Francisco Javier Cabeza
After Germany was forbidden usign any kind of tactical vehicles by the Versalles Treaty, the German government reached an agreement with the USSR at the end of the 20s (Rapallo Treaty) for settling a common plant of development and experiment of armored vehicles.
Under top secret and with the name of "Gepanzerte Mannschafft Transporwagen", the predeccesors of the 234 series were born. During 1926-1927, Daimler Benz and Magirus developed a vehicle of 8 wheels, while Büssing Nag did the same with an amphibiuos 10 wheels vehicle, fitting the requirements of the government.
The German Army only gained experience from these designs, as they still had to train with fake vehicles, commercial chassis with wooden or fabric superstructure. Anyway they were able to set up and improve the units and tactics that were to be succesfully employed later, in the Second World War
The first reconnoissance vehicle was the Kfz 13, in 1934. It had four wheels and was hardly used in combat, but it served as a base for a long series of 4, 6 and 8 wheels vehicles.
The most direct ancestor of the 234 were the 8 wheels GS chassis, namely SdKfz 231, 232, 233 y 263, from which it got part of its mechanichal components and general guidelines of design.
On 5th August, 1940, the Inspektorat(In) 6 instructed the Wa Pruef 6 to develop a reconnoissance vehicle suitable for underdeveloped regions (Panzerspahwagen fur Colonialzwecke), a concept generally associated with the Afrika Theater but that would be equally useful on the Eastern Front. The vehicle was to use similar components to the Sd Kfz 231, but with an air cooled diesel engine, improved fording capacities, monoblock chassis and strongly armored (30mm). The chassis was ordered to Büssing Nag and the engine to Tatra; the "Achradwagen (ARK)" should weigth 20 Tons with a frontal armor of 30mm and side armor enough to resist 7,92 mm armor piercing rounds. It had to be able to ford 1,20m, have a crew of 4 men and mount a 2cm gun with anti aircraft capacity (KwK.38 mit Flakrohr) and a 7,92mm MG. The prototype should be ready by December, 1941.
A change on the armament is first mentioned on a report dated 1st July, 1942, specifying a 5cm Kw.K.39/1 and a MG 34 (without discarding the possibility of mounting the 2 cm Kw.K.38) in a narrow profile turret, common to the Luchs, Leopard and Achradwagen proyects.
The chassis was manufactured by Büssing Nag in Leipzig (Manufacturer's code ARK), the superstructure by Deutschen Edelstahlwerke in Krefeld and the turret by Daimler Benz AG (5cm) and F.Schibau (2cm) in Elbing.
The first trials with the prototype started around July, 1942. Due to problems with the noise of the engine, a second model was developed (Tatra 103), and a tropicalized version of it was not finished until the defeat of the German army in Afrika.
The first 5 vehicles with a turret and 5 cm gun were delivered in December, 1943. As there were problems with the supply of the casted shield of the gun (Topfblende), the 234/2 were delayed and the chassis were diverted to other variants. The production finished on September, 1944, with a total of 101 vehicles built of the s.Pz.Sp.Wg (5 cm 39/1 L/60) Sd.Kfz 234 version. Incidentally, it was not known as 234/2 until March, 1944 and never officially called "Puma"...
There were 4 variants of the 234 series,
with different armament and
some minor structural variations:
We have found several variations in the 234 series during the production , some of them did not affect the Puma and will not be mentioned here. Although most of them affect only to prototypes and very early vehicles, they are worth to know for a modeller:
Tires: At the
beggining of the design of the vehicle, it was proyected the
develop of 2 kind of tires for the 234,
a road and a cross country versions.
These versions were at least field tested
but we have not been able to find further use, and it seems
that most of the time the 234 used
standard truck tires 270-20 with
camera, and very easy to be punctured...
Mudguards: Again, there were some variations not documented. 3 kinds can be recognized, depending on the number and distribution of the bins and their hinges. Only 2 of these were used on the 234/2:
Early. Seen in prototypes and first vehicles. There were 5 bins in a different position from the series vehicles (photo 2).
Mid. Four bins, it was the most common on Puma (photo 14).
Late. Not seen in the 234/2.
Visors: Some very early vehicles
show a rear side visor on the left hand side
that can not be found on later models of the 234/2.
Some units equipped with Puma made minor
changes in the vehicles, improving them as they thought it
- Ammunition support on the right front mudguard, it can be seen on several vehicles and consisted in 2 U shape holders that held in place a box of ammunition for the main gun.
- Hooks, usually for attaching wires to hold foliage to conceal the vehicle. There were on turret sides and rear engine hatch.
- A hand held on the frontal access hatch.
The 234/2 was developed with the specific mission of deep reconnoisance, and as such it had to carry a full radio equipment. It could mount radios for short and long range; as the 234/2 worked in pairs only one of each two had both radios, while the other only used the short range. Externally they can be identified by the "star" aerial, on the left side of the hull.
The radios were:
-Funsprechgerät f: Mounted on the rear wall of the turret, it was used for inter-vehicle communication, and had a range of 1 km while moving and 3 km stationary. It needed a 1,4 or 2 mt. rod aerial on the turret roof.
-Fu 12: For long range transmissions, 80 Km for morse and moving and 25 Km for voice stationary using the 1-3 MHz band. It was located on the rear of the vehicle, to the right of the rear driving position. It needed a "star" aerial, on the hull of the vehicle and protected by a box.
The gun used PzGr39 rounds, that can pierce 37mm at 1.500m (enough to destroy light armored and reconnoisance vehicles) and HE rounds SprGr38. This gun was a direct evolution, with muzzle brake, of the one on the Pz III and therefore, of the Pak38.
On the same casted mantlet and coaxially was mounted a MG42
The vehicle carried 55 rounds (27 PzGr39 and 28 SprGr38) for the main gun, 2.850 of 7,92mm for the MG42 and 192 of 9mm for the crew's MP38.
There were also 3 smoke dischargers on each side of the turret, plus 3 more inside the engine compartment that released the smoke through the engine louvres.
The 234/2 was the first and only german armored vehicle during WWII mounting an air cooled diesel engine, the Tatra 103. It was used as a temporal solution until the tropicalized version was ready, but it never was. This engine solved the noise problems of the first engine used and offered a good weight/power relation, fully loaded, of 17 HP/Ton.
With the full load of fuel, 360 liters, it had an autonomy of 1.000 km in roads and 600 km cross country.
Some technical data about the Tatra 103:
According to Jentz, the 101 units of the 234/2 produced were distributed as follows:
-Panzer Lehr Div. (1 Kompanie/PzAufkAbt 130): 25 units. Painted in dark yellow and without numerals or crosses.
- 2 PzDiv (1.Kompanie/PzAufkAbt 2): 25 units. Some of its vehicles seem painted dark yellow without any marking (not even license plates) but a small trident and the Aufklärungs insignia, both on the front of the hull, at the left. Others, like the well knwon 111 carried 3 tone camo, crosses and numerals.
- 1 SSPzDiv (SSPzAufkAbt 1): 16 units. painted in dark yellow with camo, probably 3 tone. They also carried crosses and numerals (3 digits)
- 20 PzDiv ( PzAufkAbt 20): 16 units. There is a photo of a Puma white washed, in Silesia.
- 7 PzDiv (1Kompanie/ PzAufkAbt 7): 6 units
- 13 PzDiv: not known.
- Waffen Pru Amt and trainin units: The rest
Knowing the date of manufacturing, they were delivered from the factory painted in standard dark yellow, and after arriving to the units, sometimes they added the camo with brown and green.
Most of the photos show vehicles painted plain yellow, while the camo had 2 shapes, broad bands of color and thin strips. There is also one example of a winter 234/2 whitewashed, probably applied on field.
The markings, when present, were the following:
Crosses. On turret sides and rear, they can be seen in almost all cases. They were applied by the units, as the vehicles left the factory without crosses. The side ones can be seen on different positions, more or less moved to the rear or the front from the turret center (usual postition).
Numerals. Also on turret sides, and usually to the left of the crosses, although some vehicles had the numerals on the center of the turret and the cross moved to the rear. They were filled in dark color (red or black), with white border; there is one photo with the numeral and cross only outlined, but it has so many other stencilled markings made after captured that we seriously doubt they were original.
- Detachment - Pair - Vehicle, like the 1111 o el 111, corresponding to the first vehicle of the eleventh pair, and first vehicle of the first pair, both from the first Detachment (1-11-1 and 1-1-1).
- Detachment - Platoon - Vehicle, like probably was the 415.
Divisional insignia. Not always present, it can be seen sometimes on the left front hull.
License plate. Painted on the frontal and rear of the hull, a white rectangle with black outline and numbers. It was painted before delivering to the units.
Like the tires pressure, painted on the
mudguard over every wheel (4 atü);
weight and class, in a rectangle on the left
side of the hull; speed limit, on
both sides of the hull to the front (35 Km).
These markings were stenciled also in the
Although is already an old model, Italeri's 1/35 kit (reference 202) offers a fairly acceptable quality, with correct general dimensions. It is easy to build, with clear instruction sheet and teh fit of the parts is good. Even the underside is detailed enough, so if you want to build one up side down, you only need to remove the Italeri logo. The wheels can be easily modified to show the steering, but remember that they worked in blocks (2 front axis, 2 rear axis, or the 4).
The mudguards are slightly narrow, approximately 1,5 mm and it is clearly noticeable when you replace the cans with new ones from Tamiya or Italeri, as they look too close to the edge. The interior is very simple, we sent it directly to the spare box as through the vision ports is impossible to see anything even if they are fully opened. There are only a few interior shots of the Puma and it is difficult to guess the inside. The most controversial part would be the ammnuition racks, and only the turret is more or less known.
Even being a very popular vehicle among
modellers, Italeri is the only producing the 234 series, so
unless you want to fully scratch build one, you are forced
to buy this kit to have a Puma in your collection.
Like any other kit, the Puma will benefit from the use of a photo etch set, replacing some overscaled parts and adding details that the kit lacks. None of the following is bad, so choosing one or another will depend on other factors as price, availability or your personal likes. To help deciding, we have review the main PE sets.
All of them include the ammunition support on the mudguard, and it must be kept in mind that it was a modification made to a few vehicles, so depending on the exact vehicle you want to build, you will need it or not.
Euromodelismo. It is made by Spanish Magazine Euromodelismo, and its main advantage is the price, but it comes without instruction sheet (you have to buy the issue were it was explained). Fair quality, it comes with several spare parts that are always useful. The wing nuts are off-scale and the jack support is wrong. This was the PE used for the model.
Eduard. A set enough for detailing the Puma without much work. Note the license plate on the front bar (wrong, it was painted on the hull), a box on the mudguard that is misplaced (should be moved forward), the jack support or the headlight base (wrong).
the other hand, it includes the doors for the side bins to
replace the ones with the kit, this is specially useful if
you want to show them opened. Aber offers this as a
Aber. As useful on this manufacturer,
comes with more parts than other sets and an excellent
finesse, but they need more time and skill to use all the
It comes even with the interior for the
visors. However, the headlight base
is not correct for a Puma, and the hinge for the turret
hatches is also wrong. These hinges shoud be one piece,
instead of two arms coming with the set.
Royal Model, DES and Airwaves
also offer some detailng sets for the Puma,
but they are harder to get and we have not been able to
review them (Royal Model did not even bother to answer our request to
have a copy of their instruction sheet by e-mail...).
By this reason, we can not say wether they
are worth or not.
Royal Model offers a resin set of 8 wheels with 3 different patterns of tire.
Tiger Model Designs, nine resin wheels created by Paul Olin.
MIG Productions, reciently launched, nine resin wheels.
Apart from the use of a photo etch set to improve the thickest or less detailed parts of the kit, there are several details that for one or another reason are not included in any set, and must be added to the kit for a better accuracy.
It is curious how the illustrators of the box art and the painting instructions included some details present on the real vehicle and forgotten on the kit. Almost all of them can be found looking carefully at the excellent series of the captured 1111, the only Puma photographed from rear, front, side and top. It was captured by British troops and sent to the United Kingdom for evaluation, so the pictures are quite clear. Regrettably, the vehicle was not preserved.
The details added apart from PE set were the following:
1. The front bar had a pin in the middle, and was attached to the sides of the mudguards with a rivet.
2. The central supports of the bar had ecah one 3 bolts.
3. The right mirror was never used.
4. The horn was located to the right of the headlamp, and not below as stated on the instruction sheet.
5. The base of the headlamps is not correct for the Puma, they were on a square plate with 4 bolts on the corners. Besides, the headlamps themselves are incorrect and should be replaced with better ones or at least fill with putty to leave the cap straight, as can be seen on any Bosch lamp. It needs also a cable from the base to the hull.
6. The first, second and forth bins had a small hole on the upper left corner.
7. The base of the hull aerial, inside the box, can be from the spare box or scratch built. It is a common aerial base, and only Aber has the part for making it. The box is hanging from the hull side with a thin strip secured with 2 bolts.
8. The gun cleaning rods were located on the left side, in 3 segments. They were stored one over the other following the vertical plate of the hull. The supports were a triangle on each end, one side resting on the mudguard and other on the hull, with three small tubes for holding the segments and a strap on the rear one to keep them in place.
9. The hull was divided in two halves from the rear of the turret, so it is necessary to mark with a scribber the division on the mudguards. There were also 3 bolts to keep together the sections.
10. On the upper hull, along the plate with the fuel cap must be 4 bolts equally spaced.
11. The twin engine air-intakes were joined by small rods, if the PE does not specify it, it can be done with wire.
12. On the outer part of the left mudguard, together with the first rear can, was a spanner secured with a "L" shaped support and 2 straps.
13. The upper engine compartment doors have one lock.
14. Behind the last rear can on the left side there was an hydraulic jack, like the one carried on the 250 series. On almost every combat photo the jack has dissapeared and only the support remains.
15. On the rear hull there are 2 pieces that had 3 bolts each one, on top and below.
16. The MG was a MG42, and not the MG34 coming with the kit. There is a ring on around the hole for it.
17. There was a weld mark on the left side of the gun mantlet.
18. On the left side of the turret frontal plate, there must be a hole for the sight of the gun.
19. The turret aerial had a wing nut on the base to secure it.
20. There are 2 small rectangular plates on both sides of the turret, in the middle. Probably they were for attaching wires for camuflage.
21. The visors groove are much more narrower and must be filled to make them look right.
22. The inner periscopes had a large piece that must be added if you want to leave the hatched opened, and also the protectors for the head. These protectors can be left off, also but then it is necessary to hollow the ring were it was.
23. The turret and hull edges where the different plates joined were welded. That is not very noticeable at 1/35, but the effect can be seen. Also a couple of lines scribbed on the frontal hull must be filled. This model was not corrected that way.
The tire pattern is not correct, or at least we have not
found any photo of them.
For the model in this article, we choosed the Puma 415 as can be seen on Encyclopedia of German Tanks and Osprey's book. The camo is a dark yellow base with wide strips in green and brown. First it was airbrushed with Tamiya XF60 as the yellow base, and next it received the camuflage with green XF13 and brown XF64. All were mixed with 20% gloss varnish to make the vehicle look satin. At the end it will be seen only in some parts, as the highlights and washes were completely flat.
The highlight was made with the same base color adding Tamiya XF57 buff.
Some of the techniques described by
Jiménez in his articles for
were used, and better explained than we could ever do.
After that, there were applied some rain marks with Buff thinned with water and using a thick brush. The same mix was airbrushed also.
The wheels were painted dark satin grey with the airbrush, using a stencil to hide the rim, and after that were washed with oil Burnt Umber.
The decals were a real nightmare to put. The crosses and numbers were cut to the edge of the color, but on the speed limit and weigth rectangle were impossible to remove the clear part. Using clear varnish was the same, and adding some Buff airbrushed only made it worse. Maybe it was because the kit waited for years on the shelf, or perhaps Italeri's decals are poor; anyhow the result has been very unsatisfactory. I would use try to avoid in the future the use of decals, using stencils or dry transfers instead.
It has been a very long proyect, and as usually happens, always new info came up, sometimes even after a part was built, so it was necessary to redo or add parts even after painted. The construction of the kit can be better (and of course the painting) with details that we may have passed and other that for some reasons were left as they were even knowing they were wrong (the wheels, for example)
We will appreciate any contribution regarding the historical part or the kit, as there are facts still unknowns, and most of the pics are not clear enough to show every detail.
We encourage any one interested in the 234 series to buy these books, as they contain more info and very worth photos.
Encyclopedia of German Tanks WWII
Arms & Armour Press
Bryan Perrett, Bruce Culver
German Armoured Cars of WWII
John Milsom, Peter Chamberlain
Arms & Armour Press
Schwere Panzerspähwagen Sd Kfz 234 (Special Museum Ordnance nº 24)
Puma und andere schwere Panzerspähwagen der Ark-Reihe
Podzun Pallas Verlag
Samochody Pancerne 8x8