M3 Scout Car (White Scout Car)
Four-Wheeled Armored Car
Over 20,000 White Scout Cars were produced by the Americans for service in World War 2 and beyond.
Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited:
Numerically, the White Scout Car (designated as the "G-067" and "M3A1" in U.S. Army nomenclature) was a resounding wartime success with nearly 21,000 of its type produced during World War 2 (1939-1945). About half of this total was for foreign service where it filled desperate stocks as a fast, road-friendly armored scout car. The vehicle was highly conventional in its design but utterly useful in the scope of a grand war seeing many fluid fronts. The type enjoyed an extended service life overseas as American Army stocks were being sold off as surplus as early as 1944 and active service forms existed in foreign armies into the 1990s.
The White Scout Car saw its design phase begin during 1937 and incorporated a simple 4x4 wheeled chassis manufactured by the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio with an armored superstructure installed by Diebold Safe and Lock Company (Ohio). The completed chassis were delivered to the Diebold plant and had their armor plating installed only to then be delivered back to White Motor Company for finalization. The cars were simple and efficient to produce in large quantities which led to the line's large manufacture totals when compared to other wartime cars. Armor protection for the crew - typically three to involve a driver, commander, and machine gunner - was 6mm to 13mm thickness across the various facings. An "unditching" roller was installed at the front of the vehicle though no powered winch was standard. A radio kit was, however, a standard fitting as was a canvas cover to serve as a roof.
Power for the car was through a Hercules JDX 6-cylinder inline gasoline engine of 110 horsepower. The chassis was sprung on a leaf spring suspension system and road speeds reached 50-55 miles per hour with road ranges out to 250 miles. The drivetrain used an All-Wheel Drive (AWD)function with a four-speed manual transmission system. The driver managed the car from a traditional position at front-left.
The general arrangement of the car was highly conventional with the engine fitted at front, the driver at center-left, and the passenger cabin over the rear. The canvas covering was all that was afforded the occupants for protection from battlefield dangers and the environment. Beyond the three standard crewmembers, the vehicle could seat up to four others in the passenger space. Armament was variable but normally through a 0.50 caliber Browning M2 air-cooled heavy machine gun fitted over the center of the vehicle. A "skate rail" allowed the weapon to be slid around the entire crew cabin to protect all sides of the vehicle as needed. It was common for a 0.30 Browning M1919A4 medium machine gun to be fitted as well, this typically over the rear of the vehicle. Personal weapons carried by the crew were also in play.
As with other wartime expedients, the White Scout Car was slightly revised during its manufacture process as the war dragged on. A spare fuel canister was added in place of the right-hand side spotlight and the identifying crossed-swords decal removed from the side doors in later models. The flip-down armored visor for the forward windscreen changed some as well while the windscreen itself was revised over the original pilot vehicle version.
In practice, the M3 Scout Car proved a serviceable military scout car. However, limitations were obvious as the vehicle lacked much in the way of protection for its crew. The M3 was not a direct-contact vehicle and avoiding combat with anything more than enemy infantry increased crew survivability. Since all that protected the occupants overhead was canvas, the crew were at the mercy of in-direct fire weapons such as mortar and artillery and grenade attacks could also quickly kill all inside. The base armor protection was only viable against small arms fire, offering basic security in an ambush. The cross-country performance of the vehicle also proved lacking when compared to competing 6x6 wheeled forms with good power and traction and was further outclassed by tracked vehicles navigating the uneven and soft terrains of Battlefield Europe.
Regardless, it availability in numbers and its reach through Lend-Lease pushed the limits of the M3 series ten-fold. With over 20,000 produced, the vehicles were taken on by military forces beyond the United States even into the post-war years: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Norway, Philippines, Poland, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and others (see full users list below) were just some of the notable operators of the series. The Soviet Union received the type via Lend-Lease and the new Israeli Army also took on stocks of the type in the post-war years - using them in their 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The German Army was all too happy to reconstitute captured weapons/vehicles and operated an unknown number of captured M3 Scout Cars as their own. French cars were in service during the First Indochina War (1946-1954) and South Vietnam forces continued their use in the theater thereafter.