The Leichter Panzerspähwagen (German: roughly “light armored reconnaissance vehicle”) was a series of light four-wheel drive armoured cars produced by Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1944. The Sd.Kfz. 222 is the second in a series of light reconnaissance vehicles designed to meet operational requirements including reliability, an ability to run on a variety of grades of fuel, simple construction and good off-road performance, The first in the series was the Sd.Kfz. 221. This type proved too small and too lightly armed, so in 1936-37 a heavier version was planned, using one of two standard chassis for four-wheel armored cars.
Used by the reconnaissance battalions (Aufklärungs-Abteilung) of the Panzer divisions, the type performed well enough in countries with good road networks, like those in Western Europe. However, on the Eastern Front and North Africa, this class of vehicle was hampered by its relatively poor off-road performance.
The Sd.Kfz. 222 was fitted with heavier armament and larger turret than the Sd.Kfz. 221 but it was still comparatively cramped and lacked top protection other than a wire screen designed to allow grenades to roll off, but this made using the main armament problematic. Co-axially mounted with the machine gun both weapons were pintle-mounted, and fitted with an elevation and traverse mechanism and floor-mounted firing mechanisms. The turret was rotated by the traversing weapons rather than the weapons being fixed to a traversing turret. There was thus no bearing-ring and no turret basket, only a fighting compartment largely obstructed by the breaches of the weapons.
When the limitations of the vehicle were highlighted during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 the Sd.Kfz. 222 was gradually replaced in the reconnaissance role by the Sd.Kfz. 250 half-track, but the turret and armament of the Sd Kdz 222 was sometimes retained, despite its shortcomings (the Sd.Kfz. 250/9 variant was a Sd.Kfz. 250 fitted with a top plate surmounted by the same turret used for the Sd.Kfz 222 with the same pintle-mounted guns refitted to the half-track) and captured Sd.Kfz 222s were examined by Soviet designers before they created the similar BA-64 light armored car.
The 222 on display at the American Heritage Museum is believed to be one of two that remain in the world.