If I Need to be Rescued, Let It Be by This Incredible Pinzgauer
Hoo boy, today’s Overlandia subject just might be the coolest all-purpose vehicle since the ’77 Buick Regal I owned as a 16-year-old that I (unsafely) fitted with all-terrain tires when my auto shop teacher wasn’t watching and wheeled through some surprising terrain on the way home from school. But you don’t want to read about that. You want to read about this incredible Pinzgauer.
It’s a 1972 Pinzgauer 710M and the owner, Branden Powell, actually uses it for legit off-road tough duty. He’s turned the thing into a rescue vehicle he operates as a member of King County, Washington’s Search and Rescue team, a nonprofit group that is staffed entirely by volunteers. How cool is that?
This truck is a first-gen Pinzgauer, built in Graz, Austria (“Pinzgauer” is the name of a breed of a horse), by Steyr-Daimler-Puch—the same factory that produces the legendary Mercedes G-Wagon. The Pinzgauer model bounced around with production in different locations under different ownership groups before the line was shuttered in 2007.
The “SARPinz” as Powell calls it, is powered by 2.7-liter motor that cranks out only 130 horses, but the vehicle is geared to crawl so the lack of power doesn’t much matter. It’s a 4×4 (clearly) and, like the Unimog, it uses a unique “portal” axle system, with the axles sitting well above the wheels, adding a huge amount of ground clearance. The Pinzgauer will climb anything and get the driver anywhere they could ever want to go. It’ll also hold up to 10 passengers.
Powell’s workhorse was owned and operated by the Swiss Army for many years. When the Swiss decided (foolishly) to retire the Pinzgauer, Powell was able to arrange to pick it up in San Diego and truck it north to his garage to begin kitting the monster out. (You can follow his build narrative here).
The rig is used in rescue missions in downtown Seattle, as well as high in the snowy Cascades, depending on need. Powell points out that there are a whole lot of city folk who venture up to the high country without really knowing how to get themselves out of trouble, so he’s not short of work.
He also uses the vehicle for exploration and general overlanding, and he took home the award for Overland Expo West’s “Cool Ride” in 2017.
No idea what he paid for it, or where you could get your hands on one, but you’d be second in line behind me anyway.