The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (MG) Sd.Kfz 221 was the first in a series of light armoured cars based on the same Auto-Union chassis design, but although it was an improvement over existing armoured cars, early combat experience proved that it was too lightly armed.
The Sd.Kfz 221was built around the Horch 801/ EG I bogie, which was the lightest of three chassis that had been developed in the mid 1930s to form the basis of a new fleet of four wheel drive off road vehicles for the Germany army. It was a technically advanced design, with all-wheel drive, individual suspension for each wheel, trip gear, mechanical braking and four wheel steering. This gave all of the vehicles based on this chassis reasonable off road capabilities, and certainly made them more effective than the earlier Maschinengewehrkraftwagn (Kfz 13) and Funkkraftwagen (Kfz 14), which had been based on the chassis of a four wheel drive passenger car. The Sd.Kfz was powered by a 75hp 3.5l V8 petrol engine, which was only 15hp more powerful than the engine used in the earlier vehicles, but despite being almost twice as heavy the Sd.Kfz 221 was faster. However the Horch 801 bogie also proved to be expensive to build, unreliable and needed a great deal of maintenance. The same was true of the medium and heavy chassis in the same programme and as a result it failed to live up to expectations.
The Sd.Kfz 221 had a narrower fuselage than chassis. The welded superstructure had sloped sides and front and a long sloped rear deck over the engine. The frontal armour was 14.5mm thick and elsewhere varied from 5-8mm. It was armed with a single 7.92mm machine gun carried in an open topped hand operated seven sided turret in the middle of the vehicle. It carried a crew of two with the commander/ gunner in the turret and the drive in the front. The turret had a hinged cover to protect against hand grenades. The superstructure had been developed by Eisenworke Wesehutte at Bad Oeynhausen, which also built all 339 of the production vehicles. The first vehicles were delivered in 1936 and production ended in 1940. Eighteen vehicles were purchased by the Chinese Nationalists, but the remaining 321 were all used by the Germans.
The Sd.Kfz 221 saw service in the early campaigns of the Second World War, where its mobility was greatly valued. It was used by the Panzerspahwagen squadrons of the Aufklarungs detachments of light, Panzer and motorised infantry divisions, normally operating alongside more heavily armed armoured cars and radio cars.
It soon became clear that the Sd.Kfz 221 was underarmed. From September 1939 onwards some were completed with a 7.92mm Panzer-buchse 39 anti-tank rifle, which could penetrate 25mm of armour at 300m. However this still wasn’t enough, and in 1941 all surviving Sd.Kfz 221 were rearmed with a 2.8cm anti-tank gun, becoming the Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz.221
Hull Length: 4800mm
Hull Width: 1950m
Weight: 4 tonnes
Engine: 75hp Horch/ Auto-Union 8-cylinder V-petrol engine
Max Speed: 80km/h
Max Range: 320km (road), 200km (terrain)
Armament: One 7.92mm MG 34
Armour: 4m to 14.5mm