Kleines Kettenkraftrad

(SdKfz 2)

Typ HK 101

 Here it is. My first attempt at a concise history of the Kettenkrad.  Hopefully, those of you that read it and have additions or corrections to make will let me know.  

The Kettenkraftrad, type HK 101 is one of the most unique vehicles developed during the Second World War. The "tracked motorcycle" concept was conceived and patented by a German inventor, Heinrich Ernst Kniepkamp, in June of 1939.  This was in response to a request for a fast, tracked vehicle capable of moving small loads in mountainous terrain.

It was however, the NSU Werke of Neckarsulm, Germany that developed the Kettenkrad as we know it.  Interestingly, many of the prototypes used spoked motorcycle wheels, not only for the front and road wheels, but also on its attendant trailer. Trailers for the Kettenkrad were a concurrent development and are discussed later in this article. Although the concept was embraced immediately, the vehicle was not introduced is troop service until early June of 1941. The official designation was "kleines Kettenkraftrad SdKfz. 2".  "Kettenkrad" became the common abbreviation soon after.

Production was expanded to the Stoewer Werke in 1943 and by war's end 8,345 vehicles had been produced (although some higher serial numbers have been reported). The French firm of SIMCA manufactured parts for the Kettenkrad but they did not produce or assemble the entire vehicle.

Assembly of the Kettenkrad at the NSU Werkes is said to have continued until 1948.  Approximately 550 post war Kettenkrads are reported to have been assembled using existing parts as well as portions of wartime units that were in Neckarsulm for major service.  Some vehicles are said to have been imported into the U.S. to see use with the Forest Service but I have not been able to find any records to verify this.  At least one French company, Babiolle, offered rebuilt versions of discarded Kettenkrads after the war. These had the front wheel and steering gear removed to create a small farm tractor.  The most interesting thing about this vehicle was that it operated “backwards”.  The redesign included changes to the gearbox and reversed the chassis so the drive (sprocket) wheel was in the rear instead of the front.

There were two sub-variants of the Kettenkrad, SdKfz. 2/1 "kleines Kettenkraftrad fur Feldfernkabel" and SdKfz. 2/2 "kleines Kettenkraftrad fur schwere Feldfernkabel." Both vehicles were used in conjunction with a trailer and had field communication wire spools mounted behind the driver. The 2/1 vehicle mounted a small wire spool and frame similar to the backpack piece used by the infantry. The 2/2 utilized much larger spools, two of which were mounted on a frame behind the driver. Additional spools were mounted in a specialized trailer (Sd.Anh. 1). Late in the war, portions of the stretched version HK 102 Kettenkraftrad suspension were used to create the "Springer" demolition vehicle. This was designed as a replacement to the Borgward series and NSU (only) produced about 50 of these vehicles by war's end.

There were several different trailers designed during the war for the Kettenkrad. The first was designed with the prototype and never reached production status. The second, was the most numerous and was a derivation of the earlier prototype with a longer hitch pole and solid disk wheels. This trailer had the designation of Sd.Anh. 1 (sonderanhanger: "special trailer")  This was the only one designed exclusively for the Kettenkrad.  Two variations of this trailer, the Sd.Anh. 1.1 and the Sd.Anh. 1/2 .  Both of these were modified to be used in conjunction with the SdKfz. 2/1 and SdKfz. 2/2 respectively.  These trailers were fitted with cable drum mounting devices.

 The other trailers used by the Kettenkrads could be used for other lightweight vehicles such as the Kubelwagon and the Schwimmwagon.  One of these was designed specially for use with Gebirgsjager units and was a modification of the standard infantry cart (Infanteriekarren).  The infantry cart had exchangeable tow bars. One with handles for human power towing, one with a "lunette eye" for the towing pintle as on the Kettenkrad, and one for dog towing


Copyright (c) 1996-2004 Philip Ulzheimer All rights reserved.