Sd.Kfz. 2 Kettenkraftrad (Mid-Production)
Tamiya 1/35 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
B a c k g r o u n d
The Sd.Kfz.2 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 2) was a half-track motorcycle with a single front wheel, better known as the Kleines Kettenkraftrad HK 101 or Kettenkrad for short (plural Kettenkräder; where Ketten means "chains" or "tracks" and krad is the military abbreviation of the German word Kraftrad, the administrative German term for motorcycle).
The Kettenkrad started its life as a light tractor for airborne troops. The vehicle was designed to be delivered by Junkers Ju 52 aircraft, though not by parachute. The vehicle had the advantage of being the only gun tractor small enough to fit inside the hold of the Ju 52, and was the lightest mass-produced German military vehicle to use the complex Schachtellaufwerk overlapped and interleaved road wheels used on almost all German military half-tracked vehicles of World War II.
Steering the Kettenkrad was accomplished by turning the handlebars: Up to a certain point, only the front wheel would steer the vehicle. A motion of the handlebars beyond that point would engage the track brakes to help make turns sharper. It was also possible to run the vehicle without the front wheel installed and this was recommended in extreme off-road conditions where speed would be kept low.
The Sd.Kfz.2 was designed and built by the NSU Werke AG at Neckarsulm, Germany. Patented in June 1939, it was first used in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Later in the war Stoewer from Stettin also produced Kettenkrads under license, accounting for about 10% of the total production.
The Kettenkrad came with a special trailer Sonderanhänger 1 (Sd.Anh.1) that could be attached to it to improve its cargo capacity. The trailer carried 350 kilograms.
Being a tracked vehicle, the Kettenkrad could climb up to 24° in sand and even more on hard ground.
Most Kettenkräder saw service on the Eastern Front, where they were used to lay communication cables, pull heavy loads and carry soldiers through the deep Russian mud. Later in the war, Kettenkräder were used as runway tugs for aircraft, especially for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, and sometimes the Arado Ar 234 jet reconnaissance-bomber. In order to save aviation fuel, German jet aircraft were towed to the runway, rather than taxiing under their own power.
The vehicle was also used in the North African theatre and on the Western Front.
Kettenkraftrad in 1:35 scale
Tamiya released a 1:35 scale Kettenkraftrad way back in 1973. This was a relatively simple kit but it did have engine detail. The running gear was quite simplified with the inner row of road wheels and the tracks moulded as a single piece for each side.
Three figures were included. These are very close to the poses and equipment in the new Kettenkraftrad – a nice nod to a classic kit.
Dragon released their own 1:35 scale Kettenkraftrad twenty years ago in 2001. This was a well detailed kit but it suffered from tiny two-part individual link tracks. More recent releases have full-length flexible DS plastic tracks.
F i r s t L o o k
Enter Tamiya in 2021 with a brand new 1:35 scale Kfz. 2 Kettenkraftrad.
The kit comprises 209 parts in dark yellow plastic for the vehicle and the trailer, with a further 47 parts on the sprue for the figures.
The basic body shell is made up from ten parts. To this are added an engine cover with two photo-etched mesh grilles, side consoles, muffler and rear seat.
The engine cover is hinged and remains moveable after assembly.
The engine is broken down into just five parts but the moulded detail looks great.
The engine is part of a sub-assembly that also includes the driver’s footrests, the transmission cover and gear shift, plus a saddle seat for the driver.
The instrument panel is simple, but it does include three small decals to represent the dials.
The running gear is cleverly designed to ensure maximum detail with still being manageably buildable. The middle two rows of roadwheels are moulded together (three wheels each). The two outer and two inner roadwheels are glued to the outside of the middle rows with the assistance of locating rings and keys.
The tracks are link and length, with 12 individual links, two short lengths and two longer lengths for the top and bottom runs.
Tamiya supplies tiny individual track pads, but this is not bad news. The track pads may be left attached to one side of the sprue and pressed into place in lengths of seven. The sprue may then be cut off when the glue is completely dry.
Front fork detail is nicely done. This will remain moveable after assembly if you are careful with the application of glue. The wheels and tyres are all plastic parts broken down into two parts each.
Number plates and stowage are not included.
The driver figure is offered with optional heads – one turned to the side and one facing straight ahead – and right arms for alternative poses.
Two walking infantry figures are provided too, with the choice of helmet or M43 field cap. A small groundwork base is supplied for each of the walking figures.
The quality of sculpting and detail is very high. There’ll be no need to replace these with resin figures.
C o n c l u s i o n
Tamiya has revisited a number of its classic 1970s kits in recent times and I am pleased to see the Kfz. 2 Kettenkraftrad added to the list.
This kit has no parts in common with the 1973 release. Detail is excellent and I like the road wheel and track design. I have no reason to expect that the building experience will be anything but joyful.
The three figures turn this into an instant diorama too.
Oh Tamiya, you’ve done it again!
Purchased by reviewer
Tamiya kits are distributed in the UK by The Hobby Company Limited for the sample.
Text and Images by Brett Green