Opel Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3)
In the autumn of 1941 upon arrival on the Eastern Front the German army faced a problem about which nobody had given proper consideration during the planning for Operation Barbarossa - the absence of normal hardened roads in Russia. The Wehrmacht military machine had overcome almost all Europe without problem in a very short time, but already before 1942 in the boundless spaces of the Soviet Union, the German armies' great quantity of wheeled transport had begun to founder. The different types of three-ton vehicle which made up the spine of the motorized divisions, were hopelessly compromised by the endless Russian dirt; but during this period the semi-caterpillar machines (Sd.Kfz.10, Sd.Kfz.250, Sd.Kfz.251), though they too had problems, nevertheless overcame this 'unforeseen' obstacle.
In the spring of 1942, when it became clear that war had settled in for the long term, and the problem would return with new force, it was decided to construct special semi-caterpillar versions of the standard models of truck. For a basis a design of suspension bracket used by the British Universal armored car was taken (the design known as Carden Lloyd), but the Opel firm developed their own suspension bracket, more simple and technologically advanced in construction. Nevertheless, a uniform standard design was selected, a Ford suspension bracket which near-copied Carden Lloyd. The truck with caterpillar tracks instead of a back wheel pair received the name “Maultier” (”donkey”). The official name Opel Blitz Opel 3.6-36S/SSM Gleisketten-Lastkraftwagen did not achieve common use, and semi-caterpillars have for ever remained “Maultier”. In comparison with Ford Maultier machines, the Opels were produced more slowly, but this did not affect the overall quantity of the completed machines (in total there were 4,000 units delivered). The normal three-ton Opel Blitz could be converted to a Maultier even in field conditions: the half track suspension bracket could be fitted in place of the back bridge, and the driveshaft was shortened.
The Opel Maultier was widely employed everywhere in all theaters of operations on the Eastern Front, but in 1944 when the German armies were forced back from the borders of the USSR, their role was considerably reduced - in the territories of Europe there were generally good road conditions during the war years. The numbers of Opel Maultiers substantially declined - new machines were not built, and during repair many Maultiers were converted back to conventionally wheeled vehicles. However it is known that some Maultiers were put to use for particular tasks during the final months of wartime operations; for instance, a small number of Opel Maultiers were used in Werner von Braun's center at Peenemünde.
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  1. Opel Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3) from the unknown unit, Western Front, 1944.
  2. Opel Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3) from the 286 Sturmgeschutzbrigade, Eastern Front, 1943.
  3. Opel Maultier (Sd.Kfz.3) from the unknown unit, Eastern Front, 1945.
Performances
Length 6020 mm
Width 2240 mm
Height 2520 mm
Full weight 6600 kg
Useful load up to 2900 kg
Wheelbase 3600 mm
Engine volume 3626 cm3
Power 68 hp