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WW2 German Armored Cars

Schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen, Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A (6 Rad) and B (4 Rad)

German Reich (1938-1945)
Armored Staff Car – 10 Ausf.A and 58 Ausf.B Built

The Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B were armored cross-country cars intended for transporting very senior German officers around safely, even on rough terrain. Due to the rising need for such an armored car that would be easy to build, a development already began in the early 1930s. Based on the chassis of an existing and very popular truck, the Kfz.69 and 70, the 6-wheeled Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was built. With only a few Ausf.A vehicles were ever completed, in 1941, the Ausf.B entered production with only 4 wheels but improved mobility. The Ausf.A and B were assigned to command and HQ units and later used as reconnaissance vehicles. Production was stopped in 1942 and, by 1943/1944, most Sd.Kfz.247s were lost.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A 6-wheeled armored cross-country car in 1938. Source: Panzer Tracts No. 13-1
Colorization of an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B 4-wheeled armored cross-country car in the Soviet Union in 1942. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Context and Development: Need for a Cross-Country Staff and Troop Car

In 1929, the company of Krupp designed a 3-axle cross-country artillery tractor that was meant to be able to tow anti-tank (AT) guns through rugged terrain. However, this vehicle was meant to not use tracks and stll perform better than a regular truck. The result was the Krupp L2 H43, which was a 6-wheeled (6×4) truck chassis that had a 4-cylinder boxer engine. This engine was installed to fulfill the requirements, which demanded a high ground clearance. The L2 H43 and the later H143 truck chassis were used on several different vehicles. One example was the Krupp Protze (Protze refers to the name Protzekraftwagen, which originated from its constructor), designated Kfz.69. Throughout the 1930s, this was Germany’s most produced light AT gun and artillery gun carrier.

The L2 H143 chassis of a Krupp Protze in 1937. Source: Bundesarchiv, 146-1993-039-10

Alongside the most well-known version, the Kfz.69, there were several other variants, each of which fulfilled a different role. In 1934, the German weapons design office demanded the development of a fast and mobile cross-country vehicle that was easy and cheap to produce for very high-ranking officers. This vehicle was intended to safely transport these officers to the front. Although there were already staff cars in service, the Kfz.21 was solely a 6×4 car which was limited in mobility. This limit came to show later in 1941, when many staff cars had trouble going through rugged terrain. Furthermore, they could not provide sufficient protection against even small arms fire. The new cross-country armored cars were to be organized within the HQ units of the divisional HQs and reconnaissance battalions.

Kfz.21 using the same 6-wheeled L2 H143 chassis. These vehicles were rather limited in mobility and their ability to maneuver through difficult terrain. Source: Collection of Henry Hoppe

Production

In 1934, the prototype of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was built on the chassis of a Krupp L2 H43. By January 1938, 10 vehicles had been completed. The production was carried out by Krupp and Daimler Benz.

In the same year, the contract for at least 58 new staff vehicles was given out to Daimler-Benz. These were to be built on an Einheitsfahrgestell (Eng. Unitary chassis). The unitary chassis was intended to be used for many vehicles to simplify production. These staff car variants had 4 wheels and would later be known as the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B.

Production was to start in October 1939, but design problems delayed the production. To resolve the problems, unlike all other 4-wheeled armored cars that used the Einheitsfahrgestell, the Ausf.B used the Einheitsfahrgestell II für schweren Pkw (Eng. unitary chassis for heavy personnel carrier), with a two-wheel drive instead of the intended 4. From July 1941 to January 1942, all 58 Ausf.Bs were completed.

Heavy cross-country truck of the SS towing a Pak 36 in 1941. Its chassis would later be used on the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B. Source: Wikiwand

Name

The long name for the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B was Schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen, Sonderkraftfahrzeug 247 Ausführung A (6 Rad) und Ausführung B (4 Rad) mit Fahrgestell des leichten geländegängigen Lastkraftwagen, which translates to ‘heavy cross-country armored personnel carrier, special purpose vehicle 247 variant A (6-wheeled) and variant B (4-wheeled) on chassis of the light cross-country truck’. This designation was only used on paper and in factories. There was also an abbreviation for this long term: s.gl.gp.Pkw. The troops would normally refer to it as schwerer gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen (Eng: heavy armored personnel carrier) or, if commanded by a general, schwerer gepanzerter Kommandatenwagen (Eng: heavy armored command vehicle). For the sake of simplicity, the article will use the term Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B.

Original color photo of an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B, part of the 3rd Motorcycle Battalion of the 3rd Panzer Division in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Design

The Ausf.A was designed to be as cheap as possible whilst still being able to sustain fire with rifle caliber bullets. It would also maintain the style of German armored cars at that time, such as the Sd.Kfz.221 and 222. The Ausf.A was 6-wheeled and had an armored superstructure around the vehicle. The Ausf.B maintained the overall idea of the armored superstructure and only the number of wheels changed to 4.

Top: Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A with the L2 H143 chassis.
Bottom: Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B.
Source: Panzer Tracts No. 13-1

Hull, Superstructure, and Layout

The hull was built around the chassis of the vehicle. On top of the hull was the armored superstructure that went around the entire vehicle. The Ausf.A had an open top. Above the wheels were mudguards. At the front was the engine grill and two headlamps. On the left side, the Ausf.A had a spare wheel and other equipment, such as an ax and shovel. On the front and on the sides were visors, two on each side and two on the front. The visors on the front laid on another big visor which could be opened for a better view. On some vehicles, fake visors were painted on to confuse the enemy. The Ausf.A also had two exit doors on the sides and one at the rear. Some vehicles had a K-Rolle (Eng: wired barrier-roll), used for laying quick barriers, placed on the engine deck, on the front side.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in Germany 1938. Note the K-Rolle on the engine deck. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The Ausf.B also had a mostly open-topped superstructure, but the driver’s compartment was covered by a top metal plate. On some vehicles, a canvas was fastened above the crew compartment. It also had mudguards above the wheels, on which headlamps were placed. The engine grill was also at the front, with an access hatch to the engine on the engine deck at the front. The Ausf.B had three exit doors, one at the rear, one on the right, and one on the left side. On the rear door was the spare wheel. On its left side, the Ausf.B had a shovel, a storage box, a jack, and an access hatch to the crew compartment. On the right side, it had a fire extinguisher and the last access hatch. Visors were placed all around the vehicle, with three on each side and two at the front. Towing hooks were at the rear and on the front.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B seen from the side. Note the open hatch and storage box. Source: Panzer.net

The inner layout did not differ much between the two variants. There were two seats at the rear and a large two-man bench. On the inner sides of the superstructure was equipment for the crew, such as ammunition and the periscope, which was placed in the middle of the crew compartment. Two seats were at the front for the driver and co-driver.

View into the inside of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A. Source: Collection Holger Erdmann

Suspension and Wheels

The Ausf.A had 4 driven wheels and 2 steering wheels. On the front side were the two steering wheels, which were sprung with leaf springs. At the back side were the four drive wheels, that were sprung by common coil springs. The Ausf.A had two different variants which differed in the distance between the rear axles. However, the versions are almost impossible to distinguish. The early Ausf.As received the L2 H43 chassis, whilst the late Ausf.As received the later L2 H143 chassis. There were also different tire types, but this had nothing to do with the different chassis types. One tire type was thicker and more resistant to difficult terrain.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in France 1940. This was the later L2 H143 chassis with more space between the rear axles. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A, part of an armored car company during a parade in 1938. This was the earlier L2 H43 with less space between the rear axles. This very vehicle is also said to be the very first Ausf.A ever built. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Initially, the Ausf.B was planned to have 4 driven wheels. All 4 wheels were individually suspended and coil spring-suspended. However, due to production issues, it only received the Einheitsfahrgestell II chassis, which had a 2-wheel drive.

Engine

Both variants had their engine at the front and access hatches above the engine compartment. The Ausf.A had a 65 hp @ 2,500 rpm Krupp 4-cylinder engine, which propelled it to a top speed of 70 km/h. The gearbox had 4 forward and 1 reverse gears. The 110 liters of gasoline were enough for 350 km on the road and around 240 km off-road.

The Ausf.B, on the other hand, was fitted with a more powerful 81 hp @ 3,600 rpm water-cooled Horch V-8, which performed better than the Krupp engine. Furthermore, the Ausf.B had a power-to-weight ratio of 18.1 hp/ton compared to the 12.4 hp/ton of the Ausf.A. This resulted in the Ausf.B generally performing better in terms of mobility than the Ausf.A. However, one factor for this performance increase was the weight being reduced by almost one tonne. The Horch gearbox had 5 forward and 1 reverse gears. The 120 liters of gasoline was enough for 400 km on the road and 270 km off-road.

Armor

Exact armor specifications are not known and range from 6-8 mm all around for both vehicles. The armor was sloped and angled to prevent penetration by 7.92 mm steel-cored bullets at ranges of over 30 m.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A as part of an army corps HQ unit in Poland, 1939. Note the angled armor. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of a divisional HQ unit in Spring 1942. Note the angled armor. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Armament

Officially, there was no primary armament on either the Ausf.A or B. For protection, the vehicle had to rely on the weapons of the crew and an MP 38/40 with 192 rounds kept within the compartment. However, crews quickly became aware of this lack of protection, mainly against air attacks, but also against ground targets. On some Ausf.As, an anti-aircraft (AA) MG 34 was mounted behind the periscope. Most of the Ausf.Bs received an AA MG 34 or MG 42 mounted on the front superstructure for use against infantry and one at the back against air attacks. Since these were field conversions, they did not have any protective shields. There was one exception from the LSSAH, when an Ausf.B featured a presumably self-made shield and an MG 34 mounted in the crew compartment.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in France, 1940, with an anti-aircraft MG 34 mounted in the crew compartment for protection. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B with an AA MG 34 mounted on top of the driver’s compartment in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B, part of the 10th SS Motorcycle Regiment of the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundberg, with an MG 42 mounted on top of the driver’s compartment. Normandy, 1944. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B with an improvised MG shield and MG 34, part of the LSSAH in the Soviet Union during winter 1941-1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Communication

Communication between the vehicles had to be done with hand signals and flags, as no radio was fitted in the Ausf.A and B. However, similar to the armament, crews quickly adapted and refitted their cars with radios. It is unknown whether these conversions were authorized, but they all appear to be very similar. Vehicles were either refitted with a frame antenna going around the crew compartment or a star antenna (mostly on the Ausf.B). The radios were most likely FuG 5 or 8s.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during the invasion of Poland in 1939. This vehicle already received a radio and frame antenna in 1939, which shows the desperate need for radios in the 247s. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B that was outfitted with a radio and a star antenna in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Crew

The crew in both variants was 6: one driver and five passengers. The driver sat on the right side in the driver’s compartment. Of the 5 passengers, 1 sat next to the driver (presumably the commander). The other 4, which included one adjutant or senior officer, sat in the crew compartment on two benches.

The crew members (one missing) of a Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in 1938. Source: ea-antik via Ebay

Organization and Doctrine

Although the vehicle was capable of driving through rugged terrain, it was somewhat limited due to its wheels. The drivers were therefore advised to stay on dirst tracks and roads and only drive off-road if needed.

Colorization of a reconnaissance battalion. In the lead is an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in three-tone camouflage. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital collection of Armin Freitag

In 1939, the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was organized within headquarters units of motorized infantry brigades, with one vehicle per unit. Before the war, some divisions had a motorized reconnaissance regiment instead of a battalion. These regiments had an approved strength of up to 6 Sd.Kfz.247s.

The regular battalions had a total of 3 within their HQ unit and in each armored car company. The independent recruitment reconnaissance battalion also had one within their HQ unit and armored car companies. This was a total of 4 Sd.Kfz.247s without the reconnaissance regiment and 7 with the reconnaissance regiment per motorized infantry division and tank division in 1939.

Regular non-motorized infantry divisions did not have any. The independent training reconnaissance battalion also had one within their HQ unit and armored car companies. The Waffen SS had one Sd.Kfz.247 per division within the HQ unit of their reconnaissance unit.

However, these were only theoretical numbers and the fact that only around 10 Ausf.As were ever built leads to the conclusion that most units did not receive any Sd.Kfz.247. Confirmed units that fielded Sd.Kfz.247s were the HQ units of the motorized reconnaissance regiments. The regular army corps HQ also had several vehicles on the adjutant level.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during a parade, part of the 1st Battalion of the 6th Reconnaissance Regiments of the 1st Light Brigade. Source: Koelsch333 via Ebay
An adjutant (on the left) and his crew in their Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in Poland, 1939. Source: Engelbubu-Fotos via Ebay

In 1940, the organization did not change much. The Ausf.B was not yet in service, which meant that most divisions were still underequipped. The number of motorized reconnaissance units was reduced to a single regiment that had 4 Sd.Kfz.247s instead of 6. This meant each tank and motorized infantry division was meant to only have 4 Sd.Kfz.247s, one from the infantry brigade HQ and 3 from the reconnaissance battalion. The division with a sole reconnaissance regiment had 5. The SS fielded 2 vehicles per division.

One of the rare cases where an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A was part of an armored car company’s HQ unit in France 1940. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1941, the organization changed slightly, and more and more divisions actually received vehicles. These were mainly the new Ausf.Bs, which were delivered from July 1941 onwards. Each SS division still fielded 2 Sd.Kfz.247s Ausf.Bs within their reconnaissance battalion. The headquarters of a Panzer group now also fielded 247s on their adjutant level. The same applied to the motorized army corps. For regular motorized and tank divisions, the HQ unit of an infantry brigade had one and the reconnaissance battalion had 2. This resulted in a total number of up to 3 vehicles per division.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B during winter 1941. Note the flag and the symbol for reconnaissance battalions, which identifies this vehicle as a reconnaissance battalion HQ vehicle. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1942, the Wehrmacht would change the way how reconnaissance was done. Instead of motorized reconnaissance battalions, there were two individual motorcycle battalions. One of the two was converted from the old reconnaissance battalion and was refitted with more motorcycles. This meant most Sd.Kfz.247s were moved over to the HQ units and armored car companies of the new motorcycle battalions. The headquarters unit of an infantry brigade still fielded their 247s. A total of 3 Sd.Kfz.247s were present in each division. The same changes applied for the Waffen SS, which was also given motorcycle battalions. The organization of the Independent and HQ units also changed. It was thought that the Sd.Kfz.247s were less effective as staff vehicles, but more important in the reconnaissance role and were therefore removed from army corps HQ. The training motorcycle battalion had one within their HQ unit.

An Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A that survived until 1942, as part of a motorcycle battalion. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.Bs as part of the Motorcycle Battalion Grossdeutschland’s Second Company in the Soviet Union in 1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

In 1943, although reconnaissance battalions were reintroduced, the Sd.Kfz.247s were removed from the Wehrmacht’s organizational lists. Only the Waffen SS continued to use them. This meant most Wehrmacht 247s were moved over to the Waffen SS. The SS had 2 per Division within their motorcycle HQ unit and reconnaissance HQ unit. However, some units simply kept their 247s and continued to use them. Two of these continued recorded cases were during the Battle of Normandy and the Invasion of Rhodes.

Number of Sd.Kfz.247 per Division from 1939 to 1943
Date Type of Division Number of Sd.Kfz.247
1.9.1939 motorized infantry and tank division 4, 7 (with reconnaissance regiment)
1.9.1939-1943 motorcycle and reconnaissance recruitment battalion 1
1.9.1939-1942 Army Corps HQ 1
1.9.1939 Waffen SS 1
10.5.1940 motorized infantry and tank division 4
10.5.1940-1944 Waffen SS 2
22.6.1941-1943 motorized infantry and tank division 3
22.6.1941 Tank Corps HQ 1

Service

Before the Second World War, the Sd.Kfz.247 was often seen during big parades, when very high ranking officers were transported. These vehicles were therefore often photographed and played more of a propaganda role, in order to demonstrate how advanced the German command forces were, even though, in reality, most units did not even receive these vehicles.

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A during a parade in 1939, after the invasion of Poland. Note the decorated crew of the vehicle, presumably part of a reconnaissance battalion HQ. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

During wartime, the vehicles were less effective than in their propaganda role and were mostly photographed because of their crew. They did not participate in any direct fighting and mainly were second in line on the frontlines. The later upgraded versions with radios and self-defense armament were used more often on the frontlines, especially within the motorized motorcycle battalions as reconnaissance vehicles and communication vehicles. Due to their speed and cross-country capabilities, they were popular as reconnaissance vehicles compared to other reconnaissance armored cars, such as the Sd.Kfz.222. However, these outshined the 247s because of their superior armament.

Colorization of a column of vehicles of the 7th Motorcycle Battalion of the 7th Panzer Division. In the front is an Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B. 1942. Colorization by Johannes Dorn. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The vehicles saw service on almost all fronts, from the annexation of Austria, to the occupation of Czechoslovakia, to the Invasion of Poland. They went on to see service during the invasions of France and the Soviet Union. Although they did not see service in North Africa, some Ausf.Bs took part in the invasion of Italian-occupied Rhodes in 1943, as part of the 999. Armored Reconnaissance Battalion of Sturm Division Rhodos (Eng. Assault Division Rhodes).

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A as part of a reconnaissance battalion in Poland, 1939. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
One of the few Ausf.As that survived until the winter of 1941. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of the 999. Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Rhodes in 1943. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Fate

After the Sd.Kfz.247s were removed from the organizational lists, there was no demand for them, and the few vehicles that survived continued to see service. Due to only such a low number of vehicles being produced, most Sd.Kfz.247s were lost by 1944.

Destroyed Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A of an armored reconnaissance battalion in 1941-1942. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Reproductions

There are no surviving Sd.Kfz.247s. However, the 247 proved to be a popular vehicle for reenactors over time. There are numerous reproductions and replicas owned by private collectors and reenactors. They are mostly used as HQ vehicles for the unit, but some are also lent for film production. The exact number of reproductions is not known and they all differ in historical accuracy. They all use different chassis of trucks and cars and the material used is also different.

One of the most accurate Sd.Kz. 247 replicas used by many reenactment groups. Source: Wikimedia
A replica Ausf.B which is decently accurate, excluding the wheels. Source: Flickr
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B replica which has the wrong wheels and is too short. Source: Flickr
Another accurate replica of the Ausf.B, excluding the wheels. It was used in numerous war films. Source: Wikimedia
A replica of the Ausf.B which is also decently accurate but has a too low silhouette and is too long. Source: Flickr
A historically inaccurate replica of the Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B having the wrong mudguards, visors, equipment, and too high a silhouette. Source: Wikimedia
Another replica of the Ausf.B with a too high silhouette and overall wrong layout. Source: Wikimedia
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A replica. This one is one of the most accurate replicas of the Ausf.A, excluding the wheels. Source: Flickr
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A replica. This one, although it has the right shape, misses a lot of equipment and has some errors with the visors. Source: Flickr

Conclusion

The Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A and B were successful attempts at creating a mobile cross-country armored staff car that was superior in terms of mobility to the other staff cars but inferior to half-tracked vehicles. Although it might seem like the vehicle lacked armor protection and armament, this was not demanded by the weapons office. The vehicles delivered what they were intended for. However, the vehicles were built in too few numbers to actually have had an impact on the war and were less relevant to the German Army. They were replaced by more advanced half-tracked command vehicles.

Illustrations

Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A in the France, 1940. Illustration made by Godzilla
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B in the Soviet Union, 1941. Illustration made by Godzilla
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B in the Soviet Union in Autumn 1942. Illustration made by David B.
Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.B as part of the 10th SS. Panzer Division in Normandy, 1944. Illustration made by David B.

Sd.Kfz.254 Ausf.A and B specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) Ausf.A: 5.2 x 1.9 x 1.7 m, Ausf.B: 5 x 2 x 1.8 m
Total Weight Ausf.A: 5,200 kg, Ausf.B: 4,460 kg
Crew (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) 6 (driver, 5 passengers)
Speed Ausf.A: on roads 70 km/h, off-road 31 km/h, Ausf.B: on roads 80 km/h, off-road 40 km/h
Range Ausf.A: 350 km, Ausf.B: 400 km
Secondary Armament (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) MP 38/40
Armor (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) 10 mm
Engine (Ausf.A) and (Ausf.B) Ausf.A: water-cooled Krupp 4-cylinder, Ausf.B: water-cooled Horch V-8 cylinder
Total Production Ausf.A: 10, Ausf.B: 58

Sources

Alexander Lüdeke, Panzer der Wehrmacht Band 2: Rad- und Halbkettenfahrzeuge 1939–1945. Motorbuch Verlag

Charles Lemons: Technical Manuals for German Vehicles, Volume 2, Sonderkraftfahrzeug

Peter Chamberlain and Hilary L. Doyle, Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two

Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts No. 13 Panzerspähwagen

http://www.kfzderwehrmacht.de/Hauptseite_deutsch/Kraftfahrzeuge/Deutschland/Krupp/Sd__Kfz__247/sd__kfz__247.html

http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/auta/247.php

4 replies on “Schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen, Sd.Kfz.247 Ausf.A (6 Rad) and B (4 Rad)”

Superior work on one of my favorite subjects thank you instead of bits and pieces i now have a completed history

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