"SdKfz 2 Kleines Kettenkraftrad".

Operating a Kettenkrad.

   (Ver 4)



I recall seeing a comment on the internet that "buying a Kettenkrad was only the beginning of the expense". "Soon after comes the outlay necessary to keep the thing operational". Hopefully, this mainly means track bearings and track pads. It is a tracked vehicle, so it is going to require more maintenance and cost more to keep operational than a wheeled vehicle. Don't let the size fool you, Kettenkrad running gear is just as expensive to keep operational as are the equivalent components on a tank or armoured personnel carrier. More than once an onlooker has said "its a tank bike", they were actually quite correct money wise.....

The operator's manual states that you should sit up straight and not slouch. Slouching will quickly fatigue the operator where as the correct posture will allow hours of operation.
The manual also states that the slope climbing ability of the Kettenkrad is only limited by the courage of the driver. Personally, I have no desire to find out at what point 1 1/4 tonnes of Kettenkrad will topple over.


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The driver looks to be involved whilst the passengers
aren't in the least bit worried.

For the operator, as you would imagine, field of vision is excellent. There is the usual issues with an open vehicle of eye protection and keeping one's mouth shut to minimise bug injestion.... Unexpected changes of weather means you get to experience what ever the heavens throw at you.

The brakes are separate to the steering brakes and quite large. Although rod actuated, they are effective.

Whilst driving the vehicle the main sensations are the sprocket clatter and the vibration transmitted through the foot boards.

On paved road the driver has to anticipate the gear needed at intersections and on hills and change as early as is required as although quite sprightly, a Kettenkrad is not by any means a powerful vehicle.

Off road attention has to be paid to all the time honoured tracked vehicle rules such as not taking slopes at an angle, the same applies with entering and exiting creeks and rivers - square on. The narrow width of the Kettenkrad needs to be kept in mind. Most modern off road motor bikes will travel a lot quicker and go over much rougher terrain than a Kettenkrad. Its ability was to move heavy loads, not jump.

As you can well imagine, when looking at a Kettenkrad it is clear that the passengers get to travel backwards. If there are 2 passengers, as in the picture below, then they have no choice but to face backwards. Apparently General Kesselring and the officer to his left found this quite a novel experience! The 2 lower ranking individuals clinging to the pannier boxes appear less amused. Keeping in mind that the Kettenkrad was designed as a 3 seater and is overloaded when carrying 5 people as in this picture.


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General Kesselring and assorted staff.

When there is only one passenger, it appears to be human instinct to twist around sideways with one leg crooked on the seat so that the passenger can look to the front as well as to the back.


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One passenger, looking to the front.

I have noted a passenger fascination with the running gear and thus always warn passengers to keep their hand on the handrail or in their lap and not to dangle an arm over the side.


Like any vehicle, there are numerous accessories that can be added to a Kettenkrad.
The tool kit is quite large with each item needing to be tracked down and purchased (if they are still to be had).
Then there is such exotica as "ice cleats (grousers)" that go in place of the track pads and ice chains that clip over the track links and their applicator tool.
Another offical accessory was the 3 mounting sets for the K-98 rifle.
But where do you stop?
Does it include uniform, boots, Stahlhelm (German combat helmet) and all the personal clutter that a soldat would have had with him?
Add to the above, all the "iffy" adornments such as shovel (with mounting clips) and axe (with mounting clips).
Personally, I can't see the point in weighing down a vehicle with too much bumpf. Lets face it, this thing is around 60 odd years old and loading it more than necessary isn't going to help the longevity of its mechanical parts.
First on the list of legitimate bumpf is what is popularly called a "Panzer Lampe", actually a petrol powered (yes, not one of history's safest inventions) heater which was used in freezing conditions to either thaw a vehicle or keep it from freezing in the first place. That mainly refers to both the cooling system AND the lubrication systmem (oil does freeze if the weather is cold enough).
Techinically it is a "Loetlampe" (there should be an umlaut above the "o" and no "e" after the "o" when written in German).
These were part of the winterisation kit that could be fitted to a Kettenkrad which included hot air ducting around the motor and a cold weather starting fluid (Anlasskraftstoff) supply that was plumbed into the petrol supply. Due to its weight, I class this as "heavy bumpf" and it serves as a shed curiosity, rather than being installed in the vehicle.
Usage involved mounting it down alongside the engine and a cover over the engine bay and cockpit. The Loetlampe was lit according to a very specific procedure (so that you didn't blow yourself and the vehicle up) and the vehicle cover put in place, then a wary check was maintained that all was well. It does make you wonder how many Kettenkrads did not survive the process.


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The Loetlampe.

Next comes a little favourite of mine, the Dochtlampe. Dochtlampe means "wick lamp" - a fuel container with an adjustable wick much like a hurricane lamp. In this design the glass has been replaced with a perforated metal shield. Now according to the spare parts list, 2 of these devices are supplied for warming the vehicle battery. Yes, you know it is REALLY cold when it is so cold that the battery won't produce electricity!!! I am told that they also made splendid hand warmers.
In normal use your fired up one or both of these, clipped them into the mountings in the battery box and covered it over so that the battery would be usable whenever the vehicle needed starting, but loosely enough that sufficient air was available to maintain the fire.


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Dochtlampe - left is the perforated cover and centre is the fuel tank with attached flame control and diffuser. On the right is an assembled Dochtlampe.



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