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The 1971-2000 Pinzgauer - Backward Glances

Posted in Features on April 17, 2015
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In 1959, Steyer-Daimler-Puch (SDP) had introduced the 700-series Haflinger, a very compact, but highly capable, light 4x4 named after the famed compact Alpine mountain horse. By the mid ’60s, SDP realized the concept needed an upgrade. In 1965, SDP began the development of a larger 4x4 that was to become the 710 series, also soon to be developed into a 6x6 platform. These rigs would be produced in large numbers from 1971-1987 for both civilian and military markets. Revised models with VW turbo diesel engines and a wider stance were built from 1988 to 2000, but production ended in Austria when Steyer-Daimler-Puch moved on to more modern and marketable machinery. An English company got a license to build them and did so into 2008.

Like its little brother the Haflinger, the new 710 model was named after a mountain horse, the Pinzgauer-Noriker. This 15th-century horse breed was a mix of an ancient Roman draft horse and the Spanish Andalusian that resulted in a strong, sure-footed work animal but also a compact one. In the SDP Pinzgauer, “Pinzie” to its friends, the goal was to develop a durable and capable 1-ton platform well suited to use on narrow tracks in the mountainous terrain of the European Alps. It was primarily a military rig, but civilian use was also envisioned. The first production units appeared in 1971 and became an instant hit with European military and police forces. Their compact size, reliability, spirited performance, and operating economy made them suitable for many roles, not all of them hardcore trail running.

There are a few basic configurations for the Pinzgauer, the M (shown) and the K. The M is a soft-top cargo/personnel rig and the K uses a hard-top-van-type body. The 710M can seat up to 10 troops longitudinally in the back. The side compartments contain the batteries (a 24V NATO system is used) and storage.

The Pinzie is very much a different animal than what most Americans are used to seeing. It’s a forward control, for one thing, and quite narrow—both are design features. The forward control allows high visibility and maximizes cargo space in a short chassis. The narrow aspect is purely so that it can fit in narrow spaces, such as a shelf road in the Alps. Yeah, narrowness does lead to “tippiness,” but that is countered by another design feature: a heavy, cast “backbone” that mounts and contains the powertrain, keeping the center of gravity on the down-low.

There are two common versions of the ’71-’87 Pinzgauer: the 710M 4x4 and the 712M 6x6. Both are very similar, but the 712 has the extra driving axle and “walking beam”-style leaf springs rather than coils. The 712 can carry nearly an extra 1,000 pounds (3,300 versus 2,400-pound payload). It moves that extra payload with the same engine, but the 712 has lower transfer case ratios, both in high and low range. Some of the last 712s had a somewhat larger and more powerful 2.7L engine, versus the 2.5L in the earlier units.

Not many 4x4s can claim as many unique engine features as the Pinzie 2.5L, and the twin Solex 36-NDIX two-barrel carbs being just one. These carbs were often found on some of the earliest VW air-cooled two-barrel conversions back in the ’70s. This engine was developed by Puch in the ’60s and was a five main aluminum unit that cranked out 92 hp from the modest displacement and at a fairly low rpm. Peak torque was at 2,000 rpm, and while this powerplant does prefer some “Rs” to operate, it isn’t really “peaky” in the traditional sense and has a broad torque band. The engine fan is large enough to be a helicopter tail rotor, so overheating isn’t an issue.

The Pinzie used a front-mounted 2.5L four-cylinder air-cooled engine that made 92 hp and 133 lb-ft with two Solex NDIX two-barrel carburetors and a very well designed exhaust system. A five-speed ZF manual transmission was mounted behind, featuring a deep 5.33:1 First gear and very close ratios between Second and Fifth (which was 1:1, not overdrive). The engine is a little offset and a short driveshaft feeds into the two-speed transfer case just forward of the rear axle.

The diffs and the driveshaft to the front axle are all enclosed in cast aluminum alloy housings that, along with the transfer case, form a backbone. There is also a chassis above that supports the body structure. The suspension is a swing-axle style, with portal units at the ends. The ratio in the diffs is 2.84:1, and the reduction in the portals is another 2.26:1, for 6.42:1 total. The diffs are mechanically locked at both ends via hydraulic cylinders. If you saw a Pinzie stripped down, you would both marvel and be made nervous at the complexity of the design. As with many German machines, “overly complex” is a common phrase used to describe them, but the Pinzgauer design works and was proven reliable in decades of service. Easy to work on could not be described as an attribute, but owners counter by citing there is little need for major work.

The underside shot of a 710M shows the centralized cast backbone that encloses most of the drivetrain and provides a very rigid platform for the chassis. The engine is offset slightly to the right and the transmission feeds into the transfer case (just forward of the rear diff housing) on the right side. Dual rear coil springs are used, and downtravel of the swing axles is limited.

These Pinzies were shot many years ago at one of the Rocky Mountain Pinzgauer’s “Treffen” events in Colorado and Moab, Utah. You can see that group is one that isn’t afraid to work their trucks. At the time, Pinzies were a fairly new phenomenon, the oldest just then being old enough to get past the 25-year age limit for importing non-EPA-rated vehicles. They are a much larger presence now, and you are much more likely to run into some at the popular wheeling spots around the country. Prices are still reasonable for imported surplus units, spare parts are relatively easy to obtain, and there is more-than-adequate collector support in this country.

The pilot station is pretty well thought out and relatively comfortable. There’s no power steering, but it isn’t often needed. The three levers in the foreground are the transfer case and locker controls. The green lever on the left engages four-wheel high. A red knob just beyond it is the low-range control. The two yellow levers engage the front and rear diffs. The high range and diff locks are hydraulic, and the master cylinder is just visible behind the dash.

The Details
Vehicle: Pinzgauer 710/712
Engine: 2.5L four-cylinder air-cooled, Puch
Power (hp): 92 @ 4,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 132 @ 2,000 rpm
Bore & stroke (in): 3.62 x 3.70
Comp. ratio: 8.0:1 (7.5:1 optional @ 87hp)
Transmission: 5-spd ZF
Transfer case: 2-spd, low-range 1.69:1
Front axle: swing, portal type
Rear axle: swing, portal type
Axle ratio: 2.846:1 in diff, 2.266 in hub, 6.43:1 overall
Tires: 245-16C
L x W x H (in): 164 x 68 x 81/192 x 68 x 81
Wheelbase (in): 86.6/79
GVW (lbs): 6,800/8,500
Curb weight (lbs): 4,300/5,200
Fuel capacity (gal): 20
Min. grd. clearance (in): 14.6
Approach angle (deg): 45
Departure angle (deg): 45
Ramp breakover (deg): 152

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