The Marder I was developed in May 1942 and carried the 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun on a Lorraine chassis. The original crew compartment superstructure was removed and the gun placed on top of the chassis. Around this a new, open-topped compartment was built, to give the gun and crew some protection from small arms fire.
Between July and August 1942, 170 Marder I's were built on the Lorraine chassis. Several other French and Polish tanks were also used as a conversion base for the Marder I, including the Hotchkiss H39 and FCM 36, though these were only built in small numbers.
Marder II on he Russian Front
The Marder II came in two major versions. The first version Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 132) was based on the light Panzer II Ausf. D/E and Flammpanzer II chassis with Christie suspension. It was armed with captured Soviet 7.62 cm guns, re-chambered to accept German 7.5 cm Pak 40 ammunition, which improved its penetrative capabilities. These early Marder IIs had a very high silhouette (2.60 m high), thin armor of only 30 mm (front) and 10 to 15 mm (sides). There was no armour on the top or rear, leaving the crew with very little protection. Alkett and Wegmann produced 201 Marder II (Sd. Kfz. 132) from early 1942 to early 1943.
The second version Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131) was based on Panzer II Ausf. A to C removed from active service but later also newly produced Ausf. F chassis were used. This Marder II had a redesigned (widened) fighting compartment and used the German 75 mm Pak 40 anti-tank gun. The silhouette was lowered by about 40 cm to 2.20 m, but the armor was thin and the compartment was open to the top and rear, as in Sd. Kfz. 132. FAMO, MAN and Daimler-Benz produced 576 Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131) conversions from June 1942 to Mid 1943. 75 more were converted (probably by FAMO only) from mid 1943 to early 1944 when the last Panzer IIs were taken out of active service.
Marder III Ausf.M
On December 22, 1941, the Waffenamt issued an order for a self-propelled anti-tank gun to help get an effective antitank gun to the units on the Eastern front. It used the Czechoslovakian 38(t) chassis. The gun and carriage (without the wheels) was mounted on top of the superstructure. Crew protection was provided by the gun's shield (which moved witht the gun) and side plates fixed to the hull.
Marder III Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62cm PaK36(r), SdKfz 139, Marder III
While the Panzer 38(t) had largely become obsolete as a tank in early 1942, it was still an excellent platform for adaptation into a tank destroyer, among other roles. Since the Soviet 76.2 mm field gun was captured in large quantities, the decision was made to mate this gun to the Panzer 38(t).
To do so, the turret and upper superstructure of the Panzer 38 were removed and a new superstructure was bolted on to the chassis. The upper structure mounted the gun and an extended gun shield, giving very limited protection for the commander and the loader. Armour protection overall ranged from 10 to 50 mm. The gun, commander and loader were located on top of the engine deck. It had higher silhouette than Panzer 38, which made it more vulnerable to enemy fire.
The now-called 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) was rechambered to be able to use standard German 75 mm ammunition, of which 30 rounds could be carried inside the vehicle. Apart from the main gun, there was a 7.92 mm machine gun mounted in the hull.
This tank destroyer was put into production as the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), Sd.Kfz. 139. A total of 363 of this Marder III variant were built from April 1942 to 1943.
Marder III Ausf H 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf.H, Sd.Kfz. 138
The next variant of the Marder III fielded the standard 7.5 cm PaK 40 German anti-tank gun on the Panzer 38(t) Ausf. H. This had the engine in the rear of the vehicle (Ausf. H standing for Heckmotor (rear engine), same as Panzer 38. Unlike the previous model, however, this vehicle utilized the fighting compartment of Panzer 38 in the center. Center compartment allowed crew to stay low in the center of the vehicle, lowering crew exposure to small arms fire and fragments. But because of the rear-mounted engine, there was only enough room for two men to stand in the center. Large side armors gave additional protection for the crew. However, the horseshoe shape armor thinly protected front and side only. The rear and the top were exposed. Thirty-eight rounds of ammunition for the gun were carried. As with the Sd.Kfz.139, this vehicle also carried a 7.92 mm machine gun in the hull, of Czech manufacture.
The production figures for the 418 Ausf. H Marder IIIs are as follows; 243 (including a single prototype) were built new from November 1942 to April 1943. 175 were converted from Panzer 38(t)s in 1943.
Deployed in Russia, Tunisia, and Italy with Panzerjäger units of the Luftwaffe, SS, and Wehrmacht.
Marder III Ausf M Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.M, Sd.Kfz. 138.
The last Marder III variant was based on the Panzer 38(t) Ausf. M (with Ausf. M standing for Mittelmotor (middle engine), again armed with the 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. In this variant, the engine was moved from the rear to the middle between driver and the rest of the crew. Because there was no engine in the rear, the gun and the crew did not have to sit on top of the engine deck as in previous models. The fighting compartment could be lowered down to the bottom floor level where the engine used to be. This decreased crew exposure, as well as visibility. Unlike the previous two Marder IIIs, the fighting compartment was closed at the rear protecting the crew up to their mid-section. It stayed open-topped. It could only carry 27 rounds of ammunition. The machinegun port at the front was eliminated in the Ausf. M in favor of an MG 34 or MG 42 carried by the crew. In the previous two models, the commander served as a gunner. However, in Ausf. M, the radio man moved to the rear with the commander and gunner, serving as a loader. Combat effectiveness increased because the vehicle commander was freed from manning the gun.
The Ausf. M was the variant which was produced in the largest numbers, some 975 vehicles being manufactured in 1943 and early 1944. Its full name was the Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.M, Sd.Kfz. 138.