Passenger cars






The time of the Reichswehr in the 1920s was characterised by insufficiency. Because of small personnel numbers, mainly commercial passenger cars were procured. Special, military all-terrain passenger cars were developed at the end of the 1920s. They were based on commercial chassis but had a higher running gear and an open top superstructure. At first, they had no doors. To prevent the soldiers falling out of the passenger cars in sharp curves, tub-shaped seats - similar to today’s sport seats – called Kübelsitze were created. Of this the name Kübelsitzwagen – which literally translated means bucket seat car – derives. The soldiers simply called them Kübelwagen. Later developments had doors and usually no bucket seats but the name remained, however.
Kübelwagen were characteristic for the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht in the 1930s. Because of bad business situation in the late 1920s and early 1930s, one decided to involve many automobile manufacturers in the military procurement plan. For this reason – and frequently changed production models of the manufacturers – a large variety of Kübelwagen brands and types arose.
To handle this situation, development of the Einheits-Fahrgestelle – literally translated: standard-chassis – was compelled in mid 1930s. Considerably increased arms expenditure was for sure another reason. Based on these standard-chassis, light, medium and heavy Einheits-Pkw – literally translated: standard-passenger car - were developed. These were manufactured by several manufacturers. Because the manufacturers used company own engines etc. they were identically only outwardly. Under conditions of war, many shortcomings occurred. Only the mittlere Einheits-Pkw worked satisfactory.
As quick as possible, alternatives were searched. For this reason, larger quantities of the Mercedes Benz type 170 VK were procured. This vehicle was very solid but cross-country mobility was insufficient.
At last in 1941/42, larger quantities of the VW-Kübelwagen and VW-Schwimmwagen which were developed by Porsche were delivered to the Wehrmacht. The schwere Einheits-Pkw was replaced by personnel carriers which were based on chassis of 1.5 ton lorries of the brands Mercedes Benz, Phänomen and Steyr.
In the 1920s and 1930s one thought that optimal cross-country mobility could only be reached by vehicles with three axles. For this reason three-axle passenger cars were developed by many companies. But they were only manufactured in small numbers and were mainly used as representation cars for political leaders and generals.
With the mobilisation in 1939, the passenger car stock was supplemented by thousands confiscated civilian passenger cars, which were partially adapted to military use. Under these circumstances no more consideration on type purity could be taken, however. Commercial limousines as well as cabriolets were used. The army preferred the cabriolets because one could step out faster under engagements situations. Many of these vehicles were modified with special superstructures by either the troop or by car body companies.
Passenger cars of the most diverse foreign brands were used by the Wehrmacht, too. Some probably originated from the civilian stock of the German Reich. But most of them were captured during the different campaigns. Not to underestimate was the number of passenger cars which were manufactured by automobile companies in the occupied areas under German direction. The durability of the passenger cars - whose origin was not located in these areas - depended usually on the availability of spare parts. Some types proved as quite useful in the troop use. Others were rather loads for the troop due to their small number. Due to insufficient manufacturing capacities of the German vehicle industry the booty vehicles made an important contribution for motorising the Wehrmacht.
As time of war went by, the range of tasks of passenger cars increased. It reached from the simple transport of commanders and soldiers right up to the usage as towing vehicle for guns, as ambulance, as signals vehicle, as radio vehicle, as maintenance vehicle etc.






Passenger cars of German manufacturers






Kübelwagen, all-terrain vehicles, 6-wheel passenger cars and amphibious cars



Commercial passenger cars






Captured passenger cars and production in the occupied territories






Captured Kübelwagen, all-terrain vehicles and 6-wheel passenger cars









Great Britain





Soviet Union







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