Sd Kfz 234/3 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (E1974.78)
A number of German firms including Daimler-Benz and Bussing-NAG built experimental eight-wheeled armoured cars before the war. Production of the model SdKfz 231 began in 1936. This was followed by the SdKfz 234, starting in 1943. Unlike virtually every other German combat vehicle the 234 series were diesel powered, using an air-cooled Tatra engine. In terms of suspension and steering they were very advanced for their day and included a position for a rear facing driver. Originally designed for use in hot climates, this vehicle is notable for its air cooled diesel engine. Hull and mounting made by Bussing and armoured superstructure by Deutsche Coldstahlwerke. Replaced earlier 8 wheeled cars from 1944 onwards. Most advanced wheeled armoured vehicle in World War 2.
The model 234/3 was fitted with a short 75mm gun and was used in the close support role with conventional armoured cars. That is to say it fired high explosive ammunition against defences that a normal armoured car could not deal with. The weapon is mounted in an open barbette, rather than a turret, and has limited traverse either side of the centre line. Our exhibit is finished in the markings of 116th Panzer Division which operated in north west Europe from March 1944.
Our exhibit was acquired at the end of the war in full working order. For any years it was used by an experimental establishment in Surrey which compared its performance with that of more modern designs. Generally, it has to be said, the older German vehicle out-performed its younger rivals, especially in soft and muddy conditions.
Precise Name: Schwere Panzerspahwagen (7.5cm KwK)
Other Name: SdKfz 234/3, Gerat 94
The SdKfz 234/3 was a reconnaissance vehicle. It belonged to a family of AFVs that were the most technically advanced series of wheeled armoured vehicles produced during World War II.
The Germans began experimenting with 8 wheeled armoured car chassis during the late 1930s and Daimler-Benz and Bussing-NAG designed prototypes. These vehicles had a body built on a separate chassis and were powered by a petrol engine. They went into production as the SdKfz 231, SdKfz 233 and SdKfz 263 and about 950 had been produced by April 1943.
Development of a replacement vehicle began in August 1940. This was designed around a unitary body without a separate chassis and, unusually for a German vehicle, was powered by an air-cooled Tatra diesel engine. The Bussing-NAG Company, (Leipzig) manufactured the chassis, while the armoured body came from the Deutsche Edelstahlwerke, (Krefeld). The first prototype was delivered in July 1942 but the new armoured car wasn’t ready for volume production until April 1943. The suspension and steering design was very advanced and the hull had a driving position at both ends so that a rapid backward exit could be made from a difficult situation.
There were four versions:
- The SdKfz 234/2, or Puma; the first version to be made, introduced in September 1943; mounted a 5cm KwK 39 gun 60 calibres long in a fully enclosed turret; 101 made between September 1943 and September 1944
?- The SdKfz 234/1; introduced in June 1944, 200 made by January 1945; mounted a 2cm KwK38 55 calibres long in an open topped turret
?- The SdKfz 234/3; 89 made between June and December 1944; carried a short 7.5cm KwK51 only 24 calibres long in an elongated open topped mounting with limited side to side traverse
?- The SdKfz 234/4; 89 made between December 1944 and March 1945; fitted with a long 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun in an open topped mounting
The Tank Museum’s vehicle is a SdKfz 234/3. This variant was intended for close range fire support and was intended to complement the other three versions. The 7.5cm gun fired a high explosive shell that was effective against buildings and fortifications. These targets could not be effectively engaged by the high velocity guns fitted in the SdKfz 234/2 and 234/1. SdKfz 234/3 armoured cars were issued to one platoon of the reconnaissance company of each Panzer Divisions.
The Museum’s vehicle is finished in the markings of the 116th Panzer Division. This division was formed in France in March 1944. It was virtually destroyed in the Falaise pocket in July 1944, reconstituted in the Aachen area in September 1944 and then fought with the 5th Panzer Armee until US forces encircled it in April 1945.
The British Army acquired this SdKfz 234/3 in full working order after the war. It was used as a standard against which the performance of modern wheeled AFVs was compared. Generally the older German vehicle out-performed the new ones, especially when driving over soft and muddy ground.
Summary text by Mike Garth V1.0
War Department No. 00 EC 01