The vehicle was originally developed in the late 1960s by Steyr-Daimler-Puch of Graz, Austria, and was named after the Pinzgauer, an Austrian breed of horse. The Pinzgauer is increasingly replacing the Land Rover Defender in the military utility vehicle role; despite its high cost of upwards of US$100,000 per unit. Pinzgauer (or Pinz as it is known to most British soldiers) is more common as a utility vehicle in Royal Artillery units due to its employment as a light gun tractor. A new armoured version called the "Vector" entered service in the British Army in early 2007, as part of an effort to provide safer patrol vehicles for troops in Afghanistan. The 6x6 Vector PPV (Protected Patrol Vehicle), will according to the manufacturer, "Build on the existing proven design, with enhancements that will include a combination of physical protection, as well as the use of sophisticated electronic counter measures to maximise survivability while on patrol". However, the Vector PPV was found to have unreliable suspension and wheel hubs as well as poor protection against improvised explosive devices. It quickly lost the confidence of field commanders and was withdrawn from service.
Yugoslavia has been the first generation Pinzgauer customer in huge numbers. Serbian forces added armor and successfully used these field modifications in Balkans conflicts.
Many Pinzgauers were sold to military forces (initially Austrian and Swiss to be used as non-tactical utility vehicles. Typical military roles are as general purpose utility truck, command vehicles, troop carrier, ambulance, and tow vehicle. Roles very similar to other civilian sourced CUCV vehicles like Land Rover in the UK, the Blazer CUCV in the US, and Geländewagen in many European countries.
The New Zealand Army has purchased 321 Pinzgauer vehicles in 8 variants to fulfill the Light Operational Vehicle (LOV) role.
The Malaysian Army purchased 168 2 Ton 4x4 716 Gun Tractors and 164 2 Ton 6x6 718 Mortar Transporters to replace older Volvo C303 and Volvo C304 in their inventories.
The Pinzgauer was also marketed to the civilian marketplace worldwide for use as campers, farm trucks, ambulances, fire-trucks, and rescue vehicles. Likewise, many ended up being used as tourist vans due to their large passenger capacity and stable, reliable platform. Pinzgauers have been used as tourist transports in Africa, Australia, South America, Hawaii, and other exotic locales. Some are still in use today. Pinzgauers were also marketed to- and used extensively by energy companies for oil exploration purposes. A few Pinzgauers were used for off-road racing, including the famous Paris to Dakar Rally and the International Rainforest Challenge in Malaysia.