The heavy Panzerspähwagen were a large and ungainly but a very fast addition to the German mobile arsenal of the early war years. The original 6-rad (6 wheels) versions were based on a 6x4 truck with armoured body, but by 1937 they were being replaced by the 8-rad versions. During the replacement, the Sd.Kfz numbers were carried directly over; differentiation is made by the addition of 6-Rad or 8-Rad (Ger: "6 wheel" or "8 wheel") in the vehicle name.
These vehicles first saw combat with the campaign against Poland and in the Battle of France. The radio communication cars proved their ability in infantry support, especially during street fighting. Later they saw use in both Russia and North Africa. Extreme climatic conditions in both these areas proved too severe for the vehicle. In Russia, adverse ground conditions immobilized 150 Sd.Kfz 232s during the first wet season of the campaign. In the desert, heat and sand created some maintenance problems. Still, the eight-wheeled cars turned out to be the best vehicles that Rommel had for long raids in across the wide desert territory.
The Sd.Kfz. 234 series were completely new designs, of a similar size and appearance to the Sd.Kfz. 232/3 series which they replaced. They were powered by a Tatra diesel. The most obvious external difference is the single-piece mudguards compared to the two-piece mudguards on the 232 series.
There were four main variants.
234/1 - 1 x 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, 1 x MG34 Machinegun. This design featured an open-topped turret. Around 200 were produced.
234/2 "Puma" - 1 x 5 cm KwK 39 L/60, 1 x MG34. Employed a fully enclosed turret originally designed for the VK1602 Leopard light tank. The turret front was protected by 30 mm armor set at an angle of 20° from the vertical. The sides and rear had 10 mm armor set at 25°, and the top plate was 10 mm armor. The gun mantlet was rounded and was 40 to 100 mm thick. 101 were produced between September 1943 and September 1944.
234/3 - 1 x 7.5 cm K51 L/24 in open-topped superstructure replacing the turret. 88 built between June and December, 1944.
234/4 "Pakwagen" - 1 x 7.5 cm PaK 40 L/48 in open-topped superstructure replacing the turret. 89 built between December 1944 and March 1945.