The rarity of German fighting vehicles was not lost on me even from my very first days of Living History. What was available had become toys for the wealthy, far beyond the means of most. Many of these iconic vehicles now sit dormant in museums or private collections never to see the light of day ever again, never free to race down the flank of a counter attacking column. The cost of vehicle ownership as with all aspects of Militaria collecting continues to sky rocket with even the more common and plentiful Allied vehicles moving far beyond most people’s means.
It was this lacking of axis vehicles on the field and my desire to take that next step in terms of collecting that developed the concept in my mind to build my own replica vehicle. At this point, I should say that I’d never worked on anything this big before. I’d tinkered with my cars doing many repairs myself, but the idea of building an entire vehicle was a real step into the unknown for me.
So what do you build? The greatest problem I foresaw was the huge choice and variety of vehicles used by the Wehrmacht along with the well-known complexity of Axis vehicles - nothing was simple when it came to German equipment. For example, (and this is something that I still mull over to this to this day) the track system used on a great deal of halftracks, armoured fighting vehicles and Panzers. The overlapping sprocket guide wheel is something that no other army has used since on its AFV’s and for very good reason. Even with wheeled vehicles there is no modern comparable equivalent to the tyre sizes. I also had to consider what I could realistically manage as a one man operation - although joint ventures do offer many advantages, there are also the complexities of co-ownership to consider. Transporting to shows was another thing to take into account as weight dictates the load capacity of the transporter used, which in turn could make getting the vehicle to and from events expensive.
The most obvious thing to do is convert or adapt an existing military vehicle, but other considerations have to be thought out like the size, the moving and storage of the vehicle and the need to lift heavy components during the build - in short the more you look at it, the more questions and problems come to the fore. Trucks, light passenger cars, Kdf’s, Kubelwagens, Schwimmwagen and motorbikes offer a relatively simple and quick way into vehicle ownership. Personally I’m not a fan of Kubelwagens that often seem pricey (even for replicas), trucks wouldn’t fit into my garage and I’m certainly no biker. One advantage of those kind of vehicles however, is that most can be loaded up and driven directly to events at little cost as no special requirements for transportation need be considered. However if you want a fighting vehicle of some description and haven’t got the expensive heavy equipment or space required for a tracked vehicle then the 221, 222 or 223 series of vehicles present a good solution to the stumbling blocks that could jeopardise any project before it ever gets off the ground. As these scout cars were similar in size to a Range Rover type vehicle, the project could fit into most household garages solving the problem of storage which could further raise project costs. Doing the build at home also meant access to site utilities, such as a power supply for tooling (many lock ups lack electricity), and stepping straight into the shower after a hard day working on the project was another great bonus!
It very important to plan your build out in as much detail as possible. Make a plan of the build step by step and give yourself tangible goals which you can cross off to illustrate the progress you’re making as this really helps on those dark days when nothing seems to be going right or progress is slow. Once I’d decided to build an Sd.Kfz.222, my first consideration was which donor vehicle to use as my starting point. I knew the wheel base and many other technical details of the 222 from long periods of study using any reference material I could find, be it books, drawings or the internet. A 110 Land Rover offers the most suitable option for a project like this as its wheel base is near identical to that of the 222, and it already employs all-round coil suspension (another important aspect for consideration). The engine is in the wrong place, but others have previously managed this issue with some considerable success.
The actual build itself was far more straight forward than most would imagine. Building a model kit is not dissimilar to that of building a 222 - just a scaling up in size and using different materials. Using a common datum point on the 222 body, I was able to begin matching the body to the donor chassis. Of course it was never going to be a perfect match so compromises had to be made, but my chief technical goal above all else from the very outset was to closely follow the exterior hull dimensions and details as much as possible. My logic was that it would be, first and foremost a display vehicle constantly in the public gaze being closely scrutinised at shows, so design considerations focused on the aesthetic rather than personal drivability preferences. Once you’ve got a good starting point you’ll find as I did, the rest follows on with each piece you fit, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with one piece leading directly to another. My process was simple; build an internal frame to act as my guide from which to hang all the outer hull panels from. Once I’d added enough framework to support the weight and shape integrity, I cut most of the guide frame away leaving a clean interior.
You may feel you’re lacking certain skill sets in many areas for such a project, but I truly believe this shouldn’t hold anyone back. I’d never arc welded before and had only played with a Mig welder previously, but I soon learnt enough to get by and make a half decent job where it mattered. Likewise with design, I knew the body of a 222 is made of flat panels set in an angular manner so there were no complex curves to worry about which would require another set of special tin bashing skills. It will, and often does often seem like a long road from start to finish however, once the main body is up its surprising how much the light at the end of the tunnel spurs you on to finish the build as it did for me. If you plan to take on a new project like a vehicle I wish you the very best of luck, its hard work but very rewarding at the end and remember the golden rule of engineering “Measure twice, cut once” - that will save you a fortune!
Thanks for all the support, Simon.
From this to this!