Schwerer Panzerspähwagen SdKfz 231 armed with a 20-mm (0.787-in) cannon. This pre-war design used a truck chassis as its basis, but the overall weigh t made the vehicle unsuitable for prolonged cross-country use.
The schwerer Panzerspähwagen SdKfz 231 6x4 heavy armoured car had its origins at the Kazan test centre established in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. There the German automobile industry developed an 8x8 armoured car chassis that proved to be too expensive for further development, so a 6x4 chassis was tried instead. This model used a truck chassis as its basis, and originally this was a Daimler-Benz product but later Bussing- NAG and Magirus chassis and engines were employed. These chassis were fitted with suitable armoured hulls and turrets, and modifications were made to allow steering from either end of the hull. Early trials demonstrated the need for stronger front axles and revised radiators, and the resulting vehicle was issued to German army units during 1932. Production continued until 1935, by which time about 1,000 had been produced.
The 6x4 armoured cars were not a great success but they were produced at a time when the German army lacked experience in the use of armoured vehicles, and were thus invaluable as training and preparation equipments. Using lorry chassis carrying armoured hulls that were really too heavy for their supporting structures, the six wheeled armoured cars were underpowered and had only limited cross-country capabilities, But when used on roads they were as good as anything else available, and they were used to good effect during the occupations of Austria and Czechoslovakia during 1938 and 1939, and were also used in combat in Poland and France. Their very appearance had great propaganda impact, and they were accordingly given great media coverage at the time. After 1940 they gradually faded from front-line use and were relegated mainly to training roles.
Early examples of the six-wheeled armoured cars had provision for only one 7.92-mm (0.31-m) MG 34 machinegun in the turret, but the version used mainly by the heavy platoons of the German army motorized units was the SdKfz 231. This had a turret mounting a 20-mm cannon, originally the KwK 30 but later the KwK 38 with a higher rate of fire. Mounted co-axially with this cannon was a 7.92-mm (0.31 -in) MG 34, and there was provision for an antiaircraft machine-gun on the turret roof. The SdKfz 231 was used as a tactical vehicle (undertaking a combat role in direct fire support of motorized infantry units mounted on trucks or later on halftracks), but at times it was also used in support of light reconnaissance units for Panzer formations, Another vehicle that was very similar to the SdKfz 231 was the SdKfz 232, which was basically a Sdkfz 231 fitted with a long-range radio set that required the fitting of a large and prominent frame aerial above the turret and over the hull rear, the turret acting as a support for the forward part of the aerial. Another similar vehicle was the SdKfz 263, which also had a large frame aerial, though on this vehicle the turret was fixed and had provision for a single machine-gun only. The SdKfz 263 was used as a command vehicle.
Weight: (in action) 5.7 tonnes
Dimensions: length overall 5.57 m (18 ft 6 3/4 in); width 1.82 m (5 ft 11 1/2 in); height 2.25 m (7 ft 4 3/5 in)
Powerplant: one Daimler-Benz, Bussing-NAG or Magirus water-cooled petrol engine developing
between 60 and 80 bhp (45 and 60 kW)
Performance: maximum road speed 65 km/h (40 mph); maximum road range 250 km (150 miles); maximum cross-country range 200 km (125 miles); gradient 20°; fording 0.6 m (24 in)