Welcome to the restoration of my M3A1 SCOUT CAR which was built by the White Motor Company in 1942. Overall, 20,918 Scout Cars were produced between 1940-1944 in 8 batches or ‘lots’, this M3A1 was from production lot 5. I believe this particular Scout Car was used by the French Army after the war until it was decommissioned in the late 70’s and presumably parked up ever since. Unfortunately during that time the Scout Car was used as donor project for another rebuild so there are a lot of parts missing, making the restoration a real challenge. Please look through the blog to see the restoration progress and keep coming back for regular updates.
The front axle on the M3A1 Scout Car shares a lot of similarities too a GMC CCKW front split axle, which makes sourcing parts for the overhaul a lot easier than the rear axle.
I started by draining the oil from the axle which came out looking as good as it went in 30-40 years ago! With the M3A1 Scout Car you have to remove the half shafts / CV joints to allow you to remove the brake drums. Once the drum is removed you can then unbolt the brake backing plate with everything attached. The steering knuckle can then be split apart, after removing the king pin bearing caps. It was clear that the front axle had been rebuilt by the French army at some point as all of the bearings had been changed to a French variant. Everything appears to be in very good order and after a ton of degreaser everything cleaned up well. I will need to order some seals and brake parts to complete the rebuild.
The original fuel pump was still on the engine block when I removed it from the chassis. It doubles up as a fuel pump and a vacuum pump and is driven off of the cam shaft.
After sitting for many years, the pump inside was in a pretty sorry state. Corrosion had built up inside and seized all of the valves. Even the diaphragms crumbled to bits when handled to remove them.
After a session in the blast cabinet, the body and caps came up nicely. I initially ordered an original rebuild kit for the fuel pump which I was only able to use half of as the diaphragms included were not suitable for modern fuel. I then found another kit from LWD Parts which made from modern materials and allowed me to complete the rebuild.
One of the parts I knew I would struggle to find were the windscreen wiper motors for the M3A1 Scout Car. I have seen the odd pair come up for sale, although prices seem to start around $1000 which is just madness!
Gery, from Belgium, came forward with a set of NOS wiper motors at a much more sensible price and a deal was done. I know I could have used some easier to source wiper motors from various WW2 vehicles although the vacuum pipe connection is always on the wrong side and being right in front of you when driving it’s those details that always catch your eye.
Whilst stripping the truck down I was impressed that the M3A1 Scout Car used a disk brake style system for the handbrake. A disk, similar to one found on any modern car, is bolted between the prop shaft and transfer box. The brake pads then clamp the disk when the handbrake lever is applied in the cab. It is all controlled by rods which look in perfect condition.
After an initial sandblast the hand brake mechanism looked in great shape, apart from the pads which were worn down to the rivets! Every thing came apart nicely which was a relief, with all of the bronze bushings and steel pins showing very little signs of wear.
I managed to pick up a new set of NOS pads, which I think are a French copy from the late 40’s – 50’s, although the rivets which came with them were wrong, the pads themselves were perfect.
Once the pads were riveted in place it was just a case of a few layers of paint and the re-assemble. There are quite a few adjusting points on the pads handbrake to make sure the pads run true to the disk and that there is not too much free play in the lever. I can only set this up once the mechanism is back in the truck.
I always knew the tyres would be a tricky item to find as not many manufacturers produce the odd 8.25 – 20 size that the M3A1 Scout Car uses, particularly in a bar tread pattern. Luckily a tip-off by my friend, Kevin, came good with a French company, Lys-Tout-Terrain, having listed a fresh batch for sale. They are brand new and made by a company called Speed Way Tyres. I’m looking forward to getting theses mounted and on the Scout!
The voltage regulator sits proud on the firewall of the M3A1 Scout Car and is in plain sight when the bonnet is lifted. It’s items like these that I always like to pay special attention to when restoring, particularly with detailing as they are lovely bits of eye candy to break up the olive drab seen everywhere else. The voltage regulator was, mechanically, in great condition and tested fine, aesthetically though it looked as if it had been kicked around a barn floor for 30 years! I started by stripping what was left of the original paint and then used a fine wet and dry to sand the rust back from the data tag, but trying to keep the detail as best I could. Once prepared, I used a VHT wrinkle finish paint to match the original finish and then a green enamel based paint for the tag. The original cadmium plating on the terminal box could not be saved so I used a Frosts cadmium effect spray which turned out reasonably well although a tad blue perhaps! Looking forward to bolting this gem on to the bulkhead!
After being sandblasted and primed, I noticed one of the damper units had suffered a lot more corrosion than the others. So much so, that oil fill plug had been completely eroded away. The plugs have a taller head than a standard bolt so I decided to repair the existing one rather than replace with something that didn’t match the original design.
I started by extracting what was left of the original bolt by welding a nut on to the end of the corroded lump. Once removed, the nut was cut off and then the end of the thread faced in a lathe to create a flat surface. I found a nut in the scrap bin which matched the hex size and had plenty of height to match the original plug. This was then cut to size and brazed onto the original piece of thread. Once screwed in it now matches the other 3 damper units perfectly!
I am intending on restoring my M3A1 Scout Car to how it would have been under British command. As my ditching roller had already been removed when I bought the project it seemed to make even more sense to go with this decision as they were often removed by the British Army during WW2. After looking over original photos I noticed that the British Army removed the standard Guide headlamps and replaced them with a single black out light on one wing. Whilst at auto-jumble in Ciney, Belgium, I spotted a blackout light made by a British firm called Butlers, it was in great original condition and will be perfect for my British restoration.
Orignal photos sourced by Nick Thomas via M3A1 Scout Car appreciation group on Facebook.
The keen eyed amongst you may have spotted that in the first post showing photos of the M3A1 Scout being collected there were two different types of wheels on the truck. On one side there are the standard late style split rim wheels seen on most M3A1 Scout Cars and on the other side are the early banded rims. I knew sourcing two more of either rim was going to be a challenge but luckily the “Facebook Appreciation Group for M3A1 Scout Cars” came through! A great Italian guy, called Antonio, posted having a pair of early rims for sale which had previously been fitted to a Halftrack. A deal was struck and we agreed to meet in Belgium, at the Ciney Military Fair, which was a great opportunity for me to continue the search for even more parts!
The past few weekends have been spent sandblasting parts of the M3A1 Scout Car. As to be expected, there is a fair amount of corrosion on all of the parts, which can’t be properly cleaned back with just an angle grinder and a cup brush. I mention sandblasting, but it’s actually a crushed glass media which we are using. It cuts quick but makes a mega mess, as to be expected, and covers you from head to toe in dust! Once blasted, the parts come up good as new and after a quick prime, to stop any flash rusting, they are ready to be further stripped down or repaired if required. Cheers to Noz for the use of his blasting kit!