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Schwerer Panzerspähwagen
German Sd.Kfz 232 (8-Rad) in the Ardennes during the Battle of France (May 1940).
Type Armored car
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Weight 8.3 tons
Length 5.9 m (19 ft 4 in)
Width 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)
Height 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, secondary driver)

Armor 8-15 mm (.31-.59 in)
2 cm KwK 30 L/55
7.92 mm MG34 MG
Engine 8-cyl petrol
155 hp (115.58 kW)
Suspension 6 or 8 wheels
300 km (186 mi)
Speed 85 km/h (53 mph)

The term Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (German: "heavy armored reconnaissance vehicle), covers the 6 and 8 wheeled armoured cars Germany used during the Second World War.

In the German Army, armoured cars were intended for the traditional cavalry missions of reconnaissance and screening. They scouted ahead and to the flank of advancing mechanized units to assess enemy location, strength and intention. Their primary role was to observe and access, rather than engage in extended fire fights, but they would engage enemy reconnaissance elements and at times attempt to capture enemy patrols.


The heavy Panzerspähwagen was a large but very fast addition to the German mobile arsenal of the early war years. The original 6-Rad (6 wheeled) versions were based on a 6x4 truck with armoured body, but by 1937 they were being replaced by the 8-Rad versions. During the replacement, the Sd.Kfz - (Sonderkraftfahrzeug, or special purpose vehicle) numbers were carried directly over; differentiation is made by the addition of 6-Rad or 8-Rad (Ger: "6 wheel" or "8 wheel") in the vehicle name.

These vehicles first saw combat with the campaign against Poland and in the Battle of France. Later they saw use in both the USSR and North Africa. Extreme climatic conditions in both these areas proved too severe for the vehicle. In the USSR, adverse ground conditions immobilized 150 Sd.Kfz 232s during the first wet season of the campaign.[citation needed] The speed of the eight-wheeled cars made them the best scouting vehicles that Rommel had for long range reconnaissance across the wide desert territory.[1]


The Sd.Kfz. 232 had 15 mm of slightly sloped homogeneous steel armor on the front, 8 mm on the sides, and 10 mm on the back, with 6 mm and 5 mm of armour on the top and bottom respectively. This armour was designed to provide protection from small arms fire and HE fragments; it was ineffective against heavier weapons. After the French campaign, additional spaced frontal armour plate was added to provide better protection. Armor was increased up to 30 mm in the later Sdkfz. 234 series. However, it was not designed to provide protection from anti-tank weapons.


The Sd.Kfz. 232 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon. This cannon was based on the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun, and was capable of firing at a rate of 280 rounds per minute.[citation needed] The 2 cm cannon was not designed to defeat enemy tanks, and experiments were made towards replacing it with a heavier gun which resulted in the Sd Kfz. 234 Puma. The Puma's 5 cm gun could penetrate and knock out Allied armoured cars and light tanks, but this was not the vehicle's role. The role intended was for the car's armour to protect the crew from small arms fire during reconnaissance missions. Using high explosive ammo the 20 mm autocannon was highly effective against infantry and unarmored vehicles. Great success was also achieved by replacing the regular armour-piercing explosive ammunition with an early version of APDS, but this ammunition was in chronically short supply.[citation needed]


Production versions of the SdKfz. 232 were fitted with a 155 hp (116 kW), eight-cylinder Büssing-NAG L8V-G petrol engine, which gave a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph) and a range of 300 km (190 mi).[citation needed]


A crew of four was typical. The commander and gunner sat in the turret. The SdKfz232 employed an unusual dual driver arrangement, with one driver seated at each end of the vehicle. This allowed the vehicle to be driven in either direction (forward or backward) with equal ease.

Six wheelers

All 6-rad versions were produced from 1932 to 1937. The designation Sd.Kfz stands for Sonderkraftfahrzeug (special purpose vehicle).

Sd.Kfz. 231

6 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231

The first of the German armored cars, the Sd.Kfz. 231 was based on a modified 6x4 truck chassis.[which?] The 231 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, and a Maschinengewehr 13 machine gun. It had a second driver in the rear so that the vehicle could be driven either forwards or backwards with relative ease. The 231 was introduced into service in 1932 and began to be replaced in 1937 when the German Army switched production to 8-wheeled armoured cars instead of 6-wheeled. Despite being replaced, they were used by Aufklärungs ("reconnaissance") units during the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, and the invasion of the USSR. They were withdrawn afterwards for use in internal security and training. The crew consisted of a commander, gunner, driver, and a radio operator/rear driver.

Sd.Kfz. 232

6 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231 in Bavaria in 1935

The 232 carried a Fu. Ger.11 SE 100 medium range radio and a Fu. Spr. Ger. "a" short range radio. This model was visually distinctive because of the heavy "bedstead" antenna over the body of the car. At the point where the antenna was connected to the turret a special joint was installed which supported the aerial but still allowed the turret a full 360° traverse.

Sd.Kfz. 263

A radio vehicle "Funkspähwagen" equipped with extra long-range radio equipment and an additional radio operator. To support the additional equipment, the turret was omitted, the superstructure was raised, and only a single ball-mounted machine gun was mounted.

Eight wheelers

Sd.Kfz. 231


German 8 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231

Sd.Kfz. 231 8-Rad in Italy in 1943

German SdKfz232. Note independent steering on each of the wheels.

Loosely based on the hull of the Sd.Kfz 231/6-Rad vehicle. The hull was modified to swap the main driver & reverse driver/radio operator positions in order to place the engine at the rear and the 3 axle truck chassis replaced with a pair of 2 axle 4 wheel trucks, for an eight-wheeled, all wheel drive, all wheel steering chassis to improve off road capabilities and maneuverability. The turret was also altered to a hexagonal shape for increased internal volume. Armament was unchanged.

Sd.Kfz. 232

The Sd.Kfz. 232 (8-Rad) was produced from 1938 to 1943, when it was superseded by the Sd.Kfz. 234/2 "Puma". The 232 were not withdrawn from service; many of the old vehicles were upgraded with new radio communication equipment, replacing the "bedstead" with more modern and compact wire antennas. These vehicles are often referred to as Sd.Kfz. 232 (Fu) (8-Rad) (Fu; Funkapparat; radio, Rad;wheel) It was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon that had a muzzle velocity of 899 m/s, the 232 also carried a 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine gun.

Sd.Kfz. 233

Similar to the 231/232 (8-Rad) but equipped with a short barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun in an open fixed superstructure. Due to the short length of the barrel this gun earned the nickname of "Stumpy". One hundred and nine of these vehicles were built at the Büssing-NAG plant, between December 1942 and October 1943. A further 10 were converted from 231/232 chassis in October 1942. This variant of the Sd.Kfz. series entered service during 1942 and remained in use throughout the war. They were issued as a platoon of six vehicles in support of reconnaissance battalions.

Sd.Kfz. 234

The Sd.Kfz. 234 series were completely new designs, of a similar size and appearance to the Sd.Kfz. 232/3 series which they replaced. They were powered by a Tatra diesel. The most obvious external difference is the single-piece mudguards compared to the two-piece mudguards on the 232 series.

Sd.Kfz. 234/1

The Sd.Kfz. 234/1 was fitted with a 2 cm KwK 38 L/55 gun and coaxial 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 or MG 42 machine gun in a rotating six-sided open-topped turret. The open top was protected from grenades by a mesh-covered frame. The second version to enter production, built from July 1944 to the end of war.

Sd.Kfz. 234/2

This version had a turret adapted from the cancelled VK1602 Leopard, mounting a 5 cm KwK 39/1 L/60, very similar to the weapon previously used on the later versions of the Panzerkampfwagen III. It weighed nearly 12 tons but was still capable of 85 km/h (53 mph). It was one of the most heavily armed armored cars available. However, engagement was strictly discouraged due to its thin armor, and also due to its intended role of reconnaissance. The armored car could be driven backwards by the radio operator in an emergency as well. Series production started in December 1943 and ended in July 1944 with production switching to 234/1 and 234/3. Many publications use the byname "Puma" for this vehicle but this was neither officially used nor was it a nickname.

Sd.Kfz. 234/3

This version, like the Sd.Kfz. 233, carried the short 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun, in a raised open superstructure. The gun's low velocity made it armour-piercing round ineffective against most Allied tanks, but allowed the high explosive shell casing to be thinner and thus contain more explosive. The HEAT round for this weapon was, however, effective against vehicles. In December 1944 production ended in favor of the 234/4.

Sd.Kfz. 234/4

Another variant of the 8 wheeler, but mounting a 7.5 cm PaK 40 L/46 anti-tank gun in an open compartment. This variant was similar to Marder tank destroyer series in that it was a weakly armored, open-topped anti-tank vehicle that could not engage enemy armor head to head, and it was a stop-gap measure.

Sd.Kfz. 263

8 Rad Sd.Kfz. 232 radio vehicle of SS-Division Wiking in Russia, 1941

An eight wheeler with a fixed superstructure and a single 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine gun. A dedicated radio vehicle with the bedstead frame aerial. This was based on the Sd.Kfz. 232 series.


  • Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. New York: Sterling Publishing. ISBN 1-58663-762-2. 
  • von Luck, Hans Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck. New York, Dell Publishing of Random House (1989) ISBN 0-440-20802-5

See also

  • Leichter Panzerspähwagen


  1. Von Luck p. 96

External links

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