Military-Grade Awesome

M3A1 Scout Car

M3A1 Scout Car

One of my IT guys recently told me that one of the things that makes me more likable than most engineers is I’m willing to admit when I don’t know something. Let’s face it, us engineers tend to be the classical “know it all”. Well, when I came across this beast at the Motor Muster (read about it on our sister site Hooniverse) I had to admit I didn’t know much. I knew that’s a 50-cal BMG up top and two 30-cal BMGs on either side, but that was the extent of it.

M3A1 Scout Car 2

So, I asked the owner what the heck this thing was. He told me it’s an M3A1 Scout Car, used by the US in our first year or two of involvement in WWII. As any red-blooded American knows, we were not very well equipped to go to war when Pearl Harbor was bombed. When we were about to engage in the North Africa Campaign, the Army wanted an armored, four wheel drive scout car. The logical thing to do was to go to a truckmaker with a four wheel drive chassis and ask them to make this. That’s what the Army did.

M3A1 Scout Car 3

White Motor Company was contacted about building something on one of their truck chassis. They took the challenge and produced the M3A1.

M3A1 Scout Car 4

In theory it should have been a great vehicle. Full time four wheel drive, armored, and it even had the innovative ditch roller (that drum thing on the front…I didn’t know what that was, either). Reality was quite the opposite of theory. While the 110 hp engine was able to move the nearly 9,000 pound truck alright, it was fairly low torque. A truck this heavy on those thin tires in sand was a confluence of factors that meant they spent more time bogged down with the crew of 8 huddled on the floor hoping the Germans didn’t lob a hand grenade through the open roof. The ditch roller, which was supposed to keep the front tires from getting stuck in ditches, actually proved very good at collapsing the opposite side of a ditch meaning the front wheels went down into the ditch and got stuck.

Even though the US stopped using the M3A1 Scout Car by 1942, opting instead for the half-track variant, production continued until 1944. The Soviets grew particularly fond of the M3A1 Scout Car, and the Free French even found a use for them.

[Image Credits: Dustin May]

  • Devin

    There are, at last count, 10 engineers in my family.

    I have never once heard an engineer admit they were wrong.

    I have frequently heard stories about all the times they were right and totally embarrassed the guy who was wrong, however.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Part of the reason for dropping the White Scout Car was that Ford had a better idea.
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  • Toxic Avenger

    Designed by a committee and built by the lowest bidder, What could go wrong?