Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad)

The Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad) was an eight wheeled armoured car that replaced the earlier six wheel models and which had much better cross country capability. It remained in service throughout the Second World War.

The first armoured cars produced for the inter-war German army had been light four wheelers or heavy six wheelers. The six wheel Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz 231 (6-rad), which had entered service in 1932, had proved to be a particular disappointment, with poor cross country performance.

Schwere Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz. 231 (8-rad) from the Left Schwere Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz. 231 (8-rad) from the Left

As a result the Heeres Wafenamt (Army Weapons Department) issued a specification for a new heavy armoured car. This time they wanted an eight-wheeled vehicle with a rear engine, front and rear driving positions, and drive and steering on all eight wheels. It was to have controls at both ends, be armoured against armoured piercing rifle or machine gun bullets and be armed with an automatic 20mm gun and 7.92mm machine gun. The new vehicle was developed by Bussing-NAG.

Earlier four and six wheeled armoured cars had been built around existing commercial vehicle chassis. In contrast the Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad) was based on a GS type bogie which was specifically modified for the new role. The Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad) was powered by a Bussing engine, originally of 155hp but later 180hp. It used independent longitudinal leaf spring suspension. The four axles were equally spaced along the length of the vehicle, with the front pair and rear pair each covered by a long mud guard. This is the easiest way to tell these vehicles apart from the later Sd.Kfz.234 family, which had a single long mud guard on each side.

Captured Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad), Algeria
Captured Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad), Algeria

The sloped armour was originally up to 14.5mm thick (as on the six-wheeler), but the front armour was later increased to 30mm. Elsewhere the side and rear armour was 8mm (10mm around the engine) with 5.5mm armour on the roof.

It was armed with a fully traversable turret which carried a 20mm KwK 30 fully automatic cannon and coaxial 7.92mm MG 34 machine gun. It could carry 180 rounds of 20mm ammo in ten round magazines and 1,125 rounds of 7.92mm ammo.

The cross country performance of the eight wheeled armoured cars lived up to expectations, and was similar to that of tracked vehicles.

In March 1937 the new armoured car was accepted for Army service as the schwerer Panzerspahwagen (Sd.Kfz.233). However in practice it was almost always refered to as the Sd. KFz.231, and in September 1940 this was made official. It thus kept the same Sd.Kfz number as the six-wheeler. Its full title was the Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad). The same was done with the radio versions of the vehicle, which kept the same Sd.Kfz 232 and Sd.Kfz 263 designations as the six-wheel versions.

The first chassis of the new vehicle was undergoing trials by October 1935. The vehicle entered production late in 1936 or early in 1937. Two turreted versions were produced – the basic Sd.Kfz.231 and a radio car with frame antenna as the Sd.Kfz 232.

A total of 604 of both types were built between 1937 and 1943. 23 were built in 1937, 50 in 1938, 53 in 1939, 30 in 1940, 94 in 1941, 154 in 1942 and 200 in 1943.

Of these about half of the vehicles produced before September 1940 were built as the Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad) – 60 vehicles at most. Another 32 were built between November 1940 and April 1942, for a total of just under 100 Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-rads). After that they were all built as the radio car version, as if any Sd. Kfz 231s were needed the radio and aerial could simply be removed. 

Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz 231 (8.rad) Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz 231 (8.rad)

The Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad) began to enter service with the armoured reconnaissance battalions in 1938. It operated alongside the six wheel version in Poland in 1939 and France in 1940, but the older version was then phased out, only leaving the eight wheelers. It was used in North Africa and on the Eastern Front and on every front to the end of the war.

From 1938 to 1943 each heavy platoon (schwere Zug) in the armoured reconnaissance company (Panzerspah-Kompanie) of the reconnaissance battalions (Aufklarungs-Abteilung) attached to each Panzer division was to be equipped with three Sd.Kfz 231 and three Sd.Kfz 232.

When the Germans sent troops to North Africa to support their tottering Italian allies they sent a full complement of these armoured cars. They served with Aufklarungs-Abteilung 3 in 5.leichter Division and Aufklarungs-Abteilung 33 in 15. Panzer Division.

By the end of Operation Crusader in December 1941 both units were down to a single Sd.Kfz 231 and Sd.Kfz 232. Reinforcements were sent, bringing them up to five Sd.Kfz 231 and six Sd.Kfz.232, only one under full strength, at the start of the battle of Gazala.

By the time the British attacked at El Alamein in October 1942 the numbers had risen to eight Sd.Kfz.231 and fifteen Sd.Kfz 232, and impressively only four of the Sd.Kfz 232 were lost during the retreat back to Marsa el Brega (presumably they weren’t terribly heavily engaged in the defensive fighting at El Alamein).

Hull Length: 5850mm
Hull Width: 2200mm
Height: 2340mm
Crew: 4
Weight: 8300kg
Engine: 115hp Bussing NAG L 8 V V-8 petrol engine
Max Speed: 90km/ hr
Max Range: 300km (road), 160km (terrain)
Armament: One 2cm KwK 30/38 L/55 and one 7.92mm MG 34
Armour: 5-14.5mm (later 30mm)

















Engine Compartment





Gun mantlet





German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke. Looks at the armoured cars and half-tracks used by the German Army before and during the Second World War, focusing on the development and technical descriptions of each type and its major variants. Each type gets one or two pages, supported by photos of the vehicle. A useful short reference book on these essential vehicles, covering both the many types developed in Germany and the smaller number of captured vehicles pressed into service. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 April 2023), Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd. Kfz 231 (8-rad) ,

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