The Leichter Panzerspähwagen roughly translated means ‘Light Armoured Vehicle’ and describes part of a series of light 4 x 4 armoured reconnaissance ‘Aufklärung’ vehicles, designated ‘Sd.Kfz. 221, 222, 223 260 & 261’ produced by Germany between 1935 to 1944.
Because of the restrictions imposed on Germany as part of the Versailles treaty after World War One normal military research suffered greatly to the extent that the Germans were forced into development of arms not covered by the treaty as a means of military advancement. Thus the development of armoured wheeled vehicles gained somewhat more focus in Germany than might have otherwise if it was not for the treaty. The first examples of armoured vehicles used by the German forces in the inter-war period were the Kfz.13 and Kfz.14 (radio variant). Based on a ‘Standard 6’ chassis built at the Adler Werks in Frankfurt with the superstructure made by Deutsche Edelstahl AG in Hannover from 8mm steel plate. Production ran from 1932 to 1934 with some 147 units being produced.
By the mid 1930’s design began on a more suitable vehicle for Germany's ever growing armed forces renamed the Wehrmacht by this time under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. The first vehicle model in the series designated the Sd.Kfz. 221, used the Horch Werke designed sPkw1 Horch 801 heavy car chassis with a rear mounted 75 horsepower Horch 3.5 litre V8 petrol engine as the base. It was developed by Eisenwerk Weserhütte of Bad Oeynhausen and the chassis were built by Auto Union in Zwickau and assembled by F. Schichau of Elbing and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen in Hannover, using an angled V shaped welded steel plate armoured body and turret to provide the necessary crew protection against small arms fire, for the role which the vehicle was originally intended for. The first production vehicles were delivered in 1935 having met all the German high command requirements.
Armed only with a single 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr MG13 later upgraded to an MG34 machine gun and manned by a two-man crew, this lack of firepower quickly became a recognised issue as it soon became all to apparent that this vehicle would need to defend it’s self against enemy reconnaissance units or well defended forward military elements. To cope with this expected danger the designers took the ‘221’ base model and up gunned the design making changes to the upper hull structure to allow the fitting of a 2cm KwK30 Flak Cannon design and built by Rheinmetall along with the existing MG13 to deal with any potential problems encountered on the battle field and thus the Sd.Kfz. 222 was born. The ‘222’ was developed using a slightly larger and stronger Horch chassis II mounting a 81 bhp V8 Horch engine, with production being sited at Weserhuette, Schichau, MHN and Buessing-NAG.