German Kubelwagen, American Jeep
Selected Unarmored Wheeled Vehicles
The German army supported its panzer divisions with a wide variety of non-armored wheeled vehicles. The best-known example is the small rear-engine Volkswagen Kubel (bucket).First produced in 1940 and known as the German Kubelwagen, it was the standard light passenger car of the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). The vehicle was 12 feet 3 inches long, 5 feet 3 inches wide, and 5 feet 5 inches tall.
The German Kubelwagen did not compare well with the better-known American wartime Jeep. Its four-cylinder gasoline air-cooled engine was low in power and performance. Instead of having four-wheel drive, as found on the American Jeep, the Kubelwagen had only two-wheel drive. With a very low center of gravity, the low-slung German vehicle also proved unable to travel over extremely rough or rocky terrain, something in which the American Jeep performed very well.
German industry would build about 55,000 of the simple and inexpensive Kubel-wagens before production ceased in mid-1944. The two standard versions were the Type 82 followed by the slightly larger Type 86. The most interesting variant of the German Kubelwagen was an amphibious version known as the Schwimmwagen that first entered German army service in 1942. Production of the vehicle ended in 1944 after 14,265 units had been produced.
The German army was short of trucks throughout World War II. This forced them to field many different types of commercial vehicles, including some of foreign manufacture. The commercial vehicles were unable to stand the strain of hard military use and were no match for American or German trucks built specifically for military service.
German industry's inability to design or build a suitable fleet of wheeled military support vehicles stands in sharp contrast to its ability to develop some of the most powerful and deadly tanks to see action during World War II. The opposite was true of American industry, which managed to design and build an outstanding selection of wheeled military vehicles, but could not produce a first-rate tank until the very closing stages of World War II.
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