Half & half
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.