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"Wheel-cum-Track Observation Vehicle" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the German wheel-and-track observation vehicle was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 45, April 1, 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Prior references to this type of vehicle in Tactical and Technical Trends will be found in No. 11, p. 27 and No. 39, p. 34. Unlike the semi-tracked vehicles, the German wheel-cum-track armored observation vehicle Sd. Kfz.* 254, is designed to be driven either on the track or on the four wheels.

a. Characteristics

The vehicle examined weighed 11,900 pounds. Its principle dimensions and armor-plate thickness are:

Length     14 ft 10 in
Width7 ft 4 in
Gage of track4 ft 3 in
Wheel base7 ft 10 in
Height on wheels7 ft 7 in
Height on tracks7 ft 3 in
Width of wheels8 in
Width of tracks9 1/2 in
Fording on wheels2 ft 11 in
Maximum gradient37 degrees
Ground clearance on wheels9 1/2 in
Ground clearance on tracks1 foot
Fuel consumption--roads on wheels19.4 miles per gallon**
Fuel consumption--cross-country on tracks3.85 miles per gallon
Radius of action--roads on wheels310 miles
Radius of action--cross-country on tracks62 miles
Fuel capacity16 gallons
   Front.394 in
   Sides.197 in
   Back.197 in
   Top.197 in

b. Drive

The wheels can be raised for track drive and lowered for wheel drive. Although the tracks use spring-suspension, the four wheels are suspended by two torsion bars.

To effect the change-over from tracks to wheels the vehicle must be stopped, and a power take-off from the transmission engaged. This rotates a heavy disk situated laterally across the vehicle with a pin set on either side of it diametrically opposite, the pins being vertical to the surface of the disk. Connected to each of these pins is an arm extending out through the side of the body of the vehicle, one arm on each side. When the diameter between the pins is vertical, the arms are withdrawn, and when the diameter is horizontal, the arms are extended sideways. The rotation of the disk is controlled through the power take-off. On either side of the vehicle extending from the front suspension unit to the rear axle is a torsion bar, either of which is connected to one of the arms through a lever. The front end of the torsion bar is connected to the front wheels. The rear end is connected to the rear wheels, in either case by an arm solid with the torsion bar and pivoted at the wheels. The front wheels are mounted on parallel arms, the upper ones being connected to the torsion bar. Between the arms a hinged tie rod operates, permitting the wheels to be turned by means of a conventional steering wheel. The rear wheel assembly consists of a conventional differential and axles which are solid, in that they may be raised and lowered as a whole. The arms from the torsion bars are connected to the wheels through knuckle joints.

[WWII German Wheel-cum-Track Observation Vehicle]

If the torsion bar is rotated, the wheels will be raised off or lowered on to the ground. To complete the picture, when the disk is in such a position that the diameter between the pins is vertical, the arms are drawn inwards, the torsion bars are rotated so as to raise the wheels. On rotating the disk by the engine through the power take-off the arms extend sideways, rotate the torsion bars and lower the wheels to the ground. Further turning, jacks up the vehicle on the wheels, the tracks being raised off the ground. At this stage the diameter between the pins on the disk is in the horizontal position.

The "Track Wheel" gear selection lever is then moved to the "Wheel" position and the vehicle may be driven off.

c. Suspension

(1) On Tracks

There are 6 small hollow steel bogie wheels. The front and rear wheels are mounted singly and each is sprung by a coil spring. The remaining four wheels are in the form of two scissor articulated pairs sprung by coil springs. There are four hull stub axles, the first carrying a single bogie wheel, the second and third an articulated pair and the fourth again a single bogie wheel. There is also a front sprocket, rear idler, and 4 hollow steel return rollers. A girder connects the first three hull stub axles on the outside of the suspension assembly. The track is rather light and is made up of links connected by unlubricated pins. There are two bridges to each link, the bogie wheels running between them.

(2) On Wheels

The torsion bar used for raising and lowering the road wheels also provides the method of springing them. The wheels are fitted with pneumatic tires.

d. Steering

On tracks steering is effected by controlling the differential by means of two steering levers. On wheels, steering is effected by means of a normal steering wheel.

*Sonder Kraftfahrzeug--special motor vehicle
**Using a 70 HP Diesel motor


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