The Schwerer Panzerspahwagen Sd.Kfz 234/1 (2 cm) was an eight wheeled heavy armoured car armed with a 20mm cannon, and saw service with the German Army and the Waffen SS from June 1944 until the end of the Second World War.
In August 1940 the Heereswaffenanamt began work on a heavy armoured car for use in hot climates. It was to have an air cooled diesel engine, a monocoque structure and thicker armour than the Sd.Kfz 231.
By July 1941 more details had emerged. It was to have 30mm frontal armour, and be armed with a 20mm cannon and 7.92mm machine gun. Two prototypes had been ordered and were to be delivered after December 1941.
By July 1942 the plans had changed again. By this point Schichau was developing a turret armed with a 2cm Kw.K.38 while Daimler-Benz was developing a turret for the 5cm KwK 39/1. The first prototype had been used for short driving trials, the second was expected during the month. The first five vehicles were to be completed in July 1943 and production was to speed up to 30 vehicles per month.
Work on this vehicle was split between several concerns. The Czech Tatra firm was to produce an air-cooled 220hp V-12 diesel. Bussing was to produce the monocoque hull. Daimler-Benz and Schichau were to produce the different turrets, the first armed with a 50mm gun and the second with a 20mm cannon.
The monocoque hull was similar in appearance to that used on the earlier Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad), but with the armour plates also forming the structure of the vehicle (on the earlier vehicle the armour was attached to a frame built onto the chassis, adding extra weight. The most obvious visual difference was that the 234 family had a single mud guard covering all four wheels on each side, while the earlier 231 family had two mud guards on each side, each covering two wheels.
It carried more fuel than the Sd.Kfz 231 (8-rad), giving it double the operational radius on roads. It had larger diameter tyres, which improved the already good cross country performance of the previous eight wheelers.
Four different versions of the Sd.Kfz 234 were produced. The Sd.Kfz 234/1, with its 20mm cannon, was produced in the largest numbers and for longest. At first it was produced alongside the Sd.Kfz 234/2, armed with a 50mm gun in an enclosed turret. This was then replaced with the Sd.Kfz 234/3, which was armed with a short barrelled 7.5mm gun carried in an open fighting compartment. This was then replaced by the Sd.Kfz 234/4, which was armed with a long barrelled 7.5mm anti-tank gun, again in an open fighting compartment.
Production plans for the Sd.Kfz 234 kept changing. In November 1943 it was decided to produce 100 Sd.Kfz 234/2s first. Production would then be split equally between the Sd.Kfz 234/1 and the Sd.Kfz 234/3.
In March 1944 this was changed to a ration of thirteen Sd.Kfz 234/1s for every three Sd.Kfz 234/3s.
The first Sd.Kfz 234/1s and Sd.Kfz 234/3s were delivered in June 1944, when sixth of the two types were completed.
In October 1944 the ratio was change to nine /1s for every seven /3s.
The /1 remained in production to the end of the war, and around 230 had been built by March 1945. In part it was kept in production because the 20mm gun was valued for its anti-aircraft firepower, but also because the later versions, armed with 75mm guns, didn’t carry the long range radio.
The new vehicle had 30mm front armour on the turret and hull, 14.5mm armour on the turret sides and rear and 8mm side and 10mm rear armour on the rear.
It had an open topped turret which carried a 20mm cannon and coaxial 7.92mm machine gun. The turret carried two of the crew – the gunner on the right and commander/ loader on the right. Space was provided for 250 rounds for the 20mm cannon and 2,400 rounds for the machine gun. The turret could be traversed through 360 degrees by hand.
All of the vehicles were equipped with a radio, and there were no dedicated radio car versions of this design. Vehicles issued to section leaders or unit commanders were also give a Fu 12 long range radio.
The first vehicle to be delivered was a 50cm armed Sd.Kfz 234/2.
The 20cm armed Sd.Kfz 234/1 entered service from June 1944. They were issued to the Stab and Stabskompanie of the Panzer-Aufklaerung-Abteilung of eight divisions – Panzer Lehr, two SS Panzer Divisions and five Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions. Each company was to get 13 Sd.Kfz 234/1s and three Sd.Kfz 234/3s.
After this the /1 was issued in small numbers to a series of divisions, often alongside the Sd.Kfz 234/4. During 1945 seven went to 4.Panzer Division, four to Fuhrer-Grenadier-Division, four to 25.Panzer Division, four to Panzer Division Muencheberg and three to Begl.Kp.z.b.V.
Hull Length: 5.86m
Hull Width: 2330mm
Engine: 220hp Tatra 103 V-12 diesel engine
Max Speed: 90km/ hr (road)
Max Range: 900km (road), 600km (terrain)
Armament: One 2cm KwK 38, one 7.92mm MG 42