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M3A1 Scout Car file photo [14640]

M3A1 Scout Car

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerWhite Motor Company
Primary RoleArmored Car


ww2dbaseDuring the 1930s the US Army experimented with a variety of wheeled armoured cars to be used by mechanised cavalry for scouting missions, and in June 1939 the last of these was standardized as the M3A1 Scout Car.

ww2dbaseBuilt by the White Motor Company of Cleveland , Ohio, United States, the M3A1 was a large open-topped armoured vehicle consisted of a specially designed and strengthened chassis with all wheel drive. A roller mounted at the front assisted in surmounting obstacles. The engine was a 5,244cc 6-cylinder Hercules JXD petrol engine which developed 87bhp at 2,400rpm. The driver and vehicle commander were seated in the front cab, while seats in the rear compartment were provided for an additional six passengers. In American use a "skate rail" ran around the rear compartment, upon which a .50 M2 (Browning) and one or two .30 M1919A4 machine gun could be mounted, while tripods were carried in the vehicle which could allow the guns to be dismounted for ground action if required. These guns rarely seem to have been fitted in British-used vehicles in which, also, the front roller was often removed.

ww2dbaseThe M3A1 was armoured to a maximum of 12mm and the windscreen was of shatter-proof glass that could be further protected by a hinged steel plate with vision slots. A detachable canvas top was also provided for when the vehicle was employed on non-combat duties.

ww2dbaseIntroduced into service in mid-1939, the M3A1 was widely used by all branches of the US Army and was one of the first types of armoured vehicle to be supplied to the United Kingdom in 1941. The American vehicle, although designated as a scoutcCar, did not however correspond in size, manoeuvrability or performance to the British specifications for such a vehicle, although some did appear to have been used as such by some units in the United Kingdom while awaiting deliveries of Daimler or Humber Scout Cars. The British army did however make good use of White scout cars, as they were usually called, as armoured personnel carriers, chiefly in the motor battalions of armoured divisions, as command vehicles and as armoured ambulances. Later the designation of Truck, 15 cwt, personnel (White M3A1) was adopted by the War Office.

ww2dbaseThe M3A1 was briefly used by the 1st and 2nd MarDiv’s scout companies from 1941 to early 1942. These vehicles mounted HB-M2 and M1917AI machine guns. Sometimes additional M1919A4 machine guns were mounted. The White Scout Cars proved ill-suited for reconnaissance on tropical islands and were soon replaced by machine-gun armed ¼-ton jeeps. The Soviet Union (which received 3,034 from the US) and a number of other Allied Armies also received stocks of M3A1s throughout the war.

ww2dbaseProduction of the M3A1 lasted until 1944, with 20,918 vehicles built. Post war M3A1s would continue to give useful service seeing employment in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the First Indo-China War and the Algerian War.

Ian V. Hogg & John Weeks, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Military Vehicles (Hamlyn, 1980)
B. T. White, Tanks and other AFVs of the Blitzkrieg Era 1939 to 1941 (Blandford Press, 1977)
Gordon Rottman and Mike Chappell , US Marine Corps 1941-45 (Osprey-Elite, 1995)

Last Major Revision: Feb 2012


MachineryOne Hercules JXD 6-cylinder petrol engine rated at 87hp
Armament1x .50cal, 1x or 2x .30 machine guns; capacity for 6 passengers
Length5.62 m
Width2.03 m
Height1.99 m
Weight5.6 t
Speed89 km/h
Range403 km


American-built M3A1 Scout Car in British service as an ambulance, circa 1940M3A1 Scout Car in exercise, Fort Riley, Kansas, United States, date unknown, photo 1 of 4
See all 12 photographs of M3A1 Scout Car Armored Car

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M3A1 Scout Car Armored Car Photo Gallery
American-built M3A1 Scout Car in British service as an ambulance, circa 1940M3A1 Scout Car in exercise, Fort Riley, Kansas, United States, date unknown, photo 1 of 4
See all 12 photographs of M3A1 Scout Car Armored Car

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