Classification-system of the Reichswehr and Wehrmacht






Already in the early 1920s, the Reichswehr developed a classification system for the various horse drawn vehicles. This system was continuously expanded and modified according to changing requirements. It lasted until the end of WW II.
In the late 1920s, the Reichswehr started with the development of special military passenger cars and lorries. After acceptable chassis were available, a whole range of special superstructures for various usages was developed. This great number of special superstructures made a system with conclusive designations necessary. Therefore, a Kfz. number system was built up which lasted in parts until the end of WW II. The Wehrmacht continued and expanded this system. At first, there were only numbers for Kraftfahrzeuge (Kfz.) – motor vehicles – and Anhänger (Ah.) – trailers. Beginning around 1935, numbers for Sonderkraftfahrzeuge (Sd. Kfz.) – special motor vehicles – and Sonderanhänger (Sd. Ah.) – special trailers – were assigned. The Sd. Kfz. 1, 2 and 3 of the Reichswehr were an exception. When these Sd. Kfz. Numbers were assigned is not quite clarified. Obviously, these vehicles originating from WW I had no influence on the new system. Most probably, the scrapping of these few vehicles was a done deal in the early 1930s.
From the beginning on, motor vehicles and trailers were introduced which got no special number but a motor vehicle designation. As a general rule, the assigned Kfz. numbers allowed no conclusion to the brand and the type of the motor vehicle. Chassis, which were not developed by the Heereswaffenamt – army ordnance office – got the addition (o), which stood for commercial, to the designation. Drawn in or captured vehicles, which did not met the standards, were often modified to the intended purpose. Such vehicles got the addition (Behelf) which stood for makeshift.
The assigned numbers were divided into number ranges according to the motor vehicle class. The number ranges provided first were clearly divided into groups of ten. In addition, one was concerned about that no numbers were assigned simultaneously to motor vehicles and to special motor vehicles. In this way, the Sd. Kfz. numbers of the not armoured special motor vehicles assigned in the second half of the 1930s in the number range 1 to 10 had no overlaps with Kfz. numbers of the l. and m. Pkw. (for example Kfz. 1, 2, 3, 4 and Sd. Kfz. 5, 6, 7, 8 etc.). This had no more importance in the case of later assigned numbers. So, there were overlaps with the numbers of special motor vehicles introduced during war (for example Kfz. 2 and Sd. Kfz. 2; Kfz. 3 and Sd. Kfz. 3). In addition, numbers from not appropriate number ranges were assigned (for example Kfz. 100). Motor vehicles, which were developed on another chassis than serial production was realised, cause confusion. The Kfz. 76 and 77 were developed on the chassis of the m. gl. Lkw. (o) but serial production was realised on the chassis of the l. gl. Lkw. (o). In these cases, the Kfz. number was not adapted to the number range of the later chassis.
Until about 1942, new Kfz. numbers were assigned by the army but beginning in 1941, tendencies for the simplification of this complex system are recognisable. This progress must be seen in the context of the increasing efforts for the simplification of motor vehicle serial production. In this context, the most important classification criteria were added to the designations of some motor vehicle classes. So the payload was added to the designation of the lorries and the number of seats to the motor buses. The engine power replaced the towing capacity as key criteria in the case of the wheeled tractors. Beginning in November 1943, most of the Kfz. numbers were deleted. They were replaced by simple designations. The leichter geländegängiger Personenkraftwagen (Kfz. 1) mit Fahrgestell des leichten Personenkraftwagens Typ K 1 was now designated leichter Personenkraftwagen, gl (4-sitzig); a Sammlerkraftwagen (Kfz. 42) mit Fahrgestell des m. Lkw. (o) was now designated Lastkraftwagen 3t, geschlossen als Sammlerkraftwagen. In December 1943, the sizing of the motor vehicles was newly regulated by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – High Command of the Armed Forces – (O.K.W./Ch WKW, 13. Dezember 43 Abt. Mot./Ent.). It seems that this new regulation was not completely implemented. There are obvious discrepancies in the KStN – war strength inventory – provided in 1944 and 1945. The three size designations leicht, mittel und schwer – light, middle and heavy – of the passenger cars was still used although five graduations were dictated by the regulation from the OKW. In addition, the engine capacity differs in the KStN. Furthermore, the Sd. Kfz. numbers of the half track vehicles were not deleted. They were still used in KStN from 1945.
Special motor vehicles and special trailers which entered serial production still received numbers (exception: s.W.S.). It seems, that the Luftwaffe continued to use the Kfz. number system until the end of war. Only the different designation of fire fighting vehicles of the Luftwaffe and the Feuerschutzpolizei was unified in early 1943. Furthermore, the motor vehicles, special motor vehicles and trailers of the FR – long distance missile – units established late in 1944 got Fahrzeug-Position Nummern – vehicle position numbers.






Horse drawn vehicles






Kfz. without number



Kfz. with number






Sd. Kfz. without number



Sd. Kfz. with number






simplified system as of 1943






Ah. and Sd. Ah. with number and Ah. without number






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