WW2 German Armored Cars

Panzerspahwagen 204(f) with 45 mm 20-K gun

Germany (1941~1943)
Armored Car – Very Likely Unique

Germany’s victories during the early phases of the Second World War gifted the Wehrmacht with a large fleet of captured armored fighting vehicles. The fall of France, in particular, saw Germany get its hands on most of the former vehicle fleet of the French Army, as well as infrastructure to reasonably maintain them. These vehicles would see continued use by German forces all across Europe, mostly in security roles, but also occasionally on the frontlines, all the way to the fall of Germany in 1945. During these years of service, many were modified or converted by their users. An obscure conversion is the Panzerspähwagen (Eng: reconnaissance tank) 204(f), a captured Panhard 178 that was refitted with a Soviet 45 mm 20-K gun.

The Panhard 178

In December 1931, the French Cavalry formulated a request for an AMD (Automitrailleuse de Découverte / ‘Discovery’ armored car), an armored vehicle meant to perform reconnaissance while having enough combat capacities to be able to engage enemy units. This was in contrast to the AMR (Automitrailleuse de Reconnaissance / Reconnaissance Armored Car), which were smaller vehicles with more limited combat capacities meant purely for reconnaissance. Panhard, the leading French armored car producer at the time, designed the Voiture Spéciale 178, more often simply known as Panhard 178, to meet this request. The vehicle was adopted by the French Cavalry as the AMD 35 in 1934. Formal orders were placed in January of 1935, production begian in 1936, and the first operational vehicles were delivered in February 1937.

A crewmember of the 6th Cuirassiers Regiment stands in front of his Panhard 178. With a crew of four, the Panhard 178, though not perfect, still had a much more effective division of tasks than most French AFVs.Source: char-français

The Panhard 178 was an 8 tonnes armored car powered by a 4-cylinder 105 hp engine and was able to reach a maximum speed of 72 km/h. One of its most interesting features, which separated it from the vast majority of other French armored vehicles, was its two-crew APX3 (Atelier de Construction de Puteaux – Eng: Puteaux Construction Workshop) turret, which allowed the commander to concentrate on tactical, spotting, and overall command tasks, leaving the operation of the gun to the gunner/loader. This was a major improvement in comparison to the one-crew turrets which featured on the vast majority of French tanks, where the commander also had to reload and operate the vehicle’s armament. This APX 3 turret featured a 25 mm SA 35 anti-tank gun as well as a coaxial MAC 31 7.5 mm machine gun, with 150 25 mm and 3,750 7.5 mm rounds. This armament was fairly capable for an armored car, being, for example, generally sufficient to deal with early Panzer III and IV models fielded in the campaign for France, as well as the earlier Panzer I and II.

Into the Wehrmacht

With the German invasion of France in May-June 1940, the French saw many of their vehicles abandoned by the side of roads because of lack of fuel or spare parts, or even of time to repair or refuel their vehicles before they would be overrun. These intact vehicles would be ripe for the taking for German forces, and there are indeed occasional reports of captured Panhard 178s, as well as other vehicles, such as the Renault UE, being fielded by German forces during the Campaign of France itself.

More significantly, at the end of the campaign, the French Army surrendered some of its vehicles. Actually, the Panhard 178 was the only vehicle Vichy France was allowed to keep in service in mainland France by the terms of the armistice. A total of 64 vehicles, with the 25 mm gun replaced by another 7.5 mm machine gun, were approved under these conditions. In addition, there were at least 45 uncompleted hulls which were hidden away from the Germans and were later used for the Panhard 178 CDM conversions.

German forces were also able to seize the Panhard facilities with a number of completed or near-completed vehicles. It is thought that about 190 Panhard 178s were pressed into service with German forces. Overall, the vehicle could be said to have been one of the more potent French vehicles, with a two-crew turret, a decent anti-tank gun for the time, and overall good mobility. It is therefore not surprising to see the vehicle was actively pressed into service by German troops. The Panhard 178 was designated Panzerspähwagen 204(f) (“f” standing for French) in the German captured vehicles designation system, and was one of the narrow selection of French vehicles which would not only be used for security roles, but also on the frontlines of Operation Barbarossa, alongside the Somua S35 cavalry tank and B1/B1 Bis converted into flamethrower vehicles.

A P 204(f) operated by SS Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 2 (Eng: SS tank reconnaissance battalion 2) of the 2. SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” (Eng: The Reich). Notice the SS registration, which significantly differs from the known converted vehicle, indicating it was a Wehrmacht vehicle instead of an SS one. Also, the tactical markings indicate that the vehicle was part of a motorized cavalry reconnaissance battalion equipped with captured French vehicles.Source: Trackstory n°2

The two most significant units operating the P 204(f) were Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 37, the reconnaissance group of the 7th Panzer-Division which operated 64 vehicles, including 18 of the unarmed, casemate radio version, and Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 92, the reconnaissance group of the 20th Panzer-Division that operated 54. Smaller number of vehicles were also included in other units which took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, including the Waffen-SS Totenkopf and Germania (future Das Reich) divisions as well as some lower-echelon security units.

The 45 mm Conversion

Considering the vehicle was very actively employed, the Germans routinely modified some of their Panhard vehicles. For example, in French service, radios were only issued to squadron and platoon leaders, with the squadron leader receiving an ER 26ter radio dedicated to communications with other squadrons and an ER 29 dedicated to internal communications of the unit, while the platoon leaders only received the ER 29. In German service, it was very common for all vehicles to receive FuG 10 or FuG 11 radios, with the importance of radios, particularly for reconnaissance vehicles, being more highly considered by the Germans.

There were also some more in-depth Panhard 178s conversions though. The more well-known ones were found in France, where German forces had significant infrastructure to modify and convert French vehicles. These included at least one P 204(f) armed with a 5 cm KwW L/42 gun, likely made available by re-arming a Panzer III with a 5 cm L/60 gun, and another which received a 5 cm L/60 gun with a muzzle brake, all in vastly modified or perhaps all new turrets. At least one P 204(f) received an aviation turret from a German bomber, armed with a 7.92 mm MG 81 machine gun, believed to be used for security purposes by the Luftwaffe. However, in the early 2020s, a new photo emerged confirming the existence of at least one P 204(f) conversion which was very likely done on the Eastern Front.

The converted, 45 mm-armed P 204(f).Source: Ebay

The photo shows a vehicle, appearing to be painted in the Panzergrau (Eng: Panzer Gray) color, which features what appears to be a new gun and mantlet. Upon closer inspection, it appears this P 204(f) was fitted with a part of the mantlet and the gun from a Soviet T-26 or BT-5/BT-7 tank. Interestingly enough, the turret appears to be almost unmodified outside of this all new mantlet. The addition of this Soviet armament also came with the spotlight that was commonly fitted to these Soviet tanks.

The Practicality of Such a Conversion

One may wonder at first if such a conversion sounds plausible. The Panhard 178’s original 25 mm SA 34 was a smaller caliber L/47.2 gun with a 1,180 mm-long barrel, in comparison to the 45 mm L/46 of the 20-K gun with a 2,070 mm-long barrel. The Soviet 45 mm shells were both larger and longer than the French 25 mm (45 x 310 compared to 25 x 193.5 mm) and could be expected to have significantly more recoil.

However, the APX3 turret of the Panhard 178 turret being able to support a larger gun is not necessarily surprising. In fact, the Panhard 178 and 25 mm anti-tank gun was a late development on the vehicle, as a 20 mm fully automatic armament had been originally envisioned for the Panhard. Delays in the development of such an armament meant it was never mounted on a Panhard, but before France fell, the French Army was already considering re-arming the Panhard 178 with the larger 47 mm SA 35 gun, which could be said to be quite similar to the 45 mm 20-K in size and power.

The APX3 turret was considered to be able to take the larger gun with some modifications, and indeed, another relatively similar riveted turret manufactured by APX, the APX2, used in the AMC 34 and AMC 35, did make the ‘jump’ from 25 mm to 47 mm. This would never happen for the Panhard 178 in French service though, even if the Panhard would be ‘mated’ with the 47 mm SA 35 on three separate instances all with new turrets: the Panhard 178 with Renault turret prototype, the Panhard 178 CDM conversion program, and the post-war Panhard 178B variants

All things considered, it is not so far-fetched to see the APX3 turret of the P 204(f) being able to withstand the recoil of the gun, as well as still offer sufficient space for the two crew members inside to operate it.

An AMC 34 (left) and an AMC 35 (right). Both vehicles used the APX 2 turret, which has some similarities to the APX 3, but the later AMC 35 used the 47 mm SA 35. In fact, the first prototype of the AMC 35 did feature a 25 mm gun, showing switching from one to another was not necessarily as complicated as one may think at first.Source: char-français

The 45 mm 20-K on the 1932/1934 mount.Source:

There would still be some impact on several aspects of the vehicle. The larger size of the 45 mm rounds would reduce the ammunition stowage of the vehicle (150 rounds of 25 mm originally), and it is not known if the new mantlet interfered or may even have forced the removal of the 7.5 mm MAC 31 machine gun. Unfortunately, these questions cannot easily be solved with a single photo.

As for the reasoning, it could be more complicated than expected at first. Despite its small caliber, the 25 mm gun was still a fairly potent anti-tank gun. The 45 mm 20-K did offer slightly higher performance, but in practice, one would be hard-pressed to find vehicles which one would penetrate whereas the other would fail. Both guns would fairly easily dispose of lightly armored 1930s Soviet tanks, like the T-26 or BTs, and both would struggle or be almost completely useless against a T-34 or a KV. On the logistical side, it is questionable whether the 25 mm would prove enough issue to warrant replacement. Large quantities of ammunition were captured by the Germans during the Fall of France and it appears more were still being produced. Though it is possible that, with lengthening supply lines, obtaining these shells may have ended up harder than captured Soviet 45 mm ammunition, other Panhards remained operating with 25 mm shells all the way to the outskirts of Moscow with seemingly little issue in procuring shells.

One aspect where the 45 mm would unquestionably prove superior to the 25 would be infantry support. Though both guns were originally designed for anti-tank work, the 45 mm was a much more polyvalent gun, benefiting from widely-issued high-explosive shells, whereas none were produced for the anti-tank Hotchkiss 25 mm caliber. The conversion may also have been a consequence of the 25 mm on the vehicle being damaged, either by enemy fire or some form of malfunction.

As for the location and dating of the photo, these are no known details attached to the photo, but some aspects can still suggest a likely time frame. The peak of German activity with P 204(f) vehicles on the Eastern Front was from June to December 1941, where the vehicles were very actively employed, suffering heavy losses. On July 14th 1941, less than a month into the invasion, 34 P 204(f) had already been destroyed and 17 more needed repairs. By the end of 1941, 109 vehicles, more than half of the German P 204(f) fleet, had been reported as lost. The Panhard 178 was mostly retired from frontline units by mid-1942, though some would continue in security units on the Eastern Front all the way into 1943. On the Western Front, the P204(f), with additional vehicles captured during the occupation of Vichy France in November 1942, would remain in service all the way to 1945. The use of the Panzergrau paint, which began to be replaced by early 1943, also suggest the vehicle was used prior to this date.

As for the 45 mm itself, one may theorize on its vehicle of origin. During the push into the Soviet Union, very large quantities of 45 mm-armed tanks ended up abandoned by Soviet forces. A significant number would be pressed back into German service, but this actually was far from the totality of vehicles that were abandoned by Soviet forces.

With the breakneck pace of the German advance, particularly in the early weeks of the campaign, Panzer-Divisions were rarely in a place long enough to repair a significant amount of vehicles, When they could, they would often focus on repairing more advanced T-34 and KV tanks which brought more advantages on the frontline than T-26s or BTs. Other German units were still, for many of them, lacking in terms of motorization, let alone mechanization, and as such, also lacked the means to recover, tow, and repair captured vehicles. Because of this, hundreds to perhaps even a couple thousand of abandoned Soviet tanks were simply left in the field, unattended to, and sometimes with their hatches still open. Others were used as targets for German gunners to maintain their skills, even if they could have been recoverable. It is quite possible that the gun used in this converted P 204(f) was taken from one of these vehicles which German troops did not have the time or means to restore to running condition.

A T-26 and two BT-7s abandoned at a river crossing, with Wehrmacht horse-drawn carts moving on a bridge in the background. While hundreds of these types of tanks would be pressed into service in German security units during the course of the war, even more would remain abandoned, as many German units, massively relying on horses for mobility, as the unit in this photo, did not have the means to repair these vehicles.Source: WW2 photo archive

One may argue that a small number of T-26s and BTs did make their way to German-occupied France, and as such, the vehicle could very well not be an Eastern Front conversion, but this possibility, already made fairly unlikely by the fact these captured vehicles sent to France were rare, is further made implausible by the architecture of the houses behind the P 204(f) on the known photograph, typical of the Soviet Union at the time, while at the same time vastly different from typical French architecture.

The registration plate is hard to read, but it clearly appears to be a Wehrmacht plate, which excludes the possibility of the vehicle being a part of the two Waffen-SS divisions which used the P 204(f) in Operation Barbarossa. The vehicle therefore likely belongs to either one of the two Panzer-Division reconnaissance groups which operated the P 204(f), or a security unit.

Conclusion – One of the Most Obscure Panhards

Oddly enough, the Panhard 178 having obscure variants which feature larger guns than the original 25 mm gun seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme in the vehicle’s history. Two of these vehicles, the Panhard 178 with Renault turret and Panhard 178 CDM, featured new turret designs designed by one engineer, Joseph Restany, and are largely unknown to the general public, despite 45 of the later type having been converted, and even seeing service for the Wehrmacht alongside more regular Panhard 178s. Even the post-war Panhard 178B can prove to be surprisingly poorly documented for a mass-produced vehicle. On the German side of thing, the two existing 50 mm-armed “tank destroyer” versions are both also fairly little known, though there is a fairly extensive collection of photos, as well as pretty extensive details on the service of the L/60-armed vehicle in the hands of French Resistance FFI troops during and after the Liberation of France.

Of all known conversions, though, this particular one, armed with a Soviet 45 mm 20-K, has to be the most obscure yet. It does not appear to be documented in any known literature on German captured vehicles, being known from a singular photo. As of now, no more details are known, and while such a conversion is likely easier than could be imagined at first, many details remain unknown about the vehicle as of now.

Panzerspahwagen 204(f) with 45mm 20-K gun
Panzerspahwagen 204(f) with 45mm 20-K gun.Illustration by Godzilla

Panzerspahwagen 204(f) with 45mm 20-K gun specifications

Dimensions 4.79 x 2.01 x 2.31 m (15ft 7in x 6ft 6in x 7 ft 5in)
Weight 8.2 metric tonnes (17,000 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, rear driver/radio, commander, gunner)
Engine Panhard 4-cyl SK, gasoline, 105 hp
Speed 72 km/h (46 mph)
Primary Armament 45 mm 20-K
Armor Up to 20 mm (0.79 in)


Trackstory n°2, Panhard 178, Pascal Danjou, Editions du Barbotin, 2004
Tous les blindés de l’Armée Française 1914-1940, François Vauvillier, Histoire & Collection editions, 2014
Beute-Kraftfahrzeuge und -Panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht, Walter J Spielberger, Motorbuch; 1. Aufl edition, 1989
Panzerkampfwagen T 34- 747 (r) , The Soviet T-34 Tank as Beutepanzer and Panzeraatrappe in German Wehrmacht Service 1941-1945, Jochen Vollert, Tankograd publishing, 2013
With special thanks to Smargd123 who provided the photo of the conversion for this article

WW2 German Armored Cars

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen (Kfz.13) and Funkkraftwagen (Kfz.14)

Germany (1932-1941)
Armored Reconnaissance Car/Radio Car – 116-147 Built (Kfz.13), 30-40 Built (Kfz.14)

In the early thirties, the German army showed interest in the adoption of new types of armored cars. At that time, the German economic situation was dire, having entered a crisis due to the Great Depression, and for this reason, a temporary and cheap solution was needed. This would eventually lead to the adoption of the Kfz.13 and 14 as temporary solutions until properly designed armored cars could be produced in sufficient numbers. Nevertheless, due to a lack of more modern armored cars, the obsolete Kfz.13 and 14 would see combat up to the end of 1941.


With the end of the First World War, Germany was in a state of chaos. The shattered German army (Reichswehr, as it was known after the war) was involved in preserving peace and suppressing various revolts. Externally, it was engaged to the east against Bolshevik forces. In both cases, the surviving World War One-era armored cars were used extensively. When, in 1920, the terms of the Versailles Treaty were implemented, the German army was reduced to only 100,000 men and the development of tanks and armored cars was forbidden.

Surprisingly, the Allies allowed the German police force (Schutzpolizei), which had 150,000 armed men under service, to be equipped with 1 armored personnel carrier per 1,000 men. The Germans exploited this exception made by the Allies and developed and built a few new armored cars (like the Ehrhardt/21 for example). These were designated Armed Police Special Purpose Vehicles (Schutzpolizei Sonderwagen). These vehicles were nominally given to and used by the police force, but the army also acquired and operated small numbers.

The Ehrhardt / 21 of the Schutzpolizei
The Ehrhardt / 21 of the Schutzpolizei. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The German army was generally unsatisfied with these ‘borrowed’ police armored cars, so during 1926-27, the Reichswehrministerium/Heereswaffenamt Wa. Pruf.6 (the office of the German Army’s Ordnance Department responsible for designing tanks and other motorized vehicles) issued specifications for developing new armored personnel carriers (Gepanzerter Mannschaftstransportwagenen). The term armored personnel carrier was used in order to deceive the Allies about its true purpose.

The new armored car was to be built by using the chassis of commercial vehicles. This was done mostly in order to speed up its development and lower the cost, as well as because of a general lack of experience in designing such vehicles. The tender for this new armored car was issued to nearly all German automobile manufacturers, but, as great attention was given to keeping the whole project a secret, the firms which were not 100% German-owned (like Ford, for example) were to be excluded.

Great interest was given to developing an eight-wheeled armored car named ‘ARW’ and even a ten wheeled ‘ZRW’ chassis. While these vehicles would have excellent mobility compared to four-wheeled armored cars, due to their price, the German army simply could not afford them at that time. While eight-wheeled armored car designs would later be adopted for service, in the meantime, a simpler and cheaper solution was needed. For this reason, the development of new armored cars was focused on four-wheeled chassis. One of the first designs to be adopted in small numbers was the Adler armored car based on the Adler Standard 6. Small numbers would be built and used in the early thirties, but the German army would eventually adopt the Adler Kfz.13 and its radio variant, the Kfz.14.

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz.13

The Kfz.13 machine gun vehicle (Maschinengewehrkraftwagen) was Daimler-Benz’s response to the German army request for an easy to build and cheap open-top armored car. To make the Kfz.13 as cheap as possible, the Adler Standard 6 4×2 Kublesitzer passenger car was used for its base. Other sources state that some vehicles may have been built using the Adler Standard 3U.

The Adler Standard 6 4x2 Kublesitzer passenger car
The Adler Standard 6 4×2 Kublesitzer passenger car. Source:

The construction of the Kfz.13 consisted of a simple armored body placed on the civilian Adler Standard 6 chassis. The original curved mudguards were left unchanged. The top was left open, which enabled the crew to have an excellent view of the surroundings but left them highly vulnerable to enemy fire. As this vehicle was never intended to be used in real combat, this was not seen as an issue. The primary function of this vehicle was to provide German manufacturers with experience in designing and building armored cars. The German army also benefited from it, as it was able to gain an insight into how to properly use the armored cars in reconnaissance missions and also to train crews. For self-defense, a rotatable MG 13 machine gun protected by an armored shield was added. Besides its signal flags, the Kfz.13 had no other means of communication with other units. This was the job for the second version based on the Kfz.13, the radio-equipped Kfz.14.

The Kfz.13
The Kfz.13. Source:


In the German military doctrine of the time, the job of an armored car was to advance ahead of the main force, scout for enemy positions and report back. Their greatest assets were not their armor nor weapons, but instead their radio equipment and their mobility. For these reasons, the radio-equipped version of the Kfz.13 would be built using the same chassis. The Kfz.14, as this version was known, was almost visually identical to the previous version. The only difference was the removal of the machine gun mount and the addition of a large frame antena. It was designed to supplement the Kfz.13’s lack of radio equipment. Otherwise, it was the same vehicle with no changes to its overall performance.

The Kfz.14 radio version
The Kfz.14 radio version. Source:


For the production of the Kfz.13 and Kfz.14, Daimler-Benz was chosen, while Deutschen Edelstahl was tasked with assembling and supplying the armored body. Production of the first vehicles began in the spring of 1933. By the end of August 1935, depending on the source, between 116 and 147 Kfz.13 and 30 to 40 Kfz.14 were built. During production, Daimler-Benz also built smaller numbers (14 Kfz.13 and 4 Kfz.14) using its own chassis as a base, which was slightly larger.


It appears that the full name Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz.13 was too much, even for Germans soldiers, who simply referred to them as Adler Panzerspaehwagen (Adler armored reconnaissance car). Another name commonly used by the German troops, due to its overall open-topped shape, was bath-tub (Badewannen).

Technical characteristics


The majority of Kfz.13 and 14 vehicles were built using the Adler Standard 6 civilian car. Of course, before it could be adopted for army use, some changes were necessary. These included reinforcing the axles and suspension. Each wheel was suspended using semi-elliptic springs. Additionally, several types of pneumatic bulletproof tires were used to increase cross country performance. Their dimensions were 6.00 x 20, but depending on the sources, other dimensions are also mentioned, which include 6.50 x 18 and7.00 x 20 pneumatic.

Close-up view of the Adler Standard 6 modified chassis
Close-up view of the Adler Standard 6  modified chassis. Source:

Examples of the different tires used on the Kfz.13 and Kfz.14. Source for all three:

Armored body

The Kfz.13’s armored body was made using face-hardened steel armor plates welded together. The armor thickness of these plates was only 8 mm. To somewhat increase protection, these armor plates were placed at an angle. The upper front plates were at 40°, while the lower ones were at 22°. The upper sides were at 15° and the lower at 5°. The rear upper and lower plates were placed at the same 22° angle. The Kfz.13 floor was 5 mm thick. While the frontal part of the engine was protected by a louvered grille, its sides were left unprotected.

The Kfz.13 was only protected from small-caliber weapons. While the front armor could withstand small-caliber armor-piercing rounds, the sides and rear could only protect against normal bullets. Two side doors were provided for the crew to enter the vehicle. Additional boxes for spare parts and crew equipment could be added around the armored body. As it was an open-top vehicle, a canvas cover was provided for the crew.

Front view of the Kfz.13
Front view of the Kfz.13. Note the engine’s protective louvered grill. Source:
The Kfz.13 and 14 side doors
The Kfz.13 and 14 had two side doors. Source:
Kfz.13 side view
Kfz.13 side view. Source:
A canvas cover
A canvas cover was provided for protection from the weather. Source:


The Kfz.13 and 14 vehicles were powered by an Adler Standard 6A (or 6S, depending on the source) six-cylinder water-cooled 50 hp engine. While smaller numbers were built using a Daimler-Benz 50 hp engine, the overall performance was unchanged. With a weight of 2.05 tonnes (the Daimler-Benz version weighed 2.1 tonnes), the maximum speed on good roads was 70 km/h, while cross country it was only 20-25 km/h. The operational range while driving on good roads was 250-300 km and 150-200 km cross country. The front wheels were used for steering and the rear wheels provided drive. To cope with the extra weight, an improved cooling system was installed. The gearbox was modified to have 4 forward speeds and 1 reverse speed.

The Kfz.13 and 14 engine compartment
The Kfz.13 and 14 engine compartment. Source:
Kfz. chassis base
This vehicle is actually based on the Daimler-Benz chassis. Note the covering for the two engine ventilation ports. Source:
The frontal shield
The frontal shield that protects the engine compartment is evident here.  Compared to the previous example, this vehicle has a different type of cover for the engine ventilation ports. Source:


Due to its small size, the Kfz.13 had a small crew of only two members. The driver was positioned at the front and behind him was the machine gun operator. The vehicle was open-topped and offered the crew excellent all-round visibility, which was important for a reconnaissance vehicle. But, in case of engagement with the enemy, two vision ports were provided for observation. One was positioned to the front for the driver and one to the rear. Additionally, some vehicles had dummy vision ports placed on the sides.

driver and machine gunner
The Kfz.13 had two crew members: a driver and a machine gunner. Source:

The Kfz.14 used the same armored body as the Kfz.13. As it was designed to be used as a radio support vehicle, the machine gunner was replaced with a radio operator. The difference was that the radio operator’s seat was facing to the rear. A third crew member could also be present when a message was to be sent through the radio. This would actually be a unit commander who was transported by another vehicle and did not use the Kfz.14 for transportation. It was the unit commander’s job to report back about the enemy positions and to receive future orders. Due to the added radio equipment and its small size, the interior was cramped.

Crew positions
Crew positions on the Kfz.14. Source:
vision port
A vision port was placed just above the rear spare wheel. Source:


The Kfz.13 was only lightly armed, with one pedestal-mounted 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun. For the protection of the gunner, a small 8 mm shield angled at 35° was provided. Elevation of this machine gun was -35° to +65° and the traverse was 360°. The machine gun mount with the gunner’s seat had simple spring units that allowed them to be raised. For lowering the machine gun, the gunner simply had to use his own body weight. The obsolescent MG 13 was replaced with a more modern MG 34 in later years. The ammunition load for the machine gun carried inside the vehicle was 1.000 or 2.000 rounds, depending on the source. The crews could also use their personal weapons, usually 9 mm submachine guns or pistols.

Upper view of MG 13
An upper view of the MG 13 mount. Source:
Kfz.13 machine gun elevation
The high elevation of the Kfz.13’s machine gun is evident here. Source:
MG 34 armament
This vehicle is armed with a more modern MG 34. Source:
Close view of internal machine gun mount
Close view of the internal machine gun mount. Source:

Radio equipment

The Kfz.14 had an improved electrical generator which was able to produce 90 watts of electricity, necessary for the radio equipment to work. Inside the Kfz.14, a Fu9 SE 5 (5 watt) transmitter and receiver radio set was installed. The effective range of voice transmission with this equipment was 6 to 8 km while stationary. When on the move, this dropped to 3 to 4 km. When transmitting messages in morse code using telegraph keys, the range was 30 km while stationary and 20 km on the move. For the use of radio equipment, a large frame antenna could be raised or lowered depending on the need.

The seat positions of the driver (right) and the radio operator (left)
The seat positions of the driver (right) and the radio operator (left). Source:
A closer look at the Kfz.14's radio equipment
A closer look at the Kfz.14’s radio equipment. Source:
While on the move, the Kfz.14 antenna was lowered
While on the move, the Kfz.14 antenna was lowered. Source:


After 1935, the Kfz.13 and 14 were used to equip Aufklärungs (reconnaissance) detachments of Reiter-Regiments (Cavalry units). Each unit was to be equipped with two Kfz.13 and one Kfz.14. As, in the following years, better designed armored cars were introduced into service with the German Army, the Kfz.13 and 14 were relocated, mostly to ordinary Infantry Divisions from 1938 on.

Kfz.13 and 14 in the early German Army
Despite adopting improved armored cars, the Kfz.13 and 14 would still see service with the German Army in the early years of the war. Source:

In combat

Prior to the war, the Kfz.13 and 14 were quite common sights in the numerous military parades held in Germany. Their first use in foreign land was during the Anschluss of Austria in 1938 and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Despite their obvious obsolescence, the Kfz.13 and 14 would see combat action during the war. Their first combat action was during the Polish campaign of 1939. They were part of the spearhead, along with other German reconnaissance armored cars. By the time Poland surrendered, some 23 Kfz.13 and 14 had been lost. Their weak armor proved no match for Polish anti-tank weapons. Another issue noted by troops was that the vehicle generally had poor performance on bad roads.  The extra added weight was too much for the chassis, which led to overheating problems.

Kfz.13 armored cars in Prague, 1939
Kfz.13 armored cars in Prague, 1939. Source:

The next engagements came during the German invasion of the West in 1940. The Kfz.13 and 14 armored cars were once again used in reconnaissance missions. While in France, they performed somewhat better thanks to the road network,  though there were still losses.

By 1941, despite their now desperate obsolescence, the Kfz.13 and 14 would see more combat during the Balkan and later Soviet invasions. It appears that all sent to the Soviet Union would be lost by the end of 1941. Any surviving vehicles were removed from operational service after 1941 and were instead given to second-line troops or used as training vehicles.

A destroyed Kfz.13 somewhere in Poland
A destroyed Kfz.13 somewhere in Poland. Source:
A completely burned out Kfz.13
A completely burned out Kfz.13. As these were designed as temporary solutions and with minimal armor protection, their combat potential was quite low. Source:
A kfz.13 during the invasion of the West in 1940
A Kfz.13 during the invasion of the West in 1940. Source:

Modified versions

Interestingly, at least one vehicle would survive up to the war’s end. There is a photograph that shows a modified Kfz.13 or 14 surrendering to the Allies in Prague in May 1945. It has a fully enclosed roof and what looks like a machine gun port placed to the right of the driver’s vision port. This was likely a field modification, but nothing else is known about it.

Field conversion of the aging Kfz.13
A very interesting field conversion of the aging Kfz.13. Just above the Balkenkreuz, an opening, possibly for a machine gun, is visible. Source:


Despite no Kfz.13 and 14 having survived to today, there are a few replicas that are used in war recreations. One of these belongs to a Historical Reconstruction Group of the 9th Cavalry Regiment from Poland.

Kfz. from the Historical Reconstruction Group in Poland
This Kfz.13 replica belongs to the Historical Reconstruction Group in Poland. Source:


The Kfz.13 and 14 were among the first armored cars adopted for German army service after the First World War. They were designed primarily to be used as training vehicles. As the German war industry was incapable of producing armored cars good enough to meet German Army requirements, as a temporary solution, the Kfz.13 and 14 were used by the front line units. They performed poorly, simply as they were not designed for combat use. Nevertheless, they provided the Germans with valuable experience in how to properly design and use armored cars, and this was their greatest success.

Kfz.13 in 1936
Kfz.13, in prewar tri-tone livery, 1936 Werhmacht large scale exercises.
Kfz.13, Polish invasion
Adler Kfz.13 prior to the Polish invasion, in dunkergrau livery. Notice the simplified white Balkan cross, an obvious target.
Kfz.13 Leopard
Kfz.13 “Leopard”, Poland, September 1939.
Kfz.13, France
Kfz.13, 1st Kav, 24th Panzer Division, France, May 1940.
Kfz.14 command car, Balkans, March 1941
Kfz.14 command car, Balkans, March 1941.

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen Kfz.13 (Adler chassis) specifications

Dimensions Length 4.2 m, Width 1.7 m, Height 1.46 m
Weight 2.1 tonnes
Crew 2 (Driver and machine gunner)
Engine Adler Standard 6A six cylinder water cooled 50 hp engine
Speed 70 km/h,  20-25 km/h (cross country)
Range 250-300 km, 150-200 km (cross country)
Traverse 360°
Elevation -35° to +65°
Primary Armament one 7.92 mm MG 13
Armor 5-8 mm


WW2 German Armored Cars

Sd.Kfz.263 6-Rad

Germany (1935-1937)
Heavy Armored Car – 12-28 Built

One of the essential elements of the German military doctrine of the Second World War (widely popularized as the ‘Blitzkrieg’) was the excellent and continuous communication between military units. To meet this requirement, the German army built a variety of specialized vehicles intended for maintaining communications, such as the Sd.Kfz.251/6 half-track, Pz.Bef.Wg. III command tank, or Kfz.67a, later known as Sd.Kfz.232 (6-rad). This armored car was the command version of the Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad (earlier known as Kfz.67) and was produced mainly in C.D. Magirus’ workshop.
In the second half of the 1930s (the exact year is unknown), Magirus converted some of its command vehicles into even more specialized cars, improving their communication abilities, at the expense of their fighting abilities. The new vehicle was called Kfz.67b. The number of cars built was very small – some sources (for example, the military historian David Doyle) claims 28 vehicles, while others (for example,, have a lower claim with only about 12. The production of this 6-wheeled car was stopped in favor of 8-wheeled cars that got the same numbers in Sd.Kfz. classification (231, 232, 263). In 1937, when the new Sd.Kfz.263 (8-rad) was introduced, the Kfz.67b name was changed to Sd.Kfz.263 (6-rad). It was named according to its role: Panzerfunkwagen (eng. armored radio car) or Funkspähwagen (radio observation car).

Sd.Kfz.263 (6-rad) with its crew. The vertical umbrella-looking rod is actually the folded straight antenna, covered by a hood. Photo: World War Photos

Design, In Comparison to the 232

The Sd.Kfz.263 6-rad (not to be confused with the later Sd.Kfz.263 8-rad) was required mainly for the sustaining of communication, not for actual fighting. As such, Magirus removed its weapon – a 20mm KwK30/38 gun – to make more space for radios and their operator in the turret. The only weapon of the modified car was a 7.92 mm MG 13 machine gun which replaced the 20 mm gun in the turret. On the left side of turret (that was previously the place for the machine gun), a small observation hatch was placed. Also, the whole turret was welded to the car’s hull, and the turret rotation system was removed. As the turret was set fixed, the cantilevers of the huge frame antenna (known as “mattress”, ger. “matratze”) were simplified from a tripod to two legs. Also, the shape of the antenna was slightly changed.
Thanks to these modifications, space for a radio and its operator was made. The new radio was a 100-watt FuG 11 SE 100 (or Fug.Spr.Ger.a, that was also used in the Kfz.67a – probably both types were used in Kfz.67b, depending on which specimen). It had a 50 km range for transmitting in Morse code, and 10km range for phone connection. To improve its abilities, the Kfz.67b had an additional straight antenna in the turret – this antenna could have been pulled in and out if necessary. However, it was usually covered under the hood.

Sd.Kfz.263 (6-rad) with an erected straight antenna. The white cross on the armor identifies this photo at the time of the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Photo:
All vehicles were built on the Magirus chassis (all producers of 6-wheeled armored cars had their own suspension versions which differed in details) called M 206p. Characteristics of this suspension were: a frontal axis which receded a little, small casters before the second axis (which helped to pass obstacles), and side skirts between the frontal wheels and the engine’s part of the hull. Also, the back tow-hooks were placed slightly lower, and fenders had longer front parts than in other versions of the chassis. All these details were characteristics of Sd.Kfz.263 (6-rad).
The vehicle had a six-cylinder S 88 engine (70hp) with five gears: four forward and one reverse. As the war unfolded, these vehicles were updated, but exactly when these modifications took place is unspecified. Modifications included: the MG 13 machine-gun was replaced with the MG 34, frontal tow-hook added, and Notek headlight added. The only external characteristics that showed, telling the difference between 6-wheeled Sd.Kfz.263 and 232, are the single machine gun, a straight and short antenna on the turret, and the two-leg mounting of the frame antenna with ‘8’ shaped central part.

Operational History

From 1935 to 1940, the six-wheeled armored cars were used by reconnaissance units in motorized, light, and armored divisions of the Wehrmacht. Three armored divisions were planned to use 22 6-rad armored cars, including 12 in a reconnaissance battalion. It is known that one battalion used two Sd.Kfz.263s.
All armored car platoons used eight Sd.Kfz.263s (six for six units of radio company + two for two phone companies):

  • 3 Armored Divisions – 22 armored cars including:
    • One reconnaissance battalion – 12 cars,
      • Including 2 Sd.Kfz.263s
    • Armored car platoons – 8 Sd.Kfz.263s
      • Six units of radio company – 6 cars
      • Two units of phone company – 2 cars

This setup for reconnaissance battalions was approved 1st September 1938 (and was still in operation during the invasions of Poland and France) for 1-5th and 10th armored divisions in addition to the 1st and 3rd light divisions.
Also, the 2nd light division had 4 companies of armored cars.
The 4th light division had 3 companies:

  • 2nd light division – 4 companies of armored cars
  • 4th light division – 3 companies of armored cars
  • One company:
    • Three Sd.Kfz.231s
    • Three Sd.Kfz.232s
    • One Sd.Kfz.263

However, six-wheeled cars could have been supplemented in all setups by eight-wheeled armored cars that had the same classification numbers. So the number of 6-wheeled cars in use was smaller than it may seem.

Illustration of the Sd.Kfz.263 6-rad ‘Peterle’ produced by Jarosław ‘Jarja’ Janas, funded by our Patreon campaign.
Another photo of Sd.Kfz.263 (6-rad) in Poland. The white cross is painted only in outline for camouflage reasons – this was a common practice. Photo: World War PhotosSd.Kfz.263s were used – as were other 6-wheeled armored cars – during the annexations of Austria and Czechoslovakia. As these vehicles were fast and impressive-looking, they were one of the first armored vehicles that entered occupied countries. They were also often used in propaganda and parades.
However, during the Polish September Campaign (1939), 6-rad cars suffered mechanical failures, as they had problems off-road and on Polish roads, which were often of very poor quality. To make matters worse for the invaders, armored vehicles were easy prey for anti-tank rifles and cannons. As such, 6-rad Sd.Kfz.231s and 232s were withdrawn from frontline duties to policing or training units after the invasion of France (June 1940). However, Sd.Kfz.263s (6-rad) were still in use (as its limitations were forgivable for vehicles destined mainly for communication, not fighting). These armored cars were still in use in 1941 during the Balkan Campaign and in Operation Barbarossa. However, after the invasion of the USSR started, Sd.Kfz.263s (6-rad) were no longer used.


Dimensions 5.57 x 1.82 x 2.87m (18.3 x 5.1 x 9.5 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 5.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Propulsion Magirus 206p (65-70 HP)
Speed (on/off road) 65-70 km/h (40-43 mph)
Armament 7.92mm MG 13 or MG 34 machine-gun, 1500 rounds
Operational maximum range 250-300 km (155-286 miles)
Total production 12 – 28


Standard Catalogue of German Military Vehicles, by David Doyle, copyright for the Polish edition, 2012, Vesper, Poznań
Kolekcja Wozów Bojowych magazine, nr. 23: Sd.Kfz.231 (6-rad), Oxford Educational sp.z o.o.

WW2 German Armored Cars

Sd.Kfz.234 Puma

Germany (1943-1945)
Heavy Armored Car – 478 Built

Design of the Sd.Kfz.234

This new armored car was seen as a successor to the eight-wheeled (8×8) Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz.231. Among other priorities, better protection and heavier armament were viewed as crucial for the new armored car. But this model also had to comply to a specification from 1940, which requested a tropicalized armored car. Tatra was placed in charge of the overall design, while Büssing developed the body, and Daimler-Benz and Schichau devised a new turret. Three engines were tested, the third being tropicalized in the spring of 1942. However, in June 1942, priorities changed and the final production machines had a more conventional air-cooled engine, capable of handling a wide range of temperatures (extreme heat and cold), better suited to the Russian front.
The production vehicle was heavier and bulkier than the Sd.Kfz.231, with mudguards that went along the side from end to end, with four storage compartments located inside. Because of the lack of resources necessary to build the specified new turret, housing a 50 mm (1.97 in) gun, the first series was equipped with the Sd.Kfz.222 Hängelafette 38 barbette instead. The engine was a Tatra air-cooled V12 diesel, with a net power of 220 [email protected],250 rpm, and a power-to-weight ratio of 21 hp/ton.

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The transmission was by claw, with 6 forward and 6 reverse gears. Fuel capacity was 240 liters, with a consumption of 40 liters/100 km. The radio was a FuG Spr Ger “A”2 set with a FuG 122 aerial. On the second version, famously known as the Puma, the main gun was a 50 mm (1.97 in) KwK 39/1 L/60. The turret had a manual traverse due to its small size, and -10° to +20° depression/elevation. Smoke dischargers were often mounted on top. On trials, the Puma was found capable of fording 3 feet 11 in (1.2 m) deep, crossing a trench 4 ft 5 in (1.35 m) wide and climb inga vertical obstacle of 1 feet and 7.75 inches, or 0.5 m.

Production & variants

All variants were built by Büssing-NAG between June 1942 and March 1945. The Puma turret was originally planned to be used on the Leopard, the intended replacement for the Panzer II light tank, but this project was cancelled, and the turret was “recycled” for the Puma.

The Sd.Kfz.234/1 (Gerät 95)

The first version received an open-top turret fitted with a 2 cm (0.79 in) KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and coaxial MG 34 in a simplified Hängelafette 38 turret. Around 200 were produced from June 1942 to January 1944

The Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma (Gerät 96)

The standard turret version. It was the best known but not the most produced, with only 101 being released between September 1943 and September 1944.

The Sd.Kfz.234/3 (Gerät 94)

The support version. It was an open-top SPG (nicknamed “Stummel”) equipped with the 7.5 cm (2.95 in) K51 L/24 standard howitzer. 88 built between June and December 1944.

The Sd.Kfz.234/4 (Gerät 96)

The “Pak-Wagen” or tank hunter variant, open-topped with a 7.5 cm (2.95 in) PaK 40 L/46. 89 were apparently built between December 1944 and March 1945.

Operational history

Just like the Sd.Kfz.231, the 234 and variants were used in the same composite reconnaissance units. 19 were issued to each Panzerspähwagen company of the Panzer Aufklärung battalions, and with time, all four variants were used in each of them, to provide either artillery, AA and AT support. The Pumas were mostly given to veteran crews and equipped four 25-strong units which equipped each a Panzerdivision operating in Russia. The Sd.Kfz.234/3 was used in 6-strong platoon in support of the Sd.Kfz.234/1 units, just like the Sd.Kfz.234/4 later. These units also participated in the battle of Normandy with good results, and the whole German campaign, but used more as fast tank hunters. By that time, on Hitler’s orders, the whole production was shifted towards the Sd.Kfz.234/4. They were well ahead of their time and the Allies captured and studied them with great interest, as early precursors of the wheeled tanks we know today.

Sd.Kfz.234/2 specifications

Dimensions 6.02 x 2.36 x 2.10 m (19.9 x 7.9 x 6.10 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 10.5 tons max. (23,148 lbs)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Propulsion Tatra 103 V-12 diesel, 155 bhp
Speed (on/off road) 80/60 km/h (50/37 mph)
Armament 50 mm (1.97 in) KWK 39 L60
7.92 mm (0.31 in) Mauser MG 34 coaxial
Operational range 1000 km (625 mi)
Production (Puma only) 101

Sd.Kfz.234/1, GrossDeutschland
Sd.Kfz.234/1 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen mit 2cm KwK 38 in Ukraine, Panzerdivision Grossdeutschland, 1943.
Sd.Kfz.234/1, Normandy
Sd.Kfz.234/1 in Normandy, summer 1944.
Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma
Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma, Berlin, March 1945.
Sd.Kfz.234 Stummel
Sd.Kfz.234/3 Stummel, Normandy, June 1944
Sd.Kfz.234/4 “Pak-wagen”, Western front, 1945.


Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma side-view
Side view of a camouflaged Puma, possibly on the Eastern Front, 1944.
Tatra 110 diesel5 cm KwK 39 L60Sd.Kfz.234/1, Eastern FrontSd.Kfz.234/3 Stummel at BovingtonSd.Kfz.234/4 at Panzermuseum MunsterSd.Kfz.234/4 at Panzermuseum MunsterModel of the Puma
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

WW2 German Armored Cars

Sd.Kfz.231 8-Rad

Germany (1937-1942)
Heavy Armored Car – 1,235 Built

A forerunner: The Sd.Kfz.231 (6-rad)

The Schwere Panzerspähwagen (heavy reconnaissance armored car) concept was first developed into several road wheeled vehicles tested at the secret Kazan proving grounds, in the USSR, following an agreement between the two countries. The first model developed as a series, following the interim Reichswehr Kfz.13, was based on a June 1929 specification asking for an armored car especially designed for scouting operations, with a good endurance, range and off-road capabilities. The first prototype was based on an eight-wheeled chassis, deemed to be too complicated for production -and too costly. A new vehicle was developed instead and mass-produced from 1932 to 1935 as the Sd.Kfz.231, a six wheeled vehicle with a completely armored sloped bodywork, armed with a full revolving turret housing a 20 mm (0.79 in) QF gun coupled with a Mauser MG 13 or, later, MG 34. It was basically a reinforced Büssing-Nag truck chassis, complete with the truck engine. Later on, a Magirus engine, slightly more powerful (70 bhp), was mounted instead. 123 were built in total. The radio version (Fu) was called Sd.Kfz.232 by the Waffenamt (28 built). But this model, popular for propaganda purposes, was nevertheless too heavy for its engine and off-road capabilities were rather limited. It was consequently dropped after June 1940 and phased out, joining various driver training schools.

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Design of the Sd.Kfz.231 (8-rad)

The poor performances of the first, “6-rad” (six wheeled) model led to a complete redesign by Bussing-NAG, with a eight-wheeled vehicle with fully independent steering wheels and a much more powerful engine. The Büssing-NAG 8×8 truck chassis was relatively complex and costly to build, each independent wheel being independently steered and suspended. In fact, when it was first produced in 1937, this was the most advanced armored car in the world. Although some features of the former chassis and sloped bodywork were loosely kept, the biggest change was swapping the positions of the driver and engine. This allowed better visibility and control for the driver, better protection for the engine in a roomier, fully separate compartment, and more fuel was carried. The seats for the commander and gunner were attached to the hand traversed turret, which was of hexagonal shape for added internal space, but the armament was identical. There was still a reverse driver/radio operator, but the extra pair of wheels made for a far better grip and the all-independent steering wheels gave an unprecedented level of maneuverability on all kinds of terrains. In all, the 8 rad was well received by the army reconnaissance units and began to replace its predecessor in some units.


The chassis were built by Bussing-NAG, while Deutsche Werke of Kiel made the assembly of the pre-series and first series with Schichau (at Elbing). The first series differed by having the early vision hull-turret slots, the front and rear fenders extended down over the steering armored covers, and other details, as well as the early KwK 30 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon and Mauser MG 13 machine-gun (replaced with the MG 34 after 1938). The later series included many minor changes, which included front/rear fenders extended with an angled upward kink. Even later series had shortened fenders, clearing the steering guards; but also new vision ports, an armored cowl over the rear engine hatch, an extra frontal 8 mm (0.31 in) of armor, or Zusatzpanzer (usually used as an extra storage bin) and, on some late models, a large folding anti-aircraft machine gun was mounted on the left side of the hull. The original KwK 30 was also replaced by a KwK L/55 autocannon, which had a muzzle velocity of 899 m/s. Besides this, these machines remained globally unchanged and formed the bulk of of any reconnaissance unit attached to each Panzer Division in terms of firepower. A total of 1235 were built by the time the production stopped in late 1942.

Operational history

The tactical role of these machines was to provide additional firepower, a squadron of these being attached to each motorized recce unit (Aufklärung Kompanie) attached to the Panzerdivisions. Other vehicles of these units included Kübelwagens and Schmimmwagens, Zündapp or BMW sidecars, Sd.Kfz.221 light armored cars and several other Schwere Panzerspähwagen. In each company, there was also a 232 variant equipped with a powerful long range radio. Later on, it became evident that heavier armament was needed inside each recce unit, and an artillery version was produced, the Sd.Kfz.233. Real antitank capabilities were also needed, which took the shape of the Sd.Kfz.234 and its own variants (1943-45). As an anecdote, it is known that, contrary to the usual practice of the German tank crews, crews of the recce squadrons often nicknamed their vehicles and painted these on the hull, along with some personal drawings. A visual testimony that discipline was somewhat more lax in these separate, independent units.
The 231 and the 232 radio-version were introduced before the campaign of Poland and soldiered until the end of the war. They were seen on nearly every front, from the Mediterranean to Russia, North Africa and most of Europe. With the DAK (Deutsche Afrika Korps), they proved invaluable, fitting perfectly with Rommel’s combined arms tactic and unique vision of desert warfare. The flat ground of the wide desert expenses allowed this armored car to achieve its full potential, although it wasn’t prepared for the hot environment and never properly “tropicalized”. The engine, notably, suffered badly under this climate. The same success story unfolded during the early part of the offensive in Russia, especially in the Ukrainian steppes during the spring/summer 1942 advance. Since the original armor was never intended to sustain more than small arms fire and shrapnel fragments, the platoons tried to evade clashes with other AFVs when possible. However, in many cases, these machines were seen providing infantry support and destroying light tanks and enemy armored cars alike. Speed, combined with surprise, could bring very efficient results thanks to the rapid-fire and devastating HE rounds of the 20 mm (0.79 in) at short range. Their superior agility also helped them to steer backwards and quickly evade superior forces if needed. In other cases, many served as ad hoc police patrol vehicles, dealing with partisans in the Balkans and Russia.

The Sd.Kfz.232 (Fug) radio version

This variant was produced alongside the “regular” model 231, as a command-radio heavy armored car, registered with the Waffenamt as the Sd.Kfz.232 Fu (Funkapparat) 8-rad. These vehicles, conceived by Deutsche Werke of Kiel, were produced by Schichau parallel to the early and late series. They were identical, only differing by their tall “bedstead” frame aerial antenna, fixed with pivots on the turret, thus allowing it to rotate freely. This was a long-range antenna, providing liaison with the HQ, up to a hundred miles away. Total numbers are elusive. Since a heavy armored car platoon counted six vehicles, at least one of them was a radio version, which gives an estimate of 250 vehicles. Production stopped by September 1943, but by then they were upgraded with a more discrete and compact pole wire aerial antenna.

Other versions

Artillery support version: The Sd.Kfz.233

This late model, called by the Waffenamt the Panzerspähwagen mit 7.5cm StuK L/24, and nicknamed “Stumpy”, was closely based on the 231/232 series, but the turret was now replaced by a fixed, open-top barbette, housing a short-barreled 75 mm (2.95 in) KwK 37 L24. This howitzer versio, firing HE shells, was devised in late 1942 by Büssing-Nag, after recce units of the Wehrmacht complained about the lack of self-propelled heavy support in many engagements. Only 109 were built by Schichau between December 1942 and October 1943. They were issued as a platoon of six vehicles in support of reconnaissance battalions. Tactically, they were fast enough to keep the pace of well-advanced reconnaissance columns and provided efficient and fast artillery support when and where it was most needed. Although the gun had a very limited traverse, the complex steering was used at its best by the driver to aim the hull itself quickly and precisely, making this variant a much more capable SPG than the usual tracked vehicles.

Command vehicle: The Sd.Kfz.263

The Panzefunkwagen 263 was one of the command vehicles “most wanted” by any general during the war, due to its speed and off-road agility. One of these was Rommel’s personal vehicle. This was basically a model 232 with a modified “bedstead” antenna, with the turret replaced by a fixed, large superstructure housing a single MG 13 or, later, MG 34 machine-gun. Roomier, it was especially designed at the very beginning of the 231 series as a mobile HQ for small units. Production started in 1937 and stopped in late 1943 (716 or 928 units produced in total, depending on the source), in parallel with the regular Sd.Kfz.231/32 versions.

Succession: The Sd.Kfz.234

Frequently associated with the “Puma” name, which in fact was only an unofficial nickname of a sub-version, this series counted an entire array of vehicles, based on a brand new chassis, first designed in 1942. The Sonderkraftfahrzeug 234 had a brand new, redesigned hull, a reinforced monocoque chassis, reinforced, which allowed an increase in protection. All came from a wartime specification after the campaigns in Poland, France and early experience in Africa. Bussing-NAG conceived the chassis, but parts and final assembly was performed by three other companies. The 234/1 had a 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon, but the 234/2 (“Puma”) was equipped with a deadly 5 cm (1.97 in) KwK 39 L/60 in a brand new turret. The 234/3 was a SPG, and the 234/4 was a “Pak-Wagen”, accomodating a Pak 40 7.5 cm (2.95 in) 46 caliber antitank gun. Only 478 Sd.Kfz.234 were built until March 1945.

Links and resources

The Schwerer Panzerspähwagen on Wikipedia (generic)

Sd.Kfz.231 8-rad specifications

Dimensions 5.9 x 2.2 x 2.9 m (19ft4 x 7ft3 x 9ft6)
Total weight, battle ready 8.3 tons
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Propulsion Maybach 8-cyl petrol, 155 bhp
Speed (on/off road) 85/60 km/h (53/37 mph)
Armament 20 mm (0.79 in) QF KwK 30/38
7.92 mm (0.31 in) Mauser MG 34
Operational maximum range 300 km (186 mi)
Total production 1235

Sd.Kfz.231, Berlin, 1937
Sd.Kfz.231 (early type) Berlin, September 1937. There is little photographic evidence that the first production has been camouflaged in the usual three-tone camouflage pattern of the time.
Sd.Kfz.232 8-rad, Poland
Early type Schwerer Panzerspähwagen 232 (Fug) 8-rad, reconnaissance unit attached to the 4th Panzerdivision, Invasion of Poland, Warsaw sector, September 1939.
Sd.Kfz.231, Caucasus
Sd.Kfz.231 attached to the 13th Panzerdivision, in the Caucasus, November 1942. This one is summarily painted in Braun RAL 8020.
Sd.Kfz.231, 13th Panzerdivision
Sd.Kfz.231 from the Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 13 (13th Panzerdivision) Dniepr sector, summer 1943.
Sd.Kfz.231 in Russia
Sd.Kfz.231 (8-rad), SS Aufk.Abt.3 SS PanzerDivision “Wiking”, Heeresgruppe center, early 1943.
Sd.Kfz.231, Normandy, Das Reich
Sd.Kfz.231 of the SS Aufk.Abt.2, Panzerdivision “Das Reich”, Normandy, June 1944.
Sd.Kfz.232, Greece
Sd.Kfz.232 from the LSSAH (SS reconnaissance unit), Greece, April 1941.
Sd.Kfz.232 of the Deutsche Afrika Korps
Sd.Kfz.232 (8-rad), 5th Leichte-Division, attached to the 3rd Panzerdivision, Agedabia, Libya, April 1941.
Sd.Kfz.232, Das Reich
Sd.Kfz.232 (8-rad), Ausfklärungsarbeitung unit of the SS Panzergrenadier Division “Das Reich”, Kharkov sector, March 1943.


Sd.Kfz.231 in RussiaSd.Kfz.231 8-rad of the DAKSd.Kfz.231 (8 rad) in the Ardennes, December 1944
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

WW2 German Armored Cars


Germany (1938-1941)
Armored Scout Car – 2,380 Built

A predecessor, the Panzerspähwagen Kfz.13

The Kfz.13 was the first German armored car after the Versailles treaty was signed, designed in 1933. Until then, only WW1 era armored cars were used by the Police. Tanks were still forbidden. They would be studied in secret, while armored cars were authorized for the German Army. This vehicle was built upon a Pkw Adler Standard 6 car chassis, receiving an armored body made of 6 mm (0.24 in) thick welded plates. It was built until 1935, was equipped with four-wheel drive and had a bad off-road ride. For the unarmed version, named Funkkraftwagen 14, the machine gun was replaced by a radio device. This vehicle was used in the campaign of Poland and in the Western campaign in 1940. It was retired from active service in 1941, and only used for training purposes, but paved the way for further developments. The Sd.Kfz.221 was the first of these.

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As the Kfz.13 was a road armored car, but an army specification of 1935 called for a true all-terrain variant. The German Wehrmacht was still under construction and, in secret maneuvers in the Soviet Union, it was recognized that a suitable scout car was necessary to succeed the Kfz.13. An order was therefore placed to Eisenwerk Weserhütte of Bad Oeynhausen, to study the Sd.Kfz.221. The chassis used a four-wheel drive, independent suspension and the V8 3.5L Horch (20 hp/tonne) engine was relocated to the rear.

The hull was still made of welded 14 mm (front) to 6 mm (sides, rear) (0.24-0.55 in) thick plates on a sloped body, suitable to deflect most low-velocity projectiles. The driver was situated on the front-right, with two protected vision hatches. The commander and gunner/radio operator were located in the center. From above, the hull had a diamond-like shape, thin at the edges, wider in the center. The standard armament was a MG 34 machine-gun, protected by a frontal shield, with 1100 rounds. Official designation was Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz.221 (Light Reconnaissance Armored Car -Special Purpose Vehicle 221). The chassis were built by Auto Union in Zwickau and assembly was performed by Schichau at Elbing. 340 were delivered from 1936 to 1939.

This four-wheeled vehicle proved to be fast and agile, had an excellent range (320 km/200 mi), but it quickly became apparent it had limited off-road capabilities. When the Blitzkrieg was unleashed in Poland and France, the problem did not appear, as these vehicles used a good road network, but in the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa, in winter and in the muddy season, four-wheeled vehicles were found very hard to use. Nevertheless, the 221 proved its combat efficiency and was kept in service until 1943.

In some cases, the original MG was swapped for an anti-tank rifle 39 or, later, a model 41 28 mm (1.1 in) anti-tank gun, in order to increase its firepower. The armor was suitable against small arms fire and shrapnel, but small tank guns (37 mm/1.46 in) or British/Russian anti-tank rifles were able to destroy the vehicles. The light armament was also a limitation. For these reasons, the vehicle was gradually replaced by newer models and sent to training centers, patrolling occupied countries or used as a liaison vehicle between command posts.

Sd.Kfz.221 conversions

mit 2.8cm Panzerbüchse 41

Some of these armored cars received a weapon of choice, the only one light enough to be mounted on top, the Mauser sPzB P.41 or Schwere Panzerbüsche 2.8cm. This was a taper-bore heavy AT rifle, using the squeeze bore principle, which gave an incredible initial muzzle velocity of 1500 m/s. Nearly 2800 were manufactured from 1939 to 1943 and it was mounted on many vehicles, like the Sd.Kfz.221. The gun, however, which had an effective caliber of 20 mm (0.79 in) and only fired costly tungsten rounds, was efficient at short ranges of up to 500 m, but still capable of punching through 50 mm (1.97 in) of steel. The gun also had a life expectancy of only 500 shots. An unknown number of vehicles were converted in 1942 under the German designation Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz.221 mit 2.8cm Panzerbüchse 41. The crew was reduced to only two, a driver and gun operator, and the weight rose to 4.5 tons.


The Kleiner Panzerfunkwagen Sd.Kfz.260 and Sd.Kfz.261 were two radio versions, unarmed, fitted with a large bed-frame rod antenna, serving as signal vehicles. The 260 was given a medium range radio and fixed, large antenna, while the 261 was given a longer range radio and a collapsible frame aerial antenna. Both were produced in small numbers and replaced by the antenna versions of the Sd.Kfz.250 series half-tracks.

Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz.222

This modernized version of the 221 appeared when the needs of the army evolved and required a better design. First, the hull shape and internal structure was rearranged. There was a step down behind the turret – which was larger and 10 sided – and the rear was now pyramid-like. It was longer, and since heavier weapons were to be installed, the chassis had to be strengthened. It was rebuilt from scratch and had no relationship with the former commercial chassis. The production, assumed by Weserhütte, Schichau, MNH, Büssing-NAG and Horch, started in 1936 and ended in 1943, and was quite numerous, with no less than 1800 vehicles (according to some sources) in seven series.
The first one received the usual MG 34 machine-gun and the turret top, still open, was protected by an anti-grenade mesh in two pieces. But the main improvement was the lightweight Rheinmetall 20 mm (0.79 in) autocannon -the weapon of choice of German armored scout vehicles. The 20 mm (0.79 in) and the MG 34 were coaxial. The 20 mm KwK 30 gun was fully automatic, had a 280 rpm fire rate and could fire a 5.2 oz AP shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,625 ft/s (800 m/s). It was replaced, on later series, by the KwK 38, which had a better rate of fire, 480 rpm. The series 1 to 5 received a sPkw I Horch 801 chassis with the 3.5 liter engine, and the series 6-7, the sPkw V chassis and 3.8 l engine. The overall weight rose accordingly to 4.8 tons.

Since the chassis was more robust, the protection increased and a more efficient was used. The effectiveness of the vehicle also improved, despite some limitations in off-road capabilities. The 222 was introduced in 1938 and quickly became the main German armored scout car, largely distributed to Aufklärung Abteilungs (recce squadrons) of SS units, Panzerdivisions and Motorized Infantry Divisions. There were a few in Poland, but more largely represented during the Western campaign and in France.

On a good road network they excelled, and were seen many times by Allied soldiers and officers -to their astonishment- well beyond the supposed frontline, creating panic and havoc, thanks to their speed and devastating main gun. The crews soon grew to like this vehicle, although it was somewhat cramped, and often painted non-standard personal emblems and nicknames on the hull, a favor only granted to recce squadrons, which had a strong esprit de corps.

These machines excelled in the Balkans in 1941, but in North Africa, although the Afrika Korps received lots of them, there were complaints about their lack of effective range, due to the limited volume of their fuel tanks. Many additional jerrycans were carried, fitted everywhere on the hull and mudguards. The hull itself received additional storage boxes, which also acted like extra armor. In most cases, an additional rack was fitted to the nose, receiving five more jerrycans. As the war evolved, these were gradually removed from the frontline and replaced by the Sd.Kfz.250/9 half-track (Hanomag), especially in Russia, because of their better range and off-road performance.

A handful (something like 40 to 60) were also sold to the Republic of China in 1939. In many cases, some 222s were seen bringing their firepower to assist infantry on the spot, and were especially efficient against enemy infantry and light vehicles. However, it was vulnerable to the Russian PTRS-41 rifle. Some managed to survive until 1945, affected to police operations and anti-partisan warfare in occupied territories.

Panzerspähwagen (Fu) Sd.Kfz.223

This radio version was based on the 222, but for stability and practical reasons, their large turret was removed and replaced by surplus lighter 221 turrets, which were also shifted backwards. Their trademark was a large, fixed four feet bed-frame aerial antenna, and they combined long and medium range sets of radios. The 223 was produced to an extent of 550 machines by Weserhütte, MNH, Büssing-NAG and Horch from 1935 to January 1944, in two series, differing by their engine, the 8-cylinder Horch 3.5 l or 3.8 l Despite having the same problems -limited all-terrain performance and range- they served on every front until 1945 with Aufsklärung squadrons. A normal provision was one 223 for three 222s.
Few Leichter Panzerspähwagens 221/222/223 have survived to this day, but 5-6 remain in private collections, some in running condition, and at least one Czech modern day replica, based on a shortened truck chassis which received a steel frame and welded metal plates, pretty much like the original.


On Wikipedia
A video of a modern-day Czech reconstruction of a Sd.Kfz.222

Sd.Kfz.222 specifications

Dimensions 4.8 x 1.95 x 1.70 m (15.9 x 6.5 x 5.7 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 4 tons maximum
Crew 4
Propulsion Horch 3.5 V8 petrol, 67 kW (90 hp)
Speed (on/off road) 80/40 km/h (50/25 mph)
Range 300 km (186 miles)
Production (Sd.Kfz.222 only) Approximately 1800

Sd.Kfz.221, France
Early Sd.Kfz.221 of the 15th SS Aufklärung Abteilung “LSSAH”, spring 1939. Click to see another from the Aufklärung-Abteilung 3rd SS Panzerdivision “Totenkopf”, Arras sector, northern France, May 1940.
Chinese Sd.Kfz.221
Sd.Kfz.221 of the Chinese Nationalist Army, fall 1940.
Sd.Kfz.221 in Russia
Sd.Kfz.221, Russia, winter 1941-42. Notice the half open anti-grenade screen over the top of the turret.
Sd.Kfz.221 mit 2.8cm Panzerbüchse 41
Leichter Panzerspähwagen 221 converted as tank hunter with the Mauser 2.8cm sPzB 41. Some reconnaissance SS unit in the Caucasus, summer 1943.
Sd.Kfz.222 in Poland
Sd.Kfz.222 from the XXth Motorized Division recce squadron, Poland, September 1939.
Sd.Kfz.222, France
Sd.Kfz.222 from a XVth Panzerdivision recce unit, France, May 1940.
Sd.Kfz.222 with the Deutsche Afrika Korps
Sd.Kfz.222 of the Deutsche Afrika Korps, recce unit attached to the XXIst Panzerdivision, Libya, fall 1941. These vehicles were criticized for their insufficient range and were literally crammed with fuel jerrycans.
Sd.Kfz.222 on the Eastern Front
Sd.Kfz.222 on the Eastern Front, summer 1941. The brownish camouflage was applied locally.
Sd.Kfz.222 in Normandy
Sd.Kfz.222 from the XXIst Panzerdivision, Caen sector, Normandy, summer 1944. Notice the late KwK 38 long barrel 2 cm (0.79 in) gun and MG 42.
Sd.Kfz.223 of the DAK
Sd.Kfz.223 Leichter Panzerspähwagen (Fu), the regular radio version, here from a recce squadron attached to the 164th Leichte Afrika Division (former 90th LAD), El Alamein sector, Egypt, fall 1942.
Sd.Kfz.223 in Russia
Sd.Kfz.223, Russia, XIIIth Panzerdivision, Operation Barbarossa, summer 1941.
Sd.Kfz.223 in western Ukraine
Sd.Kfz.223 in western Ukraine, unidentified SS Aufklärung Abteilung, fall 1943.

SdKfz 260, recoignisable to its single whip antenna. These vehicles were unarmed and apparently had no marking, no balkankreuz.

SdKfz 261, equipped with a four-pole bed frame antenna in the winter 1942-43, eastern front.


Sd.Kfz.223 from a private collectionSd.Kfz.222 inspected by British troops
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2