The M3 Scout Car (known as the White Scout Car in British Commonwealth service) was an American-produced armored car. The original M3 Scout Car was produced in limited numbers, while the improved M3A1 Scout Car saw wide service during World War II and after.
The main production variant, the M3A1 Scout Car, was a lightly armored, open topped, machine gun armed, four wheel drive vehicle designed to be used in the reconnaissance role. The M3A1 Scout Car was crewed by a driver and commander, while there was seating for six additional occupants in the rear.
Powered by a Hercules JXD 6-cylinder in-line petrol engine delivering 110 hp (82 kW), the M3A1 Scout Car had a maximum road speed of 50 mph (80 km/h) and the 30 US gal (110 l) fuel tank gave a maximum range of 250 mi (400 km). The vehicle’s four wheel drive and bumper mounted unditching roller enabled it to cross a 1.5 ft (0.46 m) wide trench and climb a 1 ft (0.30 m) high step, maximum fording depth was 28 in (0.71 m).
The armored body of the M3A1 Scout Car was produced by the Diebold Lock and Safe Company, it had a maximum armor thickness of .5 in (13 mm) and was open topped, providing good fields of view but no overhead protection for the occupants, a canvas cover was provided for protection from the elements. The underside protection was also limited, giving little protection from the effects of land mines to the vehicle’s occupants.
The M3A1 Scout Car was typically armed with a .50 cal M2 Browning heavy machine gun and one or two .30 cal M1919 Browning medium machine guns, all were mounted on a skate rail upon which the pintle mounts could be moved about. Due to its open top, the occupants were also able to employ their personal weapons.
The M3A1 Scout Car was used by cavalry units of the US Army in its intended cavalry role during the North African Campaign and the invasion of Sicily, being employed for reconnaissance, screening and as an armored command vehicle. The M3A1 was fast and reliable, making it popular with its crews. It was considered a major disappointment in US Army service, primarily due to its poor offroad performance, but also its lack of overhead protection. Cavalry units were forced to supliment it with M2 and M3 Half-tracks.
Throughout 1943, most US Army units replaced the M3A1 with the M8 armored car and the similar M20 Utility Car, although the M3A1 was retained for rear area security and convoy escort duties. A small number of M3A1s were employed in Normandy. A few M3A1s were used by the US Marine Corps in the Pacific theater, but none saw combat.
General George Patton used an M3A1 Scout Car as a command vehicle, modified with additional armor and a raised fighting compartment.
A total of 11,401 M3A1 Scout Cars were allocated for supply to US allies under lend-lease, 6,987 were supplied to the British Commonwealth, 3,310 to the Soviet Union and 104 to the Chinese Nationalist Army. Some were also supplied to Free Belgian, Free French, Czechoslovak and Polish units.
In British Commonwealth service, the White Scout Car was regarded more as an armored truck, reflected in the designation Truck, 15cwt, 4x4, Armoured Personnel, and was used in a variety of secondary roles, being issued to engineer, artillery (as an observation vehicle for field artillery observers) medical (as a protected ambulance) and signals units; within the Royal Armoured Corps’ Tank and Armoured Car Regiments it usually served in Squadron or Regimental headquarters. It was used by British Commonwealth forces in every theatre they fought in except Burma.
In Red Army service, the M3A1 was used as an armored personnel carrier by brigade and corps reconnaissance units and motorcycle battalions and regiments, operating alongside the BA-64. The M3A1 was also used as an armored command vehicle and a gun tractor for the ZIS-3 76-mm field gun, although the towing hitch proved to be unreliable The M3A1 remained in widespread service throughout the war.
The Chinese Nationalist Army received M3A1 Scout Cars from 1942 and used them throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War.