The bad roads in on the eastern front gave all kinds of "cleaver" solutions. The "Maultier" or mule program is one of the simplest and basicly the most ingenious. Replace the rear wheels of a "cheap" standard 4x2 truck and you have a reasonable switch of some pay-load for very much road-worthiness. Besides the well known 3 ton program the Daimler-Benz 4,5 ton DB L4500S 4X2 was converted.
It was intended as a prime mover for the PAK 43, a 8.8 cm Anti tank gun. The boogies and suspension of the Panzer II was attached to a simple sub-frame, the idler is not the one from the Panzer II suspention, bt seems newly developed, and resembles the one on the sWS. The drive sprocket comes from a different source, and resembles the one from the 3 ton mule series. The rear axle moves forward, and the original half elliptic rear axle springs carry the sub-chassis and the running gear.
The whole idea behind all "mules" is a stop gap between the costly, intricate pre-war series as the Hanomag 3 ton and Büssing-Nag 5 ton and the intended sWS (Schwere Wehrmachtschlepper). Initialy the designation is Sd.Kfz. 4. Later this is changed to Sd.Kfz. 3/5.
May 1943 sees an order for 600 pieces. The DB plant of Marienfelde produces them. In August the first 40 are delivered. 594 are completed in 1943. 886 more are produced in 1944. Plans are made to reduce the gearbox to give it a longer lifespan. An interesting observation from a friend: my father worked at the Dutch company "de Jongerius" in Utrecht. They converted trucks to mules there. Later in the war they were rebuild to standard trucks. Was the L4500R also rebuild? It could explain the absence of survivers an post-war pictures.
In 1944 the Schell program demands replacement of all unnecessary metal by other material. The standard closed Mercedes cab is replaced in the production line by the "Einheitsfahrerhaus" the standard pressed wooden cab that is fitted on all trucks from the 1.5 to 10 ton class.
Pictures are very scarce. One is captured by the Allied forces. The British test it in a WVEE examination. They respray it and put stars on it (Did they use it?) It's the end version with the wooden cab, and it lacks the front fenders.
The pulling power of the vehicle proves not sufficient to serve its intended role. It is soon used for transportation. There are 3.7 Flak guns seen on the cargo floor. A wrecker and recovery version are reported.