Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma

A late-War armored car saw service from 1943 to the end.

Let’s take a quick look at the Wehrmacht’s ultimate Armored Car.

I’ve mentioned here before that Germany seemed to lavish the most attention of any World War II combatant on their armored cars. This may have been another unintended consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was technically not allowed any armored force under the treaty, but they seem to have concluded early that armored cars could be prototyped with only a modicum of secrecy. The Allied powers were all too happy to be done with war, and apparently weren’t too worried as long as it wasn’t tanks.
No surprise, Germany entered the Second World War with some pretty advanced armored cars, that means fast and dangerous recon forces.

The biggest of these was the Sd.Kfz.231 family, the 8-rad versions having 8 wheel drive and 8 wheel steering. The Sd.Kfz. prefix identifies the armored car as a “Special Purpose Vehicle”.
The actual start of War made several design shortcomings apparent. In 1940 design work started on an all new replacement. This was tagged Sd.Kfz.234. It was to be built by several different companies; chassis, armored shell, turret, all separately sourced. The first prototype was ready in July 1942, two particular deficiencies were noted, both related to the engine. It was too loud and ran too hot. This would take another year to sort out, the final engine being an air cooled V-12 Diesel by the Czech company Tatra.

There would be four variants of the Sd.Kfz.234 built. The 234/1 used an open top turret with a 20 mm cannon, this was similar what was used in other German armored cars. Although the first version built came to be the 234/2, which used surplus 50 mm anti-tank guns left over from a discontinued light tank program. About 100 were built until the inventory was exhausted and production switched to the 234/1.
A 234/3 entered production during the /1 run. This used a 75 mm howitzer in an open compartment. Then at the end of 1944 production switched to the 234/4, with a 75 mm anti-tank gun in an armored turret.

I’m not seeing superlatives listed in any of the write-ups I have, but this is clearly the biggest armored car I know of from the War. It gave German recon units serious anti-armor capability. Of course the typical German limitation applies, total production was under 500 examples. Wehrmacht recon forces were never homogenous forces, they would have operated mixed forces of whatever they could get ahold of.

My family of German armored cars. The Sd.Kfz.232 (command version of the 231) was the standard “heavy” at the start of the War, the Sd.Kfz.222 at right is a more normal sized vehicle in wide service.

This particular vehicle fought in Normandy, Summer 1944, with the 2nd Panzer Division.

The Puma is clearly bigger and better armed than Allied types.

This is the Italeri kit, in a Tamiya box. It maybe lacks the finesse I’m used to with Tamiya being the main provider of vehicle kits in this scale; but it built up fine with no particular problems. Really, overall a nice kit.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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4 Responses to Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma

  1. jfwknifton says:

    It’s a strange thing to say about an AFV, but the Sd.Kfz.234/2 Puma really was a thing of beauty!
    I like your idea about the Treaty of Versailles as well. It certainly fits in well with some of the Luftwaffe’s early aircraft which were eventually light bombers but had been constructed as airliners, such as the Heinkel He 111 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor.

    • atcDave says:

      I should have specified there’s some speculation in that! But yeah, I was drawing conclusions from what I know happened in aviation and matching it to what happened with vehicles. Their armored recon vehicles were reasonably mature and ready for War, unlike their tanks.

  2. Jeff Groves says:

    Armored cars are an interesting rabbit hole, the Germans certainly had some unique designs. Great job on your Puma!

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