mis­sion be­hind it. The drive­shafts are en­closed within the cen­tral tube, to which the in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­en­tial hous­ings are at­tached. The sus­pen­sion is in­de­pen­dent, us­ing a swing-axle ar­range­ment with por­tal axles on the end. All three axles have hy­draulic lock­ers. The 710 4x4 Pinzie has coil springs all around, but the 6x6 uses a leaf spring setup in back.

The first-gen­er­a­tion 710 se­ries units were built up to 1985, when a se­ries of

up­grades were made, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of diesel en­gines. Ap­prox­i­mately 18,350 first-gen units were built, most of them sold to mil­i­tary cus­tomers around the world. The sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Pinzgauer 716 (4x4) and 718 (6x6) were en­larged and up­dated in many ways. In 2000, Steyr-daim­ler-puch was sold to Au­to­mo­tive Tech­nik in the UK and was even­tu­ally ab­sorbed into BAE Sys­tems. By 2008, de­mand had about dried up and Pinz­gauers went out of pro­duc­tion. A Pinzgauer II has been de­vel­oped by BAE, but only as a much larger 6x6, and it hasn’t made much head­way in a mar­ket dom­i­nated by mine- and Ied­pro­tected ve­hi­cles.

The late 1990s marked the be­gin­ning of an in­flux of Euro­pean sur­plus Pinz­gauers to the United States. To im­port stuff like this and be DOT le­gal for road use, they must be 25 years old or older. Most Pinzies come to the U.S. in great con­di­tion, well main­tained and with low miles.


->Ken Kline’s ’77 712K was built as a com­mand and ra­dio ve­hi­cle for the Aus­trian Army. It’s only been out of mil­i­tary ser­vice for four years and he’s owned it for the last two. It’s a five-door, with a full-metal body.

->At 5,200 pounds gross, the 712K de­liv­ers a sur­pris­ingly low 12.5 mpg but a rated top speed of 62 mph. It’s rated to tow 11,000 pounds on-road and 3,300 pounds off-road. It’s nar­row to fit on nar­row Euro­pean roads and with the skinny tires; they tend to­ward the tippy side, but are not nearly as tippy as they look. <-<|The dash is busy and the Pinzie re­quires a lot of driver in­put. It’s com­fort­able, as mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles go, but has a min­i­mal heater. A gas heater can be fit­ted. The lock­ers (yel­low levers) are hy­drauli­cally ac­tu­ated. The green lever en­gages the front axle, with the lever just to the right of the gearshift en­gag­ing low range. One yel­low lever en­gages the front locker and the other both rear lock­ers si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

|>A cool fea­ture of the K mod­els is the hatch on the pas­sen­ger-side front. While a sol­dier could prob­a­bly fire his per­sonal weapon from there, it doesn’t look as if there were weapons mounts up there. More than likely, it’s just an ob­ser­va­tion point.<-The Puch en­gine is a sweet­heart! It uses dual Solex 36-NDIX two-bar­rel carbs. Th­ese carbs were of­ten found on some of the ear­li­est VW air-cooled two-bar­rel con­ver­sions back in the ’70s. It’s a five­bolt-main alu­minum unit that cranks out 87 hp with peak torque at 2,000 rpm. You need to rev it to get the full suds out of it, but it doesn’t feel too “peaky.” For its dis­place­ment, it has a broad torque band. To­ward the end of first-gen pro­duc­tion, a larger 2.7L fuel-in­jected en­gine was in­tro­duced mak­ing 102 hp.

<-|>In­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion all around was a Euro trade­mark. The axle­hous­ings are all mounted to a cen­ter tube that houses the drive­shaft and pro­vides a back­bone. At the back, it’s at­tached to the main tow­ing pin­tle. A type of swing axle is used, with por­tals on the end. The diffs have a 2.85:1 ra­tio while the ports are 2.27:1 for 6.47:1. T-case low range is 1.69:1 and the trans­mis­sion has a 5.33:1 First gear ra­tio. Crawl ra­tio is al­most 60:1. Hy­drauli­cally ac­tu­ated me­chan­i­cal lock­ers pro­vide true six-wheel trac­tion. Note how the front tow­ing point is at­tached to the cen­tral tube and forms a very heavy skid/pro­tec­tor for the steer­ing.

|>The 712K seats up to seven, two up front and five in back. Two in the back are in some pretty grim jump seats. There is more space for stor­age be­hind the seats.

|>The 712K has stor­age out the wa­zoo, in­clud­ing this fuel can stor­age area that holds three 5-gal­lon cans. There are two more can racks on the back, of­fer­ing one com­plete fuel tank re­fill.

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