My Vehicle: '72 Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer 710M
THE ORIGNAL HIGH-RIDER: Willem de Lange's 1972 Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer 710M.
Nadine Thomson - DriveOut
You won’t hear Willem de Lange bad-mouthing his indestructible Steyr-Puch Pinzgauer (apart from a mutter or two about how thirsty it is...).
He bought this first-generation Pinz because it was an early prototype of many legendary vehicles and says it’s not without reason that earlier versions of the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen were known as the Mercedes-Benz Puch.
According to Willem it will take you absolutely anywhere and it has surprising torque because the gearing is so low (“if you loaded a ton on the back to give it traction, you’d be able to plough with it”).
And it cruises easily at 80-90km/h, which is fast enough when you’re on holiday.
The vehicle weighs two tons but it’s geared to tow as much as five tons. “Remarkable!”
When people see the vehicle for the first time, their reaction is always the same:
First question: “What kind of a truck is this?”
Second question: “A what?”
Third question: “Did you build it yourself?”
Fourth question: “What engine does it have?”
Fifth question: “Can it float?”
People always expect a booming noise when it starts and then look a little disappointed when they have to listen closely to hear the engine idle. (The Pinz sounds almost like an idling Beetle but without the distinctive whistling.)
GO ANYWHERE: With approach and departure angles of 45 degrees, the Pinz takes even the deepest dongas in its stride.
What's the vehicle’s history? It was assembld by the Austrian firm Steyr-Daimler-Puch in Graz, Austria. (Nowadays, the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen is assembled in the same factory.) The Pinzgauer is the “big brother” of the well-known Steyr Puch Haflinger.
It's first owner was the Swiss Army and I know of at least two other owners before me. I bought it from a retired shipping engineer from Malgas who restored a few Haflingers before buying the Pinz.
Mechanically, the vehicle is 100% original.
What lurks under the bonnet? A 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, air-cooled Steyr-Puch petrol engine in a fixed tubular chassis and with a sealed drivetrain - that means the central driveshaft and differentials run inside a heavy metal tube that also serves as the vehicle’s chassis, on to which the bodywork is simply bolted.
I speak under correction but I think the engine was designed in collaboration with Porsche.
RED CROSS CAR: The Pinz's first owner was the Swiss Army - now nobody knows how many times its gone around the clock.
The vehicle was designed for off-roading: 35cm ground clearance; heavy-duty independent coil springs front and rear; limiting straps on all the wheels; portal axles; an approach and departure angle of 45°; hydraulic diff locks (front, middle and rear) that can be activated at any speed slower than 45km/h; a 9.5m turning circle and 90cm immersion depth.
On the odometer? The odometer only goes to 99 999km. Who knows how many times it’s clocked over.
What did it cost? R130 000.
Where have you been with it? All the places Cruisers and Patrols can’t go!
Your dream destination? We're planning a trip to Tanzania.
Repairs up to now? Absolutely nothing - only the regular maintenance.
Modifications? Once again, absolutely nothing. We only added jerry cans. The Pinz is in a class of its own and it doesn’t need any modifications to improve its off-road ability.
Breakdowns? Never – but, having said that, there isn’t really anything that can go wrong. Everything operates mechanically and there’s the minimum of electronics.
Where do you have it serviced? The mechanics are extremely simple because, as a military vehicle, it was designed to be easily serviceable in the field. I service it myself because it is really a toy.
Obviously I can’t do everything myself so I sometimes go to the guys who work on air-cooled engines (such as Beetles, older Porsche 911 and VW Kombi units) for help. The engine uses quite a few Porsche and Volkswagen components, which are of course cheaper than the original Steyr-Puch parts.
LATER: A WATER-COOLED DIESEL
However, it’s not a problem to get hold of original parts. For instance I recently replaced the clutch with original Sachs parts – the Swiss army phased out the Pinzgauer and has large quantities of surplus parts that it sells to the public through a middle man.
Later models came with a 2.5-litre, water-cooled, VW diesel engine – VW should be able to work on the diesels.
What do you like about it? It's simple and special (I only know of five in South Africa).
What don’t you like? It’s quite noisy on the road and you can’t lock it.
Would you tour through Africa in it? Of course! The problem is just to clear two months off my diary to make the trip.
If you could change anything? Nobody touches the Pinz! It already has veteran status and I’d like to keep it that way.
If it were somebody famous? Koos de la Rey – reliable, always willing, and it does its thing in its own special way.
With R10 000…? I’d buy petrol. The two Zenith carburettors are extremely thirsty (five to seven km/litre if I drive carefully).