The name 'Casspir' is an anagram of the abbreviations of the customer, the South African Police (SAP), and the design authority, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR - Applied Chemistry Unit that later became MECHEM). Although the Casspir was deployed in townships during the apartheid era, it was initially designed specifically for conditions encountered in the South African Border War. It was at first extensively used by the infamous "Koevoet" police counterinsurgency unit in northern Namibia during the apartheid era and later also by the Southwest African Territory Force's 101 Battalion and the SA Army's 5 Reconnaissance Regiment. In particular, this conflict called for protection from land mines combined with high manoeuvrability to cover long distances - these requirements led to the distinctive V-shaped hull (for mine protection) and a wheeled chassis.
The Casspir was designed by the CSIR specifically to protect vehicle occupants against landmines. It is certified to protect its occupants against a triple TM-57 mine blast (equivalent to 21 kg of TNT) under a wheel, or a double blast (14 kg of TNT) under the hull. The Casspir has V-bottomed armoured monocoque hull, designed to deflect the force of an explosion outwards, to which a leaf-spring suspension is attached.
About 200 Casspir Mk1s were originally built by the CSIR in 1979/80. The production was taken over by TFM in 1981, which improved the design to the Mk 2. Some 2500 Casspir series APCs were built by TFM of South Africa, which was subsequently taken over by Reumech OMC. Reumech in turn was taken over by Vickers Defence Systems of the UK and renamed Vickers OMC. When Alvis purchased Vickers Defence Systems to become Alvis Vickers, Vickers OMC became Alvis OMC. In 2004 BAE Systems acquired Alvis Vickers and Alvis OMC was renamed Land Systems OMC. A new Casspir known as Casspir 2000 is being manufactured by Mechem.
The South African Police Service auctioned off their surplus Casspirs to the public at a 2008 auction.
- Casspir Mk 1 First use in combat: Koevoet, South West African Police
- Casspir Mk 2 First user: 101 Battalion, South West African Territorial Force
- Casspir Mk 2C (I)
- Casspir Mk 3 - 170 hp (127 kW) ADE-352T 6-cylinder turbo-diesel
- Ordnance Factories Board of India's MPV Casspir Mk. 6 Protector - modification to the wheel 6 × 6 and 4 × 4, created on the truck chassis Ural-4320 , equipped with Russian turbodiesel YAMZ-236NE2, 230 hp (169 kW) and a manual transmission YAMZ-236U. Mine protection provides undermining the 21 kg charge under the wheel and 14-kg charge under the body of the machine. The machine is designed in conjunction South African company BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa and Indian Mahindra & Mahindra, produced in a joint venture Defence Land Systems India (DLSI) in India. In India, the armored car was designated - MPVI (Mine Protected Vehicle for India).
- Casspir 2000 (Mercedes Benz Based)
- Casspir 2000B (Powerstar - North Benz Based)
The Casspir was built in different configurations:
- APC - armoured personnel carrier
- Artillery Fire Control vehicle
- Blesbok Freighter - with drop side cargo area for up to 5 tons (160 built). Can be used as a weapon platform.
- Duiker Tanker - 5000 litres tank (30 built)
- FISTV - Fire Support Team vehicle
- Gemsbok Recovery vehicle - 15-ton capacity (30 built)
- Mechem Mine clearing vehicle - uses steel wheels to detonate mines
- MEDDS (Mechem Explosives and Drug Detection System) Mine Sensor vehicle
- Mechem VAMMIDS (Vehicular Array Mine Detection System) Vehicle
- Plofadder Mine clearing System - carrier of the containerised Plofadder 160AT rocket-propelled mine clearing system
- Riot Control vehicle - Police version with larger windows to increase visibility
- Mechem LP (Low-Profile) and short-wheelbase vehicle