Specialized Vehicles / Spezialfahrzeuge

Zündapp KS-750.

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The Steyr ADGZ was originally developed as a heavy armored car for the Austrian army (its designation was “M35 Mittlere Panzerwagen”) from 1934 and delivered from 1935-37.

The Austrian army was using the ADGZ armored car at the time of Anschluss. 12 were used by the army and 15 were used by the police. The Germans used them for police work and some were taken on by the SS and used on the Eastern front and in the Balkans.

The SS ordered an additional 25 ADGZ which were delivered in 1942. An interesting feature of this vehicle was that there was no “rear:” either end was capable of driving the unit.

As part of the initial operations of the Invasion of Poland, the SS Heimwehr Danzig used three ADGZ armored cars during the attack on the Polish Post Office in Danzig and lost one during the battle.

After the invasion of the USSR, a few ADGZ armored cars were rearmed with turrets from the Soviet T-26 model 1933 light tank.

Alkett VsKfz 617  / NK-101 Minenräumer – German WWII mine-clearing vehicle

Built in the Alkett factory near Berlin, the VsKfz 617 Minenräumer was heavily armored and designed to detonate mines by simply rolling over them. (VsKfz is short for Versuchs Kraftfahrzeug, meaning “test vehicle.”) The three-wheeled vehicle’s wide track was designed to clear a mine-free path for other vehicles to safely travel. The sole prototype carried the Alkett chassis number of 9537 and was registered as NK-101. Unfortunately, much solid information on this vehicle has been lost to history.

The Alkett VsKfz 617 had two large main power wheels at its front. A smaller, caster-style rear wheel was used for turning. Via power take offs and clutches, turning the steering wheel engaged worm shafts on both sides of the hull. The worm shafts operated in opposite directions—one side drew in a chain while the other slackened a separate chain. The chains extended through the VsKfz 617’s hull and were connected to each side of the rear wheel, rotating it as the driver turned the steering wheel. There is no indication that any differential steering was available.

Each wheel was made up of 10 links and 10 thick, heavy, solid shoes. The pin that connected two links also attached a shoe. Three of the shoes would come together on the ground for each wheel. The total of nine shoes gave the VsKfz 617 ample ground contact. The thick shoes were also resistant to damage from mine blasts. Damaged individual shoes and links could be easily replaced.

The VsKfz 617’s transmission was positioned in middle of the vehicle. A shaft led from each side of the transmission and engaged the gearing for the main wheels. A Maybach HL-120 V-12 engine was situated transversely behind the transmission. This gasoline engine produced 300 hp (224 kW) from its 4.13 in (105 mm) bore and 4.53 (115 mm) stroke cylinders. Its total displacement was 729 cu in (11.9 L). Two radiators were positioned behind the engine. Cooling air was brought in from ducts on the upper middle of the VsKfz 617 and expelled through vents on its upper rear. A 190 gallon (720 L) fuel tank was positioned above the rear wheel.

The VsKfz 617’s hull had about 39 in (1 m) of ground clearance that helped protect the crew from mine detonations. Furthermore, the bottom of the vehicle’s hull consisted of 1.58 in (40 mm) thick armor plating, with an additional 0.79 in (20 mm) of armor sheeting inside—creating a double hull. The rest of the vehicle’s hull thickness varied from 0.39 to 1.58 in (10 to 40 mm).

For defensive armament, the VsKfz 617 prototype had a Panzer I turret with two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns. However, the production version would have a Panzer II turret with a single 20 mm KwK 30 L/55 cannon and one MG 34 machine gun. The driver occupied the left side of the vehicle and saw out via a small slit in the upper armor. A rear wheel position indicator was just in front of the driver’s view. The vehicle’s commander was on the right, operating the turret. The VsKfz 617 was 20.6 ft (6.28 m) long, 10.6 ft (3.22 m) wide, and 9.5 ft (2.90 m) tall. It weighed 55 tons (50 tonne).

Testing of the VsKfz 617 started as soon as it was completed in 1942. It was quickly found that the VsKfz 617’s method for steering was unsatisfactory and that the vehicle was slow and hard to handle. To make matters worse, its immense weight caused the vehicle to easily get bogged down. The VsKfz 617 and plans for its manufacture were abandoned after the tests.

The sole VsKfz 617 was captured by the Russians in late World War II, possibly in April 1945. The vehicle was inspected and tested in Kubinka near Moscow in early 1947. The Russians came to the same conclusions as the Germans regarding the VsKfz 617’s use, also finding that its slow speed and lack of maneuverability would make it an easy target for artillery. The VsKfz 617 was preserved and is currently on display in the Kubinka Tank Museum.


(Will Update Later)


The mountains Panzer “Panther” (Sd.Kfz. 179), often referred to only as “Bergepanther” was a rescue for other tanks upgraded variant of Panzerkampfwagen V Panther (Sd.Kfz. 171).

Bergepanzer 38(t)

The Bergepanzer 38(t) is a German armored recovery vehicle developed late in the Second World War.

BMW R12 and R17

The BMW R12 and R17 are flat-twin engine motorcycles made by BMW Motorrad from 1935 through 1942. They were developed in 1935 based on the R7 concept of 1934. A few hundred R17s were made, ending in 1937, while the R12 continued through 1942, with a total of 36,008 produced.


The BMW R75 is a World War II-era motorcycle and sidecar combination produced by the German company BMW.

In the 1930s, BMW were producing a number of popular and highly effective motorcycles. In 1938 development of the R75 started in response to a request from the German Army.

Preproduction models of the R75 were powered by a 750 cc side-valve engine, which was based on the R71 engine. However, it was quickly found necessary to design an all-new OHV 750 cc engine for the R75 unit. This OHV engine later proved to be the basis for subsequent post-war twin BMW engines like the R51/3, R67, and R68.

The third side-car wheel was driven with an axle connected to the rear wheel of the motorcycle. These were fitted with a locking differential and selectable road and off-road gear ratios through which all four and reverse gears worked. This made the R75 highly maneuverable and capable of negotiating most surfaces. A few other motorcycle manufactures, like FN and Norton, provided an optional drive to sidecars.

The BMW R75 and its rival the Zündapp KS 750 were both widely used by the Wehrmacht in Russia and North Africa, though after a period of evaluation it became clear that the Zündapp was the superior machine. In August 1942 Zündapp and BMW, on the urging of the Army, agreed upon standardization of parts for both machines, with a view of eventually creating a Zündapp-BMW hybrid (designated the BW 43), in which a BMW 286/1 side-car would be grafted onto a Zündapp KS 750 motorcycle. They also agreed that the manufacture of the R75 would cease once production reached 20,200 units, and after that point BMW and Zündapp would only produce the Zündapp-BMW machine, manufacturing 20,000 each year.

Since the target of 20,200 BMW R75’s was not reached, it remained in production until the Eisenach factory was so badly damaged by the Allied bombing that production ceased in 1944. A further 98 units were assembled by the Soviets in 1946 as reparations.

However, the standardization program meant that machines that were produced by BMW and Zündapp used 70% of the same components. This simplifies the supply of spare parts for these vehicles, many of which are still in the hands of historic motorcycle enthusiasts. These vehicles are still highly desirable as collector’s items because of their complex and durable technology and are correspondingly expensive. A well-restored R75 can be still used for everyday purposes, on or off-road without problems.

In 1954 a small number of modified R75 models were produced at Eisenach (then in Soviet-controlled East Germany) for testing under the designation AWO 700 but were not put into full production.

The success and reliability of the shaft-driven R75 during the war led to the US Army requesting that Harley-Davidson produce a similar shaft-driven cycle for American troops. This led to Harley producing their first-ever shaft-driven model, the Harley-Davidson XA, which was a near duplicate of the R75.

BMW 321

The BMW 321 is a compact six-cylinder automobile produced by the Bavarian firm between 1938 and 1941. After 1945, production of the 321 resumed at the Eisenach plant and continued until 1950.

Borgward IV

The Borgward IV, officially designated Schwerer Ladungsträger Borgward B IV (heavy explosive carrier Borgward B IV), was a German remote-controlled demolition vehicle used in World War II.

Büssing-NAG Trucks and Buses

Büssing AG was a German bus and truck manufacturer, established in 1903 by Heinrich Büssing (1843–1929) in Braunschweig. It quickly evolved to one of the largest European producers, whose utility vehicles with the Brunswick Lion emblem were widely distributed, especially from the 1930s onwards. Büssing is considered as the oldest German truck manufacturer. In 1931, Büssing took over the AEG daughter NAG and become Büssing-NAG. The company was taken over by MAN AG in 1971.

Büssing-Nag Type 500 Transport Trucks

The Büssing-NAG type 500 was manufactured from 1938 to 1941. Commencing in 1940, it was designated Büssing-NAG type 500 S. It was propelled by a 6 cylinder, 105 HP diesel engine, and had a payload of 4.75 tons. At first, vehicles made for the Wehrmacht had the open standard driver’s cab.

The Büssing-NAG type 500 S was identifiable by seven louvers in the side plates of the engine bonnet. Later, vehicles manufactured for the Wehrmacht had the production line driver’s cab. These vehicles were identifiable by additional stowage boxes under the platform and additional loops for lashing the tarpaulin.

Büssing-Nag Type 650 Transport Truck and Rail Conversion

The Büssing-NAG types 550 and 650 were the successor models of the 5.5 tons and 6.5 tons models of type 502. Type 650 was manufactured from 1935 to 1939. Type 650 was manufactured with 5 different wheelbases. Some heavy Büssing-NAG type 650 lorries of the year of construction 1939/40 of the Reichsbahn were converted to rail-lorries.

DKW NZ-250

During the late 1920s and until WWII broke out, DKW was the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, and the pioneer of front-wheel drive automobiles with their DKW Front, along with the Citroen Traction Avant. In 1931, Ing Zoller started building split-singles and this concept made DKW the dominant racing motorcycle in the Lightweight and Junior classes between the wars. This included off-road events like the International Six Days Trial where the marque scored some considerable inter-war year successes alongside Bavarian Motor Works At the same time, the company also had some success with super-charged racing motorcycles which because of their lightweight were particularly successful in the ISDT. The motorcycle branch produced famous models such as the RT 125 pre- and post-World War II, and after the war, with production at the original factory in GDR becoming MZ it made 175, 250, and 350 (cc) models.

DKW NZ 350

DKW, a German firm based Southwest of Dresden, provided the German military with one of its more popular motorcycle types, the NZ350. As one of the bestsellers on the civil motorcycle market in 1938, almost immediately the German Wehrmacht asked DKW to start prototyping a military version, which came to be known as the NZ 350-1 when it was released in the early 40s. The DKW NZ 350 and the modified military version DKW NZ 350-1 was put to the test during the WW2 as the Wehrmacht drove deep into France, through the vast harsh weather conditions of Russia and into Normandy. The NZ350 was noted for its cross-country capabilities, ruggedness, agility, and purchased in quantity for the war years of 1939-1945.

Of a largely conventional design, the model was powered by a 1-cylinder 346cc 2-stroke engine that provided road speeds of 62 miles per hour (100 kph) with ranges out to 217 miles (350 kilometers). The vehicle weighed 377lb (171 kilograms) and primarily served in the dispatch role though a soldier could find many uses for this fast-moving system. 12,000 units were built between 1943 and 1945.


The development of the Einheits-Lastkraftwagen – which means standard-lorry – started in 1934. It was planned to develop vehicles with 2, 3 and 4 axles with payloads of 1.5, 2.5 and 4 tons. In the end, only the model with three axles and 2.5 tons payload entered serial production. Officially, it was designated as leichter geländegängiger Lastkraftwagen, offen – which means translated light open cross-country lorry. It became famous under the name Einheits-Lkw or Einheits-Diesel – literally translated: standard-lorry or standard-diesel. Four prototypes were made from the four-axled variant. These were converted to floatable 8 wheel vehicles with different equipment, later.

Leading by developing the chassis was Henschel. The diesel engine with a power of 80 HP was developed by MAN in cooperation with Henschel and the Humboldt-Deutzmotoren AG. The power was transmitted to all three axles via a commercial four gear transmission and a two-stage transmission with lockable differential. So, eight gear transmission ratios were available. Each axle had an additional self-locking transmission. All six propelled wheels had independent suspension and single tyre arrangement. All this lead to the outstanding cross-country mobility of the Einheits-Diesel.

Contrary to the Einheits-Pkw’s, the Einheits-Diesel was made absolutely identical by all nine manufacturers. Serial production started in 1937 and ended in 1940. The exact number of vehicles made could not be found out so far. There is an original document – which was issued before production ended – which contains the chassis numbers of the vehicles made by then. This chassis numbers correspond to the total production by this time. Therefore, these chassis numbers are presented in the table below. If the chassis numbers and the known numbers of total production are right, more than 14,300 exemplars were made.

Besides the standard variant with an open all-steel cargo platform there were vehicles with closed superstructures and special superstructures. The Einheits-Diesel was one of the best lorries of the Wehrmacht. It had very good cross-country mobility, durability and it was extremely reliable. The care and repairs were simple – however time-consuming. But the Einheits-Diesel took it badly to be overloaded or be treated inappropriately. The payload with approx. 2.5 tons was somewhat small in relation to the dead weight of nearly 5 tons. For this reason – and also because of the complex construction – it was discontinued in1940.

Einheits-PKW der Wehrmacht

Einheits-PKW (German for standard passenger cars) were supplied to the Wehrmacht between 1936 and 1943 in the three versions Leichter Einheits-PKW, Mittlerer Einheits-PKW, and Schwerer Einheits-PKW (light, medium and heavy passenger car). These vehicles were supposed to replace the civilian vehicles previously procured by the Reichswehr with cross-country mobile vehicles that conformed with military requirements while simplifying logistics and maintenance by using standardized components. The program achieved neither of these goals.

Leichter geländegängiger PKW

The light off-road passenger car was built by the BMW-Werk Eisenach under the designation BMW 325, as well as Hanomag (Typ 20 B) and Stoewer (Typ R 180 Spezial). The vehicles were used as troop carriers (Kfz. 1), by repair-and-maintenance squads (Kfz. 2/40), by artillery reconnaissance sonic measurement squads (Kfz. 3) and by the troop-level aerial defense (Kfz. 4). Almost 13,000 units were built. Between 1940 and 1943, only Stoewer continued to build the R 200 Spezial without the four-wheel steering (Typ 40). The cars weighed 1,775 kg empty (1,700 kg without the four-wheel steering). 90% of all military branches rejected the vehicle as “unfit for wartime service” in a 1942 inquiry, while the much simpler, lighter and cheaper Volkswagen Kübelwagen proved to be far superior in basically every respect.

Mittelschwerer geländegängiger PKW

The medium off-road passenger car was built by the Opelwerk Brandenburg (chassis only) and Auto Union: Siegmar factory (former Wanderer) in Siegmar-Schönau (today a part of Chemnitz) and Horch factory in Zwickau. The Wehrmacht used them as troop transports (Kfz. 11, with tow bar: Kfz. 12, 6-seat version: Kfz. 21), in the signals corps (Kfz. 15, Kfz. 17, Kfz. 17/1) and for artillery reconnaissance (Kfz. 16 and Kfz. 16/1). Some 12,000 units were built. The most conspicuous change of the 1940 design simplification was the elimination of the mid-mounted spare wheels which simplified the bodywork and gave more interior space. The cars had a Horch V8 (Opel: in-line 6-cylinder) and a curb weight of 2,700 kg (open-topped Horch version: 3,080 kg) and were the only type that did not even initially have four-wheel steering. 80% of military branches rejected the vehicle as unfit for wartime service.

Schwerer geländegängiger PKW

The heavy off-road passenger car was built by Horch in Zwickau and Ford Germany in Cologne, each using their own V8 engines. They were used by the signals corps (Kfz. 23 and 24), as ambulances (Kfz. 31), as tractors for light artillery (Kfz. 69) and AA guns (Kfz. 81), as troop carriers (Kfz. 70) and as a carrier of AA searchlights (Kfz. 83). Furthermore, the armored troop carrier Sd.Kfz. 247 and the rear-engined Leichter Panzerspähwagen armored car in all its versions used the same chassis. Nearly 5,000 units were built in total. The cars had an empty weight of 3,300 kg (without four-wheel steering: 3,200 kg). Like the others, the heavy type lost the four-wheel steering along with the mid-mounted spare wheels in 1940. Although it suffered from the same deficiencies initially mentioned, as well as a heavy steering, it appears to have been the most successful type of the standardized off-road passenger car program.

Goliath Tracked Mine

The Goliath tracked mine – complete German name: Leichter Ladungsträger Goliath (Sd.Kfz. 302/303a/303b) – was a remote-controlled German-engineered demolition vehicle, also known as the beetle tank to the Allies.

Employed by the Wehrmacht during World War II, this caterpillar-tracked vehicle was approximately 4 feet (1.2 m) long, 2 feet (0.61 m) wide, and 1 foot (0.30 m) tall. It carried 75–100 kilograms (165–220 lb) of high explosives and was intended to be used for multiple purposes, such as destroying tanks, disrupting dense infantry formations, and demolition of buildings and bridges.


The Kugelpanzer (literally translates as spherical tank) was a prototype reconnaissance tank built by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was one of the most unusual armored fighting vehicles ever built. The only example of this Rollzeug (rolling vehicle) is in Russia as part of the Kubinka Tank Museum’s collection of German armored vehicles. The Kugelpanzer is simply listed as Item #37 and is painted gloss gray. From fragmentary information, the drive has been removed from the vehicle and no metal samples are allowed to be taken from it. The history of the vehicle is unknown, as no documents were found with it and it had no clear markings. Only the following facts about it have been confirmed.

  • It was a German-made vehicle that was shipped to Japan.
  • It was a light reconnaissance vehicle.
  • It was captured in 1945 during the Soviet-Japanese War.
  • Its hull armor is only 5 mm thick.
  • It was powered by a single-cylinder two-stroke engine.
  • It has a small viewport at the front.
  • It has a small directional wheel located at the rear to steer the two large circular tracks at the sides.

Otherwise, it is unknown where its engine is located, such as whether it is under or behind the operator, and what kind of armor it sported.

Due to a lack of documentation, its purpose is all speculations, derived only from observations of its light armor, simple design, and discovery in Japan. As of now, these are the common speculations as to its function:

A one-man reconnaissance tank with an armored shell and viewport.
A mobile observation post for managing artillery fire armored cable laying vehicle and may not have been intended to be an offensive weapon or weapons platform. A dedicated kamikaze-use tank commissioned by Japan, as it shared characteristics of other dedicated suicidal machines such as Ohka and Kaiten: small size and limited crew, wasn’t equipped with apparent offensive weaponry, and thin armor that is too thin compared to other armored vehicles but on par with Ohka and Kaiten.

Present at the rear of the vehicle is a small arm and trailing wheel. Some individuals have speculated that this is a possible form of the steering mechanism. It is, however, more than likely just a weighted trailing arm to assist stability and limit the possibility of the central section of the vehicle from rotating independently to the two side wheels under braking or acceleration

Lorraine 37L

A considerable number of Lorraine tractors, about 360, fell into German hands. Due to its reliability, the type was well suited to the mobile tactics the Germans favoured in 1941 and 1942. They were first used as such, renamed the Lorraine Schlepper (f). As the Germans themselves had not produced a similar type, the Lorraine tractors filled a requirement for fully tracked supply vehicles as Gefechtsfeld-Versorgungsfahrzeug Lorraine 37L (f) or Munitionstransportkraftwagen auf Lorraine Schlepper. In July and August 1942, Major Alfred Becker directed the conversion of 170 of these vehicles into the 7.5 cm PaK40/1 auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f) or Marder I, a 75 mm equipped self-propelled anti-tank gun. At the same time 106 were converted into self-propelled artillery: 94 into the 15 cm sFH13/1 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f) and 12 into the 10.5 cm leFH18(Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine Schlepper (f). Also an artillery observation vehicle was provided: the Beobachtungswagen auf Lorraine Schlepper (f), thirty of which were produced. A single conversion entailed the fitting of a Soviet 122 mm howitzer: the 12.2 cm Kanone (r) auf Geschuetzwagen Lorraine (f).

For a time it has also been assumed that a 47 mm tank destroyer conversion existed: the presumed “4.7cm Pak181(f) auf PanzerJäger Lorraine Schlepper (f)”, based on preserved photographs that however in reality depicted the French Chasseur de Chars Lorraine mentioned above, an ad hoc conversion built in June 1940.

Mercedes-Benz 130 Staff Car 

From 1931 to 1939, Daimler-Benz AG produced three cars Mercedes-Benz 130, 150 and 170 H with a rear engine as well as a few prototypes. The production numbers remained quite low for each of these models, especially compared to the production of classical front-engine Mercedes cars.

Opel 1.3 litre

The Opel 1.3-litre is a small car manufactured by Opel. Production commenced in January 1934, although a few (officially 2) pre-production cars had been built during the final part of 1933.

More than two thirds of the 1.3-litres produced were produced in the single year of 1934, but the car continued to be manufactured until October 1935 by which time its successor, the innovative unitary bodied Opel Olympia, had already been in production for some six months. During its brief production run, the Opel 1.3-litre was a big seller, with 19,840 of the cars produced in 1934 alone, representing the equivalent of 15% of the overall German auto-market, though even the 1934 volume never toppled Opel’s own 1.2-litre from its top spot in the market place.

Opel Blitz

Opel Blitz (German for “lightning”) was the name given to various German light and middle-weight truck series built by the German Adam Opel AG automobile manufacturer between 1930 and 1975. The original logo for this truck, two stripes arranged loosely like a lightning symbol in the form of a horizontally stretched letter “Z”, still appears in the current Opel logo.

Panzerzug – Armoured Train

An armored train is a railway train protected with armor. Armored trains usually include railroad cars armed with artillery and machine guns. They were mostly used during the late 19th and early 20th century when they offered an innovative way to quickly move large amounts of firepower. Most countries discontinued their use – road vehicles became much more powerful and offered more flexibility, and train tracks proved too vulnerable to sabotage as well as to attacks from the air.

Pionierlandungsboot – Engineer Landing Boat 39

The Kriegsmarine had taken some small steps in remedying the landing craft situation with construction of the Pionierlandungsboot 39 (Engineer Landing Boat 39), a self-propelled shallow-draft vessel which could carry 45 infantrymen, two light vehicles or 20 tons of cargo and land on an open beach, unloading via a pair of clamshell doors at the bow.

Railway Gun – 21 cm K 12 (E)

The 21 cm Kanone 12 in Eisenbahnlafette (21 cm K 12 (E)) was a German railroad gun used in the Second World War.

Railway Gun – 80 cm K (E) –  Schwerer Gustav/Dora

Schwerer Gustav (English: Heavy Gustaf, or Great Gustaf) and Dora were the names of two German 80 cm K (E) railway guns. They were developed in the late 1930s by Krupp as siege artillery for the explicit purpose of destroying the main forts of the French Maginot Line, the strongest fortifications then in existence. The fully assembled guns weighed nearly 1,350 tonnes, and could fire shells weighing seven tonnes to a range of 47 kilometres (29 mi). The guns were designed in preparation for the Battle of France, but were not ready for action when the battle began, and in any case the Wehrmacht’s Blitzkrieg offensive through Belgium rapidly outflanked and isolated the Maginot Line’s World War I-era static defenses, forcing them to surrender uneventfully and making their destruction unnecessary. Gustav was later employed in the Soviet Union at the siege of Sevastopol during Operation Barbarossa, where among other things, it destroyed a munitions depot buried in the bedrock under a bay. The guns were moved to Leningrad, and may have been intended to be used in the Warsaw Uprising like other German heavy siege pieces, but the rebellion was crushed before they could be prepared to fire. Gustav was later captured by US troops and cut up, whilst Dora was destroyed near the end of the war in 1945 to avoid capture by the Red Army.

It was the largest-calibre rifled weapon ever used in combat, the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built in terms of overall weight, and fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece. It is only surpassed in calibre by the British Mallet’s Mortar and the American Little David mortar (both 36 inch; 914 mm).

Raupenschlepper, Ost

Raupenschlepper Ost, literally “Caterpillar Tractor East”, is more commonly abbreviated to RSO. This fully tracked, a lightweight vehicle was conceived in response to the poor performance of wheeled and half-tracked vehicles in the mud and snow during the Wehrmacht’s first winter on the Soviet Front. The RSO may have been inspired by very similar full-tracked small tractors in use in other armies (such as the Soviet STZ-5 “Stalingradec”, and the U.S. Army’s own M4 Tractor), mostly originated from the pre-war light to medium series of Vickers artillery tractors.

RSO/PaK 40 – Anti-Tank Variant

By 1943 infantry anti-tank units at the front complained strongly that it was almost impossible to move their guns using trucks at daylight under enemy fire, leading to enormous losses of equipment during emergency relocations (at the time a euphemism for withdrawal), and their opinions reached the top ranks. OKW explored a previously considered proposal to fit the 7.5 cm PaK 40/1 anti-tank gun – by then the standard Pak used by the Wehrmacht – on top of an RSO chassis. After seeing the blueprints, Hitler ordered a limited production run for combat testing, before the prototypes were completed.

The project was carried out by Steyr. The suspension of the RSO remained unchanged, but the front driver’s compartment was replaced with a low, lightly armoured superstructure. The result was a lightweight, cheap to produce, and highly mobile infantry anti-tank weapon. It was more exposed compared to the conventional panzerjagers which had a construction cost many times that of a RSO/PaK 40.

Although the vehicle was intended for use by the infantry anti-tank units, all pre-production vehicles were issued to armoured units (Panzer Jager Abteilungen 743 and 744, and 18th Panzergrenadier Division), due to the urgent need for replacements. Their low speed and light armour inevitably resulted in problems for these units trying to cooperate with those in other fighting vehicles. The German Army Group South, where the units issued for combat testing, declared the vehicle useful, and large-scale production was quickly authorized.

Despite the decision to have Steyr shift its entire production line into RSO/Pak 40, no specific order reached industry, and only the approximately 60 pre-production vehicles were ever manufactured. While the first vehicles were rolled out from the production line, Steyr started testing an improved version that incorporated a wider chassis and tracks; these changes improved cross-country performance and lowered the center of gravity, an issue in a vehicle of such a high ground clearance.

None of the improved version ever reached the front. In October 1943, Steyr was ordered by the Ministry of Munitions to cease production of any type of tracked vehicles. By then a new up-gunned version of the widened chassis had been designed and was planned to enter production in 1944; it had a more powerful and less noisy V8 petrol engine to carry the 88mm Pak 43 L70 gun, by far the most powerful anti-tank weapon of its era designated PzJag K43. It is doubtful if any had been constructed by the end of the war.

Schwerer Wehrmachtschlepper

The Schwerer Wehrmachtschlepper (Heavy Military Tractor), or sWS for short, was a German World War II half-track flat-bed cargo vehicle used in various roles between 1943 and 1945. The unarmored models were used as supply vehicles and as tractors to haul things. The semi-armored version could mount a medium anti-aircraft gun, while the fully armored model carried a 10 barrel rocket launcher (Nebelwerfer). Less than a thousand were built before the end of the war, but production continued after the war of an improved model in the Tatra plant in Czechoslovakia.

Springer Demolition Vehicle

The Springer (complete name: Mittlerer Ladungsträger Springer, Sd.Kfz. 304) was a demolition vehicle of the German Wehrmacht in World War II.

Volkswagen Typ 87 –Volkswagen Kommandeurswagen

The Volkswagen Typ 87, also known as the Kommandeurswagen, was a World War II, all-wheel-drive version of the Volkswagen Beetle. It was produced from 1941 to 1944 by the Volkswagen plant primarily for the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht classified the Kommandeurswagen as leichter geländegängiger PKW, 4-sitziger, 4-radgetriebener Geländewagen Typ 87 (light offroad passenger car, four seats, all wheel drive offroad vehicle Type 87). The drivetrain and the engine are the same as in the Volkswagen Typ 166 Schwimmwagen. 564 Kommandeurswagen were produced; in November 1946, the Volkswagen plant produced two more vehicles. No new parts were produced for them; instead, old depot parts were used.

VW 276 Schlepperfahrzeug

The Volkswagen Type 276 Schlepperfahrzeug (tractor vehicle) was a derivative of the Kübelwagen Typ82 modified to enable it to tow a load, gun or a trailer, which would be deployed in a unit composed of two modified Schlepperfahrzeug, Infantry support gun 75mm IG 37, an ammunition trailer laden with 16, three-round cases of AP shell, and seven men (drivers included). The Type 276 only saw light at the end of 1944 and never went into mass production.

Zugkraftwagen P107

The P107 was a World War II French half-track.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Citroën developed a long line of half-tracks based on the Kégresse patent. In 1934, the company introduced its newest and more powerful P107 model as a successor to the Citroën-Kégresse P17. But before mass production could take place, Citroën went bankrupt and its new owner, Michelin, chose to focus on the civilian markets. Unic was therefore able to acquire a license for the Kégresse patent, and took over the production of the P107.

Two main variants of the P107 were accepted in French military service: a light prime mover for the 75 mm and short 105 mm artillery guns, and a platform cargo transport for engineer units. More than 2000 examples were in service in 1940.

During World War II, the Germans used these captured half-tracks extensively under the name Leichter Zugkraftwagen 37. With German half-tracks in short supply, Major Alfred Becker of the 21. Panzerdivision (which in 1944 was stationed near Caen in Normandy) suggested converting captured French vehicles. He ordered the conversion of several hundred Unic half-tracks into U304(f) light armoured personnel carriers.

Zündapp KS Motorcycles

The first Zündapp motorcycle was the model Z22 in 1921. This was the Motorrad für Jedermann (“motorcycle for everyone”), a simple, reliable design that was produced in large series. Zündapp’s history of heavy motorcycles began in 1933 with the K-series. The “K” refers to the type of drivetrain that these models used, Kardanantrieb, meaning enclosed driveshaft with two universal joints. Zündapp introduced the enclosed crankcase (then a novelty). The series encompassed models from 200 to 800 cc displacement and was a major success, increasing Zündapp’s market share in Germany from 5% in 1931 to 18% in 1937.

The Zündapp KS600, first released in 1938, had a 28 hp (21 kW) horizontally opposed twin-cylinder motor with overhead valves displacing 597cc (36.4 cu in). The KS600 was often coupled with a Steib sidecar, the BW38 (Beiwagen 1938). The BW38, fitted with the B1 (Boot no. 1) sidecar body was produced between 1938 and 1941 and supplied exclusively to the Wehrmacht. While the KS600 was discontinued and eventually replaced by the purpose-built KS750, its motor was to be the only remnant to live beyond the destruction of war. When Zündapp returned to motorcycle production in the late 1940s, it chose to reuse the KS600’s motor to power the KS601 with few modifications.

The Zündapp K800 had unit construction, flat-four engines with shaft drive (a layout adopted by Honda for the Gold Wing in 1974) and were the only 4-cylinder machines used by the German armed forces in World War II.

From 1931 Ferdinand Porsche and Zündapp developed the prototype Auto für Jedermann (“car for everyone”), which was the first time the name Volkswagen was used. Porsche preferred the 4-cylinder flat engine, but Zündapp used a water-cooled 5-cylinder radial engine. In 1932 three prototypes were running. All three cars were lost during the war, the last in a 1945 Stuttgart bombing raid.

From 1936 to 1938 Zündapp produced the KKS500 model. This was the first Zündapp with a foot gear change, and 170 examples were built. From 1940 onward Zündapp produced more than 18,000 units of the Zündapp KS 750. This is a sidecar outfit with a driven side wheel and a locking differential supplied to the German Wehrmacht.

Zündapp also made aircraft engines including the 9-092, which was used in light aircraft, including the Brunswick LF-1 Zaunkönig (1942) ab initio trainer aircraft.



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