The use of half-tracked prime movers for artillery was common in the German forces but not elsewhere. Compared to wheeled vehicles, half-tracks are more difficult to maintain, they often suffer track breakages, and are slower on roads. However, they have better off-road mobility compared to wheeled vehicles.
The iconic Sd.Kfz.7 was used throughout the war. Sd.Kfz. 7 were seen during the 1940 Paris victory parade and the Sd.Kfz. 7 features in much German wartime propaganda footage, contributing to the myth of the mechanized Blitzkrieg. In fact, while produced in large numbers, there were never enough to fully equip the German forces. Typically like many other types, the artillery elements of Panzer and mechanized infantry units (Panzergrenadier) received them, while other units continued to rely on horses to draw their guns.
The Sd.Kfz. 7 saw extensive use in the North African Campaign where their tracks allowed them to drive through the desert sands far more effectively than trucks. Often columns carrying troops or POW's would include at least two half tracks with one generally riding point in order to make a path through the sands that the trucks could follow.
The Sd.Kfz. 7 also became the basis of a number of self-propelled anti-aircraft variants based on 20 mm and 37 mm flak types in use. The Sd.Kfz. 7/1 was armed with a 2 cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple anti-aircraft gun system. The Sd.Kfz. 7/2 was armed with a single 3.7 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun. On many of these variants, the driver's position and the engine cover was armored (8 mm thickness). There were also conversions made mounting a single 2 cm anti-aircraft gun. Trial vehicles mounting a 5 cm FlaK 41 were produced but proved unsuccessful, and did not enter serial production.
A variant with an armored superstructure based on the Sd.Kfz. 7, the Feuerleitpanzer auf Zugkraftwagen 8t, was used by launch crews of the V-2 ballistic missile. This was necessary as the V-2 sometimes malfunctioned and exploded on the launch pad. It was also used to tow the launch pad in place. Bunkers were not used as the V-2 was transported to widely dispersed launchpads by carriage on Meillerwagen trailers that could erect them atop the launchstands/flame deflectors that each dispersed launchpad facility was equipped with for surprise launches, to dissuade Allied air attacks.
A licensed Italian-manufactured copy was built during the war (designated Breda 61, 250 produced 1942-1944) and is easily recognized by its longer hood and right-hand-drive steering.
The British company Bedford Motors (subsidiary of Vauxhall Motors) built an improved copy during the war, designated the Bedford Tractor (BT) and codenamed Traclat (from Tracked Light Artillery Tractor). Its intended use was to tow the 17 pounder, 25 pounder and Bofors 40 mm guns but the war ended before mass production was initiated. Six prototypes were built in 1944 for trials. The BT was powered by two Bedford engines and had ammunition lockers that were accessible from outside of the vehicle (unlike the Sd.Kfz. 7) and it also had automatic steering. The Traclat came about when in 1943, the Ministry of Supply asked Vauxhall Motors to construct a three-quarter tracked artillery prime mover which used a similar track and rear suspension system to that of a captured German 8-ton Sd.Kfz.7 medium artillery tractor. The first stage of the project involved shipping a number of captured German half-tracks from Libya back to Britain and asking Morris commercial cars to put them through a trials and evaluation programme with a view to developing a similar machine for British use. By early 1945, Vauxhall motors had been contracted to construct six prototypes of what became the Traclat. Official trials were set up at the Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment (FVPE) in July 1946. The vehicle was required to tow a 25-pounder gun and limber, and was pitched against a Crusader artillery tractor and an Alecto self-propelled gun. The Traclat gave the best performance, but still got bogged down in muddy ground. A number of vehicles were shipped to Germany for continued trials, however this came to nothing due to excessive costs and there was no serious production. The two Bedford truck engines produced a combined 136 bhp with a combined fuel consumption of 3.5mpg(1.27 km/litre). The Traclat had a maximum road speed of 30 mph (48 km/h).
Some Sd.Kfz. 7 were taken into service by the Allies after the Second World War. The Czechoslovak Army used them for some years after the war.
In The Tank Museum, Dorset, UK there is a detailed evaluation of a captured Sd.Kfz. 7 produced by Vauxhall Motors in 1942.