by: Bill Cross [ ]
Written & Edited by Daniele Guglielmi
Design by Vincenzo Auletta
Translated by Ralph Riccio
Interest in the Sonderkraftfahrzeug (special purpose heavy vehicle) 7, Germany’s Prime Mover, has exploded in the past year. As many as 10 new styrene kits in a range of variants are being released almost monthly (or so it seems) by both Trumpeter and Dragon Models. Fortunately new books about the Sd.Kfz.7 and its two principal variants (the 7/1 20mm FLAK quad and 7/2 37mm single-barrel FLAK) have been appearing to help modelers with this important motorized platform. The most recent is the latest in the History File series from Italy’s Auriga Publishing: History File #4: Sd.Kfz.7 mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8 t.
The “8 t” refers to the towing capacity sought by the Waffenamt in 1934 when it sought a halftrack that could pull Germany’s artillery, specifically the sFH 18 howitzer (the standard divisional artillery piece) and the 88mm FLAK 18 that handled both anti-aircraft duty and quickly became the most-dreaded anti-tank cannon in the war. Developed by the Munich firm of Kraus-Maffei, the Sd.Kfz.7 went from underpowered and too short to the workhorse of the army after getting a powerful Maybach HL62TUK six-cylinder power plant that could easily handle large loads and crews up to 11 men.
This handsome-looking 66 page 29cm x 21cm soft cover volume is written in both Italian and English, and includes over 120 B&W photos plus 6 color drawings showing a variety of camouflage schemes (including one of the vehicles Germany exported to Brazil prior to WWII). The overwhelming majority of the photos focus on the Prime Mover, though there are 10 for the 7/1 FLAK Vierling (“quad”) variant, 15 for the 7/2 single-barrel 37mm variant, one for the 5cm FLAK 41 auf Selbstfahrlafette 8ton Zugkraftwagen and two of the rare V-2-towing/fire control version.
The photos are crisp, detailed and clear, with ample documentation. The editors understand who their audience for this series is, and include captions pointing out subtleties of paint schemes and camouflages (“The camouflage is the pre-war three colour scheme” or “The factory applied dark yellow paint has had splotches added by brush”). The archival images are mostly new to me, and represent a wide variety of combat and refit situations from all theaters of the war, as well as captured Sd.Kfz.7s (the Allies admired its brute strength and ability to handle all but the worst terrain conditions).
I learned that the 7 could tow more than its rated 8 tons, and was used as a recovery vehicle pulling the Sd.Ah.115 tank trailer we associate with the much more powerful Sd.Kfz.9 (so-called “FAMO”).The book isn’t shy about taking on controversy either, stating unequivocally the Sd.Kfz.7/1 and 7/2 towed either Sd.Ah. 56 or 57 ammunition trailer. It’s not surprising, given its Italian publisher, that a generous amount of attention goes to the campaign in Italy, though that’s a bit of an anomaly, since few Sd.Kfz.7s served there.
Along with that emphasis on the Italian campaign, there is also an 18-page section devoted to the Breda 61, a slightly heavier (though less-powerful) version of the Sd.Kfz.7 manufactured under license in Italy. Destined for Mussolini’s army, the Breda 61 didn’t begin rolling off the production line until after Italy’s capitulation on September 8, 1943. The Wehrmacht subsequently took all 199 vehicles produced through December 1944. Given the rarity of the Sd.Kfz.7 and variants in Italy, it pays to look carefully at period photos when attempting to identify the vehicle in question: in many cases it’s a Breda 61 (usually seen towing an Italian artillery piece commandeered by the Wehrmacht). Visually almost identical to its German prototype, Breda 61’s can be discerned by their twin row of cooling vents on the engine hood/bonnet (as opposed to the Sd.Kfz.7s single row) and by it's right hand drive. The dozen or so images of the sole surviving Breda 61 are the only non-period photographs in the book.
As the old saying goes, “if you only intend to purchase one book about the Sd.Kfz.7, this is the one you should buy.” It has an abundance of period photos, and they are clear and detailed enough for all but the most-demanding detailer. The one shortcoming of the book for all but aficionados of obscure soft skins and the slog up the Italian peninsula, is the section on the Breda 61. It was interesting, but not for nearly 20 pages. Still, there is no other book at this price that has as many varied period photos.