The Ketenkrad

Half & half

Old Bike Australasia - - CON­TENTS - Story Frank Di­etz Pho­tos Paul Gar­son, OBA Archives

Of­fi­cially ti­tled the SdKfz 2, its pri­mary pur­pose was to lay field com­mu­ni­ca­tion ca­bles. The ve­hi­cle was de­signed to fit in­side a Junkers Ju 52 air­craft and used by ground troops once un­loaded. Early ver­sions used the front fork from the NSU 600cc model but this was soon found to be un­able to stand up to the rigours of cross­ing heav­ily bombed ter­rain and deep ditches, and was re­in­forced and strength­ened. The re­vised ver­sion also re­peat­edly failed, mean­ing the ma­chines spent more time in the work­shop than in ac­tion. It was not un­til 1942 that a com­pletely new front fork with a hy­draulic shock absorber was fit­ted, and this re­ju­ve­nated the project. Other stan­dard NSU mo­tor­cy­cle parts ini­tially fit­ted in­cluded the spoked front wheel, head­light, han­dle­bars and in­stru­ments. On post-1942 ver­sions, the front wheel was fab­ri­cated from metal press­ings. The track sys­tem of over­lap­ping wheels on rub­ber block belts was known as Schachtel­laufw­erk and was used on many other half-track Ger­man mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles. In ex­treme con­di­tions the tracks could be equipped with snow cleats. The ve­hi­cles were fre­quently used to tow trail­ers and field guns. Power came from a 4-cylin­der Opel en­gine of 1,478cc, pro­duc­ing 36hp. To com­ply with the terms of the com­mis­sion, the Ket­tenkrad was ca­pa­ble of climb­ing a 24 de­gree gra­di­ent in sand and even steeper gra­di­ents on firm ground, and could chug through wa­ter al­most

half a me­tre deep.

The ma­chine was fit­ted with a re­verse gear, but ap­par­ently this was a con­stant source of prob­lems and fre­quently failed al­to­gether, usu­ally dam­ag­ing other com­po­nents in the drive train as well. Al­though the prototypes ap­peared in 1939, the Ket­tenkrad first saw mil­i­tary ac­tion in the in­va­sion of the Soviet Union in 1941 where they were in­valu­able for car­ry­ing troops through the deep mud. Later in the war when fuel was in­creas­ingly scarce, the Ket­tenkrad was used on air­fields to tow fight­ers such as the Me 262 into po­si­tion rather than have the air­craft taxi to the run­way. A to­tal of 3,345 ex­am­ples of the Ket­tenkrad were built dur­ing the war years, and a fur­ther 550 in post­war years which were used mainly on farms and in forests. Few have sur­vived and many fell into the hands of the Al­lies as a valu­able cap­ture. To­day a hand­ful ex­ist in mu­se­ums such as the Tank Mu­seum in Mun­ster, the Muzej Mo­to­cy­cle in Vran­sko, Slove­nia, the Don­ing­ton Park Mil­i­tary Mu­seum in the English Mid­lands, the Bov­ing­ton Tank Mu­seum in Dorset UK, and in USA in the Amer­i­can Her­itage Mu­seum in Hud­son, MA.

ABOVE Cheer­ful look­ing solider on a Ket­tenkrad dur­ing WW2. LEFT A Ket­tenkrad on dis­play in the Vran­sko mu­seum, Slove­nia. ABOVE & RIGHT Front cover of a Ger­man mag­a­zine show­ing Al­bert Speer, Re­ich Min­is­ter for Ar­ma­ments and War Pro­duc­tion, giv­ing a Ket­tenkrad a mud bath.

1. Clutch pedal 2. Wooden grate footrest (left) 3. Left steer­ing brake ad­just­ing nut 4. Brake lever and link­age for left wheel brake 5. Hand brake lever with push but­ton 6. Hand lever for cool­ing lou­ver 7. Con­trol lever for aux­il­iary trans­mis­sion 8. Filler cap for left fuel tank 9. Left knee pad 10. Gear-change di­a­gram for gear and aux­il­iary trans­mis­sions 11. Con­tainer for first-aid kit 12. Start­ing mech­a­nism pull knob 13. Starter push but­ton 14. Ta­chome­ter 15. Socket for hand-held light 16. Gearshift lever guide with re­verse gear stop 17. Coolant tem­per­a­ture gauge 18. Gearshift lever 19. Steer­ing damper con­trol knob 20. Main head­light 21. Bat­tery in­di­ca­tor light 22. Main head­light switch 23. Speedome­ter 24. Mul­tistage swith for night driv­ing equip­ment 25. Right com­part­ment tool kit 26. Dim­mer switch (in high-beam po­si­tion) 27. Horn push but­ton 28. Oil-pres­sure warn­ing light 29. Ac­cel­er­a­tor con­trol grip (a — on) 30. Right knee pad 31. In­tru­ments light switch 32. Filler cap for right fuel tank 33. Brake lever and link­age for right wheel brake 34. Right steer­ing brake ad­just­ing nut 35. Wheel brake link­age 36. Wooden grate foot rest (right) 37. Brake pedal

ABOVE Ket­tenkrad on dis­play in a Rus­sian mu­seum. RIGHT Ket­tenkrad at the Tank Mu­seum in Bov­ing­ton UK. BELOW RIGHT Ger­man postage stamp.

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