The design of the M3 Scout Car began in 1937 just prior to the onset of World War II. This Scout Car was to be manufactured by the White Motor Company, whose headquarters were located in Cleveland, OH. While the M3 Scout had four-wheel drive, the design made it impossible to disengage it. This WWII car had a four-speed manual transmission and a unique feature for this time era – power brakes.
A full-sized, operational M3A1 scout car is on display at The Armed Forces History Museum in the WWII Frenh Village Diorama.
Originally, 64 of the M3 Scout Car were ordered and used by the 7th Cavalry Brigade. However, not long thereafter, the Army began designing an amended version of this vehicle, which included a hull that was both wider and longer. This newly designed scout car would be labeled the M3A1 and could carry a minimum of seven crew members.
Manufacturing of the M3A1 Scout Car would begin as early as 1940 and continue into 1944. The design on this vehicle would help shape the future for other vehicle designs such as the early M2 halftrack, M3 halftrack and even the Soviet BTR-40, which would not see production until after the war. By the middle of 1943, the shortcomings of the vehicle’s design became apparent. Not only was the open top a drawback, but the vehicle had poor performance when it came to off-road mobility. Armament on the M3A1 Scout Car – a.50 cal M2 Browning machine gun proved to be inadequate as well. Soon thereafter, the M3A1 would be replaced by the M8 armored car and the M20 Utility Car, which was a similar vehicle.
Throughout the production history of the M3 (and its variants), well over 20,000 vehicles were manufactured and used in 25 different countries. The World War II M3A1 Scout car was known to still be in use in the Dominican Republic as recent as 1990.