|[ PIBWL home page ] [ Polish armour > armoured cars > wz.34 ] [ Polish artillery ] [ Steel Panthers ] [ what's new ] [ Links ]|
|© Michał Derela, 1998||Update: 07. 05. 2014|
|The wz.34 armoured car with a newer body and 37mm gun in an old rectangular mount|
The light armoured car wz. 34 was the basic armoured car of Polish Army at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. It was unique in the world, being the only combat vehicle, which started life as a half-track, to be rebuilt to a fully wheeled car. In spite of limited combat value, they were intensively used in combat in armoured car platoons of ten out of eleven reconnaissance armoured units of cavalry brigades.
In 1924, Polish Army bought in France over 135 half-tracked chassis Citroën-Kegresse B2 10CV, fitted with tracked mechanism Kegresse P4T. It was decided to build armoured cars using 90 of them. Their armoured bodies were designed and manufactured in Poland (main designer was Robert Gabeau), though their shape was similar to French prototypes of half-tracked armoured cars. Two prototypes of half-track armoured cars were built in 1925, and given a designation: wz. 28 (wzór 28) - 1928 Pattern (it should be remembered, that pattern designations were not standalone, but were always used as: "armoured car wz.28"). The vehicles were completed in CWS (Central Car Workshops) in Warsaw. First serial cars were built in 1927, and until 1930 there were manufactured all 90 cars wz.28, with two major variants of armoured bodies.
When the cars entered service it showed, that the half-track drive did not fulfil expectations. A maximum speed was low - no more, than 30 km/h (18.5 mph), while off-road capabilities were not outstanding at all. The half-track drive needed much maintenance, and rubber tracks had low durability. Because of these facts, in 1933 it was decided to convert the armoured cars into all-wheeled vehicles, using commercial components.
The conversion was developed by the Armoured Weapons' Technical Research Bureau (BBT BrPanc). The first converted car was tested between April and July 1934, and the tests came out well. The car did off-road a little worse, than car wz.28, but it rode much better on roads. In July it was decided to convert further cars, standardized on 4 June 1935 with an Army designation: wz. 34 (wzór 34) - 1934 Pattern. They were still sometimes commonly called Citroëns, even in documents.
|The prototype of armoured car wz.34 (nr. 5423) during trials. Note an old body type, with a short nose.  →|
Until 1938 most probably 87 cars wz.28 were successively
converted to the wz.34 standard. Often quoted number of 90 is probably wrong - there are reports of 3-4 wz.28 cars retained in original configuration. The conversion was made in individual units' workshops, using a documentation worked by the BBT BrPanc. As a result, wz.34 cars appeared
in several different variants, depending on original wz.28 car's variant and parts used for a conversion. Some cars also differed in details.
Particular series of armoured cars wz.34 differed in engines,
transmission and mechanical details. In this respect, there were distinguished three models: wz.34,
wz.34-I and wz.34-II. These detailed designations are usually omitted, though, and their usage may lead to confusion with body variants.
The first model wz.34 retained an original 20 hp Citroën engine and gearbox, only a new rear axle was taken from a light 1-ton truck FIAT-614 (imported from Italy). Wz.34-I car received a new 23 hp engine FIAT-108 with a gearbox, and the same FIAT-614 rear axle. Finally, wz.34-II car, built in the biggest number, had a newer 25 hp engine FIAT-108-III, a rear axle from a light 1.2-ton truck Polski Fiat 618, and other improvements, like hydraulic brakes and more advanced electric wiring (these improvements might have been introduced already in wz.34-I). Engines (from a compact car Polski Fiat 508) and axles of Polski Fiat 618 were licence-manufactured in Poland. Front axle of all cars received wheels with standard pneumatic tyres, replacing wheels with solid tyres or baloon tyres, and they were fitted with fenders. All variants were initially made in similar numbers (24 wz.34-I, 36 wz.34-II, rest wz.34), but according to J. Magnuski, some earlier cars were rebuilt in 1938 to the latest mechanical standard, resulting in approximately 60 cars wz.34-II (it cannot be however excluded, that both versions with new engine: wz.34-I and II, were listed as wz.34-II in statistics, as they do not specify wz.34-I).
Most noticeably the cars differed in the armoured body. Earlier version is quite little-known, though it represented a majority of vehicles. In this variant, a crew compartment was widened into two sponsons over rear wheels, and a rear plate with doors was vertical. There were two windows before the driver. It also differed in proportions - a turret was placed rearwards, in relation to the combat compartment, comparing to the newer variant (there was a slightly longer roof before the turret, usually with a bullet guard on it). A frame was longer, than the hull and created a step in a rear part. Also side chassis skirts were different. There existed at least two types of the hull's nose - a dull one, apparently longer, with a fixed hood's front part, and a sharper, shorter one, with a fully opening hood (like in a newer hull).
Peculiar variants of wz.34 car have not been well researched in publications so far. Unforunately, there are no official plans nor silhouette photos of early hull cars, unlike of the newer model. It seems, that some cars with early hulls differed in a wheelbase (most were made in wz.34-II standard, with a wheelbase officially stated at 2.4 m, comparing to 2.57 m of wz.34 standard). An interesting thing is, that wz.34 cars with the early hull evidently had a front axle farther forward, than original wz.28 cars, about which there is no mention in publications. In connection with less pronounced frame at the rear, it looks like a whole body could have been moved a bit rearwards on a frame. As a result, unforunately, there are no reliable plans of early variant published either. Scale plans published in Samochody pancerne wz.29/wz.34 (Wydawnictwo Militaria: 2009) are clearly unreliable, having among others, too short roof before a turret. In this book you can also find plans of cars with a narrow body and vertical rear plate, or with a narrow body and significantly shorter wheelbase, which are not confirmed by any known photos (they might originate from erronenous photo reading). The drawing on the right, by A. Jońca, slightly corrected by us, shows pretty good approximation of early variant proportions.
Later version had narrow body with a sloped rear plate (the turret was slightly wider, than the hull, which was 1.01 m wide). A rear wall with doors covered all the frame. The proportions of the car were changed, comparing to the earlier variant, and a roof before and behind the turret was very short. There was only one window before the driver, which is a recognition feature of this variant.
|Wz.34 armoured car with a new body and 37 mm gun, during exercises. A light disc with a vertical band means the first platoon's commander (a peacetime marking only).|
According to J. Magnuski, only 16 last wz.28 cars were made with the new narrow body (original numbers: 5294, 5449, 5572, 5573, 5579, 5580, 5584, 5586, 5589, 5591, 5594, 5596, 5599, 5628-30), and 9 of them had guns. Pre-war photos of wz.34 cars with a sloped rear plate seem more common, nevertheless there are known, safely counting, wartime photos of at least 30 cars with the old hull (probably several more) and only 11-12 with the new hull.
Unfortunately, it seems pointless to try to match the hull variant with particular designation. In a military manual, hull differences were neglected, as they apparently did not affect a maintenance, unlike mechanical changes. In some publications the cars with an early hull and vertical rear plate are called: "wz.34-II", but it is almost certainly a misunderstanding, and not all cars with an early hull were in fact wz.34-II. It is however probable, that all cars with late hull might have been wz.34 (or wz.34-I) standard. On the other hand, model manufacturers tend to apply a name "wz.34-II" to cars with late hulls, what is clearly wrong.
Finally, the cars differed in
armament. Just like in case of wz.28 cars, 1/3 (about 30) armoured cars wz.34 were armed with a short-barrel 37mm wz.18 Puteaux L/21 gun with 96-100 rounds.
The rest was armed with one 7.92mm Hotchkiss wz.25 MG with 2000 rounds. There were two types of mounting for each weapon: older, rectangular Cardan block or newer, round (ball) mounting.
37mm gun wz.18 (SA-18) was a WWI-vintage weapon, its purpose was mainly destroying of MG nests. Because of a low velocity and poor penetration, it was not best suited to fighting armoured vehicles, however it could pierce light armour from a short distance. Usually the cars with guns were squadron and troop leaders.
The light armoured car wz.34 was the main armoured car type in the Polish units. Before the war, they were used in following armoured battalions: the 1st armoured battalion in Poznań (9 cars), the 4th in Brest-Litovsk (9), the 5th in Kraków (9), the 6th in Lwów (Lviv) (17), the 7th in Grodno (25), the 8th in Bydgoszcz (9) and the 12th in Łuck (Lut'sk) (9 cars). Three vehicles in the 11th battalion of the CWBrPanc - Armoured Weapons Training Centre in Modlin, might have been still original cars wz.28.
Those battalions were big, peacetime units and must not be mistaken with later mobilised wartime battalion-size armoured units of Cavalry (see below). The latter ones were called: "dywizjon" in Polish, which is a Cavalry name of battalion, not to mistake with a division (Polish "dywizja").
|Armoured cars wz.34 on parade in Cracov, 21 May 1939. td>|
In 1939, during mobilisation, those peacetime armoured battalions formed armoured cars squadrons for 11 new armoured units (battalions), assigned to Cavalry Brigades (BK). Each squadron had seven cars, and also the unit's commander had an armoured car. Wz.34 cars equipped ten units - nos: 21, 31, 32, 33, 51, 61, 62, 71, 81 and 91 (only the 11th unit had armoured cars wz.29). Therefore, 80 armoured cars wz.34 were used in regular units. All units but nos. 51, 81 and 91 had wz.34-II cars. Units nos. 51 and 81 had cars with a newer hull, but it is not known, if exclusively. Structure and allocation of armoured units are on the formations page. Deployment - on the map.
In 1939 these cars were obsolete and worn-out in training. Polish armoured cars were intended for recconaissance and securing - poor armament and armour excluded support tasks. In fact, due to general lack of armoured vehicles, they were used for delaying the enemy and supporting attacks as well, suffering heavy losses. The cars were rather addicted to the roads, and could not ford deeper rivers (after the battle of the Bzura, the cars from the 62nd and 71st units had to be destroyed on 16 September 1939, because they could not be withdrawn across the Bzura river). The other thing is, that all Polish armoured units had problems with fuel supply.
Their combat track was not as spectacular, as of bigger cars wz.29 - but cars wz.34 were real work horses of the Polish armoured car squadrons. They did their best, showing the crews' bravery, and in many cases biting the enemy. The gun cars even destroyed a few enemy armoured vehicles.
Here are some of more interesting episodes of wz.34 armoured cars' service (note, that the tankettes mentioned below were only MG-armed ones):
|Wreck of wz.34 armoured car, probably of the 51st Armoured Unit, north of Kielce (new body, 37 mm gun). A fuel tank is visible in an engine bay.|
|Wreck of wz.34 armoured car with 37 mm gun (dismounted).|
|An abandoned wz.34 armoured car with early body. Well visible is a rear part of frame. Note a commander's bench on a left wall inside. This car wears an unofficial unit emblem of a lightning, of an unknown unit (the only unit marking seen on wz.34 cars).|
Few armoured cars wz.34 which were not mobilized, scattered through armoured battalions, were moved to Armoured Reserve Centres (OZ). Some of them were used in action with improvized units.
According to statistisc of armoured car losses (including 8 cars wz.29): 55% were combat losses, 35% were losses of technical reasons (probably including impossibility of withdrawal), and 10% were caused by the lack of fuel.
All armoured cars wz.34 were captured by the Germans, most of them in destroyed or damaged condition. Apparently some were used by the Germans, but not on significant scale. Provisional hand-painted white crosses seen on a handful of cars suggest, that they were used only temporarily right ater their capture, especially, that there exist also photos of abandoned wz.34 cars with crosses. One photo shows a car rearmed with a German machine gun. According to some sources, dozen or so cars were assigned to the 203rd Armoured Battalion in Tomaszów Mazowiecki and Lodz, but they were used for a short time there due to poor technical condition. Some authors suggest, that several cars were used by the German police in an occupied Poland, but it does not seems confirmed. There are especially not known photos of cars wearing regular German signs. There is a version in publications, that 18 cars wz.34 were given to Croatian militia in 1941, and used for anti-partisan duties, but other authors suggest, that they were mistaken for tankettes, what seems more likely. None of armoured cars wz.34 survived the war, although after 2000 three replicas (more or less accurate) were built in Poland for reenactment purposes.
See also miscellaneous pictures of armoured car wz.34 in the gallery part I and part II (due to be enhanced in May 2014)
|Above: a cross-section of wz.34 car (new hull)|
Below: a chassis of wz.34-II car (greasing scheme)
|Interior of wz.34 car destroyed in 1939 (new body).|
Chassis - rectangular frame, suspension on semi-elliptic springs (rear) and springs (front). Tyres: 30x5" (diameter: 815 mm - standard ones acording to a manual) or 600-18 (diameter: 775 mm). Double wheels were at the rear. Special bar chains could be fixed on rear double wheels to improve adhesion in sand or snow. Otherwise they were carried upon rear fenders, but they apparently were not used in 1939, judging from their absence on photos.
The engines (specifications from manual):
- wz.34: Citroën B-14 - 20 HP per 2100 rpm; 1477 ccm; cylinder bore x stroke: 68 x 100 mm
- wz.34-I: FIAT-108 - 23 HP per 3600 rpm; 995 ccm; cylinder bore x stroke: 65 x 75 mm
- wz.34-II: FIAT-108-III (PZInż.117) - 25 HP per 3600 rpm; 995 ccm; cylinder bore x stroke: 65 x 75 mm.
All engines were fuel, 4-cylinder inline, 4 stroke, water-cooled.
Transmission: dry single-disc main clutch.
- wz.34: 3 gears forward / 1 reverse, with a reducer (4:1) (gears forward: 2:1, 1:1, 1:1.5, reverse 2.5:1; maximum speed 54.5 km/h, with a reducer: 12.8 km/h)
- wz.34-I: 4 gears forward / 1 reverse, with a reducer (maximum speed 55 km/h or 12.9 km/h with a reducer)
- wz.34-II: 4 gears forward / 1 reverse, with a reducer (maximum speeds 50 km/h or 11.8 km/h with a reducer)
Rear axle was driven only. Brakes on rear wheels: mechanical (wz.34) or hydraulic (wz.34-II), auxiliary mechanical brake on the main shaft. Electric installation - single-wire 6 V (wz.34) or 12 V (wz.34-II). The cars had an electric starter, and also a starting crank.
The body was made of armoured plates, riveted and screwed to a frame. It had a door on the left side, opening rearwards, and a big door in the rear plate, opening to the left side. There was no door on the right side. Before the driver there was one window (or two - in an older body type), and smaller windows were in the left door (opening forward) and right side (opening upwards). All windows were protected with hatches with simple vision slots. A hatch of the window in the left door had a rear view mirror on the inside surface. The radiator was protected with a two-leaf door, opening from the driver's place. The engine bonnet was opening to a side. Under the bonnet, behind the engine there was a fuel tank. On a right side of the nose there was a spare wheel, on a left side - a toolbox. A minority of cars had a front bumper.
The turret was octagonal. On the roof there was a small, hexagonal, opening, two-part ventilation and observation
cupola. In the sides there were two small windows with hatches, and several vision slots.
A single headlight was on the left side, before the driver's window (there were several types of a headlight used).
The crew consisted of two: driver and commander-gunner. During march, the commander was sitting on a bench on the left side of the crew compartment, in combat he was in the turret, sitting on a belt, fixed to the turret. A belt fixed to walls of the crew compartment was used as a driver's backrest. Some cars with an early hull had two benches for the commander, on either side.
The car was not equipped with a radio. The signaling was carried out by colour flags, stuck through 3 or 4 sleeves in the turret's roof from the inside of the turret.
Riveted, of rolled armoured steel plates 6 - 8 mm thick (vertical plates - 8 mm, sloped and upper plates - 6 mm). The bottom was not armoured - made of transversal wooden planks, with openings for levers. Probably there was no floor under the engine.
In 1936-1937 there was a standard camouflage scheme introduced for Polish vehicles. It consisted of irregular patches of greyish sand and dark brown (sepia) over base color of brown-green. The patches were airbrushed, with soft transitions, their shapes were mainly horizontal. There was not any standard pattern of patches. The interior was sand, chassis - olive-green or black.
|Armoured car wz.34 in a standard 1937-39 camouflage (the bar chains are on the fenders).|
Below: armoured car wz.34 in the so-called "Japanese camouflage" - used until 1936.
Drawings: J. Magnuski  (modified by PIBWL).
Between 1932 and 1936 there was an older camouflage scheme used, also called the "Japanese camouflage". Traditional publications claimed, that it consisted of patches in bright yellowish sand, dark green and dark brown, separated with thin black stripes. However, recent publications suggest, that the colours might have been yellowish sand, olive green and light blue-gray (read more on a page on tankettes). See miscellaneous pictures of armoured cars wz.34 in the gallery part I and part II.
Before the war, the cars carried tactical marks for training purposes - they were attached disc (the 1st platoon), triangles (the 2nd) or squares (the 3rd), their color was light blue-gray (according to some sources). The numbers were painted on the front, only until 1937. Later, the cars carried registration plates inside.
In 1939, according to regulations, the cars wore no insignia nor national markings at all. There are however known photos from an unknown unit, with a lightning sign on sides and on a lower front plate.
Because of few versions, specifications were also differing. The figures below come mostly from a manual, and second number is given there as wz.34-II car, but more likely it refers to a peculiar measured car in wz.34-II mechanical standard, with an older body type.
(if different, probably with old body)
|Combat weight||approx. 2200 kg (gun) or 2100 kg (MG), max. 2400 kg with crew and equipment|
|Length||3.62 m (142.5 in)||3.75 m (147.6 in)|
|Width||1.91 m (75.2 in)||1.95 m (76.7 in)|
|Height||2.22 m (87.4 in)||2.23 m|
|Hull width||1.01 m (39.3 in)||no details (more)|
|Wheelbase||2.57 m (101.2 in)||2.405 m (94.5 in)|
|Front Track:||1.18 m (46.5 in)||1.18 m (46.5 in)|
|Rear Track:||1.47 m (58 in)||1.54 m (60.5 in)|
|Ground clearance||250 mm (9.8 in)|
|Max. road speed||54 km/h (33.5 mph)||50 km/h (31 mph)|
|Road range||250||180 km|
|Power / weight ratio:||10.5 - 10.9 HP/ton|
|Wading depth||30 cm|
|Fuel tank capacity||55 litres||40 litres|
|Fuel consumption||22-23 litres /100 km on road, 40 litres /100 km off road|
|The wz.34 armoured car with a new body type and a machine gun in a ball mounting. The car wears a standard late camouflage (1937-39). Some cars with the new body carried a shovel on a left side bottom skirt.|
Models of the wz. 34 armoured car:
1/72 [1/76, if marked]:
See also miscellaneous pictures of armoured car wz.34 in the gallery part I and part II
1. Janusz Magnuski, "Samochody pancerne Wojska Polskiego 1918-1939", WiS; Warsaw 1993
2. Adam Jońca, Rajmund Szubański, Jan Tarczyński, "Wrzesień 1939 - Pojazdy Wojska Polskiego - Barwa i broń"; WKŁ; Warsaw 1990.
3. Jan Tarczyński, K. Barbarski, A. Jońca, "Pojazdy w Wojsku Polskim - Polish Army Vehicles - 1918-1939"; Ajaks; Pruszków 1995.
4. Janusz Magnuski, "Samochód pancerny wz.34", TBiU nr 56; Warsaw 1979
5. "Regulamin Broni Pancernej. Opis i wskazówki obsługi samochodu pancernego wz.34", Warsaw 1938 (military manual)
[ Main page ] [ Polish armour / armoured cars ] [ Polish armoured units ] [ Steel Panthers ] [ Links ]
All photos and pictures remain the property of their owners. They are published in non-commercial educational and research purpose. Text copyright © to Michał Derela.