One of the most-popular vehicles for modelers to come out of WWII is the German Prime Mover Sd.Kfz.7 and its several variants. Surprisingly there are fewer books on the subject than one might imagine, but the source for the most-intimate details about the vehicle has to be this edition from Wings & Wheels.
Written by František Kořán, Rudi Schoeters, Martin Velek and Jan Horǎk, the book has 112 pages of mostly color photos and is in an odd square format. The photos are entirely made up from images of museum-preserved surviving examples and not period pictures. This has the decided advantage of clarity, but sacrifices a certain level of authenticity, as we can’t always be sure those who have preserved or restored a vehicle have used correct parts or kept the original paint scheme.
The book opens with a brief (and I mean brief: 2 pages) overview of the vehicle’s development prior to the war. The Sd.Kfz.7 evolved from a series of earlier prototypes developed for the most part by the Munich firm of Kraus-Maffei, so much so that one will see references to KM 9 or KM 11. Intended to pull the 88mm FLAK cannon and sFH 18 150mm howitzer, some 12,000 were produced by war’s end. Complete details about the development of the chassis (longer) and powerplant (more powerful) emerge in later chapters. I would fault the authors on one thing; it’s the way they make the reader go through the entire book before having a real grasp of the evolution of this hugely-important halftrack instead of giving us the basics up-front. But the details (both visual and technical) are there, and even the biggest information junkie should be satisfied with the facts presented.
Because the book is centered on four distinct surviving vehicles, the first four images are of a Prime Mover in early and late versions, the Sd.Kfz.7/1 (with FLAK quad) and 7/2 (with FLAK 3.7cm single barrel).
The next section follows other Wings & Wheels In Detail books by starting with a very extensive overview of a restoration, in this case a “late” cargo transport owned by a private collector. The section comprises 48 pages of loving detail that leaves few parts of the chassis, frame, winch and Maybach 62L engine unexamined. This kind of detailing was essential when the only styrene examples of the Sd.Kfz.7 were the ancient Tamiya kits, but is probably less useful now to most modelers following the launch of the Trumpeter Prime Mover last year. Still, if you intend to venture into super-detailing or figure this is the closest you’re ever going to get to a real Sd.Kfz.7, then I can’t imagine a more thorough rendering of the subject matter.
The following 2-page section is a brief “walk around” of an early version (the KM m 11) from a vehicle show in the UK in 1998. The six photos are a bit “soft” and don’t really show anything well other than the rifle brackets behind each row of seats. While it’s nice to see as many surviving examples as possible, the writers would have served the consumer better with a section of period photos instead. Toadman’s Tank Pictures has a far more-detailed look at a slightly later version. It’s the one really inferior part of an otherwise excellent book.
The fourth section is comprised of six pages of photos of a vehicle manufactured by the firm of Borgward. A number of firms turned out the Sd.Kfz.7, and telling a Büssing NAG from a Daimler usually involves internal differences like the Maybach power plant or the type of steering apparatus. As with the previous section, the photos here are no better than those at the Toadman site—with one exception: the side and rear storage bins are open with nice close-ups of their interiors, locks, rubber seals and retaining straps. There are also some invaluable close-ups of the dashboard and instrument cluster.
The fifth section will be hugely useful with Trumpeter’s planned release of a late version of the Prime Mover. As the war dragged on, Germany’s iron and steel production was seriously disrupted by Allied bombing, so much so that vehicle makers began using wood instead of metal. With the Sd.Kfz.7, the complex seat and storage bin combination was replaced with a simple wooden flat bed, with the added advantage of making it more useful for lugging around cargo and not just pulling artillery. Perhaps also to save manpower, the fenders were squared-off along with the cab. The photos show the tarp up on the vehicle, but include inside looks at the support frame, rifle racks, etc.
The sixth section shows an 18-page overview of a Sd.Kfz.7/1 variant preserved at the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung in Koblenz, including a clear look inside its armored cab. The 7/1 was intended for anti-aircraft duties in Luftwaffe units assigned to protect infantry and armor, but its Mauser 20mm FLAK 38 quad cannon was devastating when turned on infantry and stationary targets. The version profiled here is incorrectly labeled as an “early” when it has the squared-off mudguards and wooden load bed of the later Sd.Kfz.7. The 20 close-up photos of the gun are superb and will be of interest to those building Wirbelwind tracked beds for this cannon, too. The announcement that both Trumpeter and DML will release “early” versions of the 7/1 will make this book even more helpful.
The seventh section is a 12-page look at the Sd.Kfz.7/2 variant mounted with one of three versions of the Rheinmetall FLAK 37mm cannon (18, 36 or 37). While the 20mm quad could pump out 800 rounds/minute at any given moment, the 37mm could only fire a tenth as rapidly (80 rpm). The gun was therefore increasingly turned on armor and stationary targets, especially after the development of a high explosive armor-piercing (HEAT) ammunition employing shaped charge technology.
The final section includes a 9-page look at a better-preserved FLAK 18/36 variant from a different museum. Again, the close-up photos of the gun’s detailing will be gold for modelers rendering it for 7/2s and other uses of this weapon.
With technical books about WWII vehicles proliferating at a rate faster than rabbits reproduce, it’s rare to find one that covers the topic so exhaustively you can’t imagine one better. While I would have preferred more period photos, this series is focused on giving modelers and armor buffs the best-quality color photos of surviving examples of various popular armor subjects. The images are all large, well-lit and clear enough that even the most-demanding rivet counter will likely be happy.
Highs: Extremely thorough, with loads of clean, detailed photos of all parts of the various vehicle variants.
Lows: No period photos for comparison.Verdict: The definitive book on the Sd.Kfz.7.