by: Bill Cross [ ]
If pressed to identify Germany's most-important half-track of WW2, I would have a hard time not listing the Sd.Kfz. 7 8-ton prime mover. While not as numerous, nor with some many variants as its much-smaller cousin, the Sd.Kfz.250-251, its role was more as the primary helper in artillery and the panzer-grenadier units. It not only pulled many of the Wehrmacht's larger cannons, including the legendary 88mm, it was also used as a mobile platform for both anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns.
It was even used as a portable fire control center for the V-2 rocket.
Modelers have enjoyed a Renaissance of half-tracks over the past five years, and fans of the Sd.Kfz.7 have seen both Trumpeter and Dragon introducing over a dozen Sd.Kfz.7 kits with all the major variants except the V-2 fire control center. With these kits has come a steady stream of reference works, both those including the Sd.Kfz.7 and those devoted entirely to it. Until now, though, no single reference work took in the vehicle and its several variants under one cover. Even the authoritative Panzer Tracts series needed two volumes.
So it's exciting to see that Nuts & Bolts has published a single volume written by Dr. Nicolaus Hettler that may just be the one-volume answer to modelers' needs. It covers the Sd.Kfz.7's development between the wars and deployment during WW2, along with ample line drawings, photographs and guest builds from some "heavy hitters" in the hobby. Dr. Hettler has already written about German half-tracks for Nuts & Bolts, including the 18 to Sd.Kfz.9 (N&B 12), the 12-ton Sd.Kfz.8 (N&B 16) und 3 ton Sd.Kfz.11 (N&B 20).
Inside the usual high-quality glossy paper covers of any Nuts & Bolts publication are seven major sections written in both English and German (the two languages are in separate side-by-side columns):
1. Historical/Technical development & production (pp. 2-20). This part recounts the development of the vehicle by the Munich-based locomotive manufacturer Krauss-Maffei as part of a Reichswehr effort to produce light half-tracks and prime movers capable of pulling heavy field guns. The text is thorough, if a bit dry, and is supplemented by some invaluable research, including tables showing the vehicles comprising various German units employing Sd.Kfz.7s, including a typical field artillery battery, anti-tank company, FlaK battery and a "mixed" anti-tank and anti-aircraft company.
2. Camouflage & markings/Modelling (pp. 20-24). Tactical markings and camo patterns are discussed. The author also ruminates on some of the kits on the market, but is only familiar with those from DML, so of limited usage to anyone who has not built both types.
3. Historical/Technical development & production (pp. 25-89). While the title is similar to the first chapter, this main section takes a close look at how the Sd.Kfz.7 evolved from a smaller, less well-powered Krauss-Maffei 85 tractor with a smaller track array to the final version we're all familiar with. The Germans kept building prototypes and production models, field testing them and forming them into Reichswehr units. The many photos of the KM 7 and KM 10 make me wish Dragon or Trumpeter would skip some of their "paper Panzers" and give us a REAL KM 7 or 10 kit (the KM 11 became the Sd.Kfz.7 in active service).
This section includes many photos from private collections, and then goes on to include the various other versions of the Sd.Kfz.7, including the two gun platform versions (the Sd.Kfz.7/1 with quad 2cm FlaK Vierling and the Sd.Kfz.7/2 mounting a 3.7cm gun for both AA and anti-tank usage).
4. Drawings (pp. 90-118). As the name says, this section has detailed 1/35th scale line drawings of a representative series of vehicles:
KM m 8
KM m 9
KM m 10
KM m 11/Sd.Kfz. 7 Artillery
Armored Sd.Kfz. 7
Sd.Kfz. 7 Final Version (with simplified mud guards and a wooden load bed)
Sd.Kfz. 7/6 (mess version for AA units)
Sd.Kfz. 7 Missile control unit
Sd.Kfz. 7/1 with 2cm FlaK 38 "early version"
Sd.Kfz. 7/1 with 2cm FlaK 38 armored
Sd.Kfz. 7/2 with 3.7cm FlaK 37 (unarmored)
Sd.Kfz. 7/2 with 3.7cm FlaK 37 (armored)
Sd.Kfz. 7/2 with 3.7cm FlaK 43 (unarmored & armored)
5. Color profiles (pp. 119-128). As the name says, these are color plates with the various camouflage the vehicle has worn, from the green 1934 KM 7, a tri-tonal Reichswehr/early Wehrmacht KM 8, all the way through 16 wartime paint combinations.
6. Preserved vehicles in museums & private collections (pp. 129-174). Photos of restored WW2 vehicles are always problematical for modelers. On the one hand, they are usually the only source for up-close & personal photos of the fine details. But their restoration often comes at a price: parts cannibalized from other vehicles or made-to-order that may or may not be accurate for wartime vehicles (or at all). In this case, there are some excellent close-up photos of key items like turn signal poles, windshield wiper motors, tools and even winter coolant pre-heaters. While some of this detailing exists in other books, it's nice to have this along with all the other material in the book.
7. Three Sd.Kfz. 7 models (pp. 175-185). These include Vinnie Branigan's Sd.Kfz. 7/1, a scratch-built KM 8 by Guillem Marti i Pujol and an early version Sd.Kfz. 7 from Tony Greenland. While it's nice to see the work of master modelers displayed, this section would have been more interesting (and useful) if "how to" images and descriptions of techniques used had been included. Still, if these builds don't get you excited to crack one of the kits in your stash or go out and order an Sd.Kfz.7, then I'm not sure what will.
Generally Nuts & Bolts titles are among the best in the hobby. The text is usually interesting, and the books pack in a wealth of statistical information, line drawings and photos not available generally on the Internet. This volume is no different.
Literally hundreds of photos of the Sd.Kfz.7 have been published online, in other books and repeated ad nauseum. This book attempts to cover the material without repeating images we're all familiar with. The photos are crisp and clear, and usually of vehicles in the field and in action.
The line drawings will be very helpful, both to scratch-builders and those who just want to check the accuracy of their builds. The Great Sd.Kfz.7 Wars over who had the "accurate" kit, Dragon or Trumpeter, seem to have passed finally, but there will still be those of you who want to check out the length, breadth and height or portions of your vehicle.
The color plates are useful and numerous enough to provide food for thought for even jaded Sd.Kfz.7 guys like me. I am particularly interested in a vehicle from the Lake Garda region of Italy sporting hard-edged green stripes over dunkelgelb with brown borders. Not quite "ambush" but also unlike most schemes I've seen.
The text is very good, though not spectacular, as one would expect with something translated from another language. The translation is mostly correct with only a few places where I had to compare the original German to figure out what was being said.
Highly recommended. If you are looking to purchase only one book about this vehicle and its variants, you won't go wrong with this one. If you already have reference works on the vehicle, then you will still find an abundance of images, line drawings and color patterns that you won't see elsewhere. And for modelers who don't already have a reference work for the Sd.Kfz.7, this very well may be the perfect one.
Thanks to Nuts & Bolts for this review copy. Be sure to mention you saw the book reviewed on Armorama when ordering your own copy.