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SdKfz 234 (8-Rad) file photo [17096]

SdKfz 234 (8-Rad)

CountryGermany
Primary RoleArmored Car

Contributor:

ww2dbaseFrequently confused with the SdKfz 231 (8-Rad) series of German armoured cars, to which it bears a close resemblance (it was easily identified by the one-piece mudguard running the length of the hull containing various stowage bins and lockers), the SdKfz 234 was in fact an entirely new range of wheeled fighting vehicles, that represented one of the most advanced concepts in design and probably the best vehicle of its type to see service during the Second World War with any army.

ww2dbaseIn August 1940, the Heereswaffenamt initiated a request for a new 8x8 armoured–car design that would be suitable for deployment in hot climates (a factor that was somewhat prescient as the German Army had yet to become involved in the North African campaign). The Bussing-NAG organization at Leipzig-Wahren, Germany were tasked with preparing a design, which, not surprisingly, emerged as a similar layout to their SdKfz 231 (8-Rad) model, although with a more streamlined monocoque hull upon which the suspension was mounted (thus doing away with the need for a separate chassis), and considerable thicker armour.

ww2dbaseAt an early stage an air-cooled diesel engine was specified. The Czech firm of Tatra (Ringhoffer-Tatra-Werke AG, Nesseldorf) were approached to produce a suitable motor. The result was a V-12 diesel engine with an output of 220hp, and the prototype of this was ready by the end of 1941. But development of the engine was slow and plagued with problems, so that by the time that the vehicle (standardised as the SdKfz 234/1 Schwere Panzerspähwagen (8-Rad)) went into mass production in July 1943 the North African campaign had been over for many months. Bussing-NAG were responsible for assembly, with the bodywork manufactured by Deutsche Edelstahlwerke of Krefeld and the turret by Daimler-Benz AG, Berlin-Marienfeld and F. Schichau of Elbing.

ww2dbaseAt 10.33 tons the SdKfz 234/1 (manned by a crew of four) was some 20 percent heavier than the SdKfz 231, but its maximum speed was only marginally less. It had 30mm armour on the frontal hull and turret; 14.5mm on the turret side and rear; 8mm hull side armour and 10mm on the rear hull. Air brakes and a radio were fitted as standard and the use of larger diameter tyres permitted an outstanding cross-country performance. Additionally the combination of the fuel economy of a diesel engine with an increased fuel capacity resulted in the vehicle having an operational radius which was approximately twice that of the earlier SdKfz 231 (8-Rad) series, and fortuitously the engine was found to perform just as efficiently in extreme cold as in extreme heat, allowing the SdKfz 234 to operate well in the rigours of eastern front winters.

ww2dbaseThe most common complaint amongst German armoured car crewmen was that when they were forced to engage, their armament was frequently less than adequate. This was clearly revealed in the first production version, the SdKfz 234/1 which utilised an open-topped turret fitted with protective mesh cages similar to those mounted on the 5-ton light armoured car SdKfz 222, and very inadequate for a vehicle of this size. Armament consisted of one 2-cm KwK cannon mounted coaxially with a 7.92mm machine gun. This imbalance was corrected to some degree in the SdKfz 234/2 Schwere Panzerspähwagen (50mm) Puma which mounted the same KwK 39 50mm L/60 gun as carried by the PzKpfw III Ausf J and L medium tanks, with the very necessary addition of a muzzle brake. The gun, fitted in a prominent bell-shaped mantlet, was housed coaxially with the 7.92mm machine gun, in a cramped but fully enclosed turret that had been designed originally for the Leopard light tank. Typically 55 rounds of 50mm ammunition were stowed, but this arrangement added half a ton to the weight of the basic 234 design, resulting in a slight reduction in the maximum speed obtainable. The 50mm gun did provided adequate firepower to deal, if needed, with most enemy reconnaissance armour encountered (although it was still intended only as a reconnaissance vehicle). The quality of this vehicle can be judged by the fact that, despite the high cost of manufacture, it was the only German reconnaissance vehicle kept in production by a decimated German war industry in 1945.

ww2dbaseA turretless close-support version, the SdKfz 234/3 Schwere Panzerspähwagen 75mm was also produced. This was armed with a fixed forward firing low velocity 7.5-cm Stu.K L/24 cannon with only limited traverse. The sides of the fighting compartment were raised to protect the crew. A few trial vehicles were trialled with a long tank 75mm tank gun but were not successful.

ww2dbaseAt Adolf Hitler's insistence, one more version was manufactured during the war. The SdKfz 234/4 was a highly mobile "Tank Hunter" modified to mount a complete 7.5-cm PaK 40 L/48 anti-tank gun, less wheels, on a pivot in the centre of the fighting compartment. However, once again, full use of the weapon was restricted by the limited traverse obtainable.

ww2dbaseAltogether approximately 500 vehicles of the SdKfz 234 type were built before the ending of hostilities.

ww2dbaseSources:
B. T. White, Tanks and other Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1942-45 (Blandford Press, 1975)
Bryan Perrett, German Armoured Cars and Reconnaissance Half-Tracks 1939-45 (Osprey New Vanguard, 1999)
Ian V Hogg & John Weeks, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn 1980)
Philip Trewhitt, Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Dempsey Parr, 1999)

Last Major Revision: Dec 2012

SPECIFICATIONS

SdKfz. 234/2 Puma (8-Rad)
MachineryOne Tatra 103 V-12 14,825cc diesel engine rated at 220hp
SuspensionWheel
Armament1x50mm KwK 39/1 L/60 autocannon (55 rounds), 1x7.92mm coxial MG34 machine gun
Armor9-30mm
Crew4
Length6.02 m
Width2.36 m
Height2.10 m
Weight10.0 t
Speed85 km/h
Range1000 km

SdKfz. 234/1 (8-Rad)
MachineryOne Tatra 103 V-12 14,825cc diesel engine rated at 220hp
SuspensionWheel
Armament1x20mm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, 1x7.92mm coxial MG34 machine gun
Armor9-30mm
Crew4
Length6.02 m
Width2.36 m
Height2.10 m
Weight10.0 t
Speed85 km/h
Range1000 km

SdKfz. 234/3 (8-Rad)
MachineryOne Tatra 103 V-12 14,825cc diesel engine rated at 220hp
SuspensionWheel
Armament1x75mm K51 L/24 gun in open-top superstructure
Armor9-30mm
Crew4
Length6.02 m
Width2.36 m
Height2.10 m
Weight10.0 t
Speed85 km/h
Range1000 km

SdKfz. 234/4 (8-Rad)
MachineryOne Tatra 103 V-12 14,825cc diesel engine rated at 220hp
SuspensionWheel
Armament1x75mm PaK 40 L/46 gun in open-topped superstructure
Armor9-30mm
Crew4
Length6.02 m
Width2.36 m
Height2.10 m
Weight10.0 t
Speed85 km/h
Range1000 km

Photographs

Camouflaged SdKfz 234/2 Puma (8-Rad) armored car, date unknownSdKfz 234/2 Puma (8-Rad) armored car on a street, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of SdKfz 234 (8-Rad) Armored Car



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Anonymous says:
12 Dec 2012 01:02:13 PM

thats one bad tank
2. Anonymous says:
4 Nov 2018 03:43:10 PM

What were the crews jobs

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SdKfz 234 (8-Rad) Armored Car Photo Gallery
Camouflaged SdKfz 234/2 Puma (8-Rad) armored car, date unknownSdKfz 234/2 Puma (8-Rad) armored car on a street, date unknown
See all 7 photographs of SdKfz 234 (8-Rad) Armored Car


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