Heading into 1942, the German Army understood, better than most, the value of the halftrack when wading through the snow and mud of the East Front. Halftracks maintained an advantage in such adverse conditions over their wheeled counterparts in that they could traverse soft terrains with little loss to momentum. However, the Army could little spare relocating front-line halftrack vehicles to handle other second-line tasks such as resupply so a new, cost-effective solution was sought.
This ultimately arrived in the form of the 'Maultier" (or 'Mule') in which a Daimler-Benz or Opel military truck was simply reworked with a tank-like track-and-wheel rear axle. The front axle remained wheeled and was the steerable component in the arrangement. The rear axle was made up of the running gear of the outgoing Panzer II light tank series which, in itself, proved a highly economical measure for the Panzer II was available in some number still. Couple this with the general availability of Opel and Daimler-Benz trucks and the formula was, theoretically, a winning - if hasty - one. Most of the Maultier fleet would be made up of trucks from the Opel concern.
In battlefield task, the trucks could retain their general multirole usefulness but their tactical value was now broadened as they could keep up with the mechanized fighting force across all manner of terrain presented.
In practice the modifications worked for the most part, particularly for the second-line roles the vehicles were intended for. They did have inherent limitations due to their truck pedigree and were not dedicated, purpose-built halftracks intended for heavy military service. Nevertheless, the line progressed and was eventually used in towing duties and resupply / rearm service while one other notable form to emerge was a modified Maultier to serve as a rocket-projecting vehicle for Nebelwerfer detachments. These versions added armoring (protection against small arms fire and shell splinters) at the cab and engine compartment while situating a 10-shot launcher the (15cm Panzerwerfer) over the hull roof on a trainable mounting. The rocket-projecting vehicles were an interim measure pending the arrival of more sWS (schwere Wehrmacht Schlepper - detailed elsewhere on this site) halftracks and arrived on East Front battlefields in 1943. Some 3,000 of these were contracted for.
Maultiers soldiered on to the end of the war in Europe in May of 1945. Production numbers of the sWS never met demand (only several hundred or so were completed) so this meant that many more Maultiers were produced than originally anticipated.