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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Army Smartness: 1941

Army Smartness: 1941

December 1941. "White Motor Company, Cleveland. A halftrack scout car gets a touch-up job on the chassis assembly line. A durable finish protects the metal -- and helps to bring the vehicle up to Army standards of smartness." 4x5 negative by Alfred Palmer for the Office for Emergency Management. View full size.

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New used parts

Interesting that they covered the steering wheel center badge with paper to maybe protect it from getting scratched? The steering wheel looks well used but the odometer has no miles on it.

Speed Demon

When I was in the 3rd Armored Brigade in Germany, our tank element had an old M-3 as a "mascot" vehicle used to lead convoys. It had no problem staying out ahead of the M-60 tanks. Maybe not 80, but I sure saw it hauling butt in Grafenwohr.

From left to right

As they stick up in the air, the leftmost lever is for the PTO winch, and the lever being painted to its right (which bends around the parking brake) is the shifter for the 4 speed transmission. Next is the parking brake and on the other side of the transmission the lever to the left operates the High/Low transfer case which, when combined with the the 4 speed transmission, gave you 8 speeds forward and two in reverse. The last lever on the far right is to engage the front wheel drive.

The starter button—hidden here by the steering wheel—is in-between the instrument cluster and the speedometer. The button on the floor below the steering column is the foot dimmer switch. The round canister under the dash is an early radio noise suppression filter installed on radio-equipped vehicles in order to cut down on interference from the engine's ignition. This means that this particular halftrack had a "-S" after the registration number on the hood to indicate "Suppressed."

Built by White, Autocar, Diamond T, and later International Harvester, the halftracks came in more than 15 different configurations from the M2 to the M21.

Gear Pattern

Tank under the dash

Could the tank under the dashboard be for a gas fired heater?


I'm trying to figure out what all the levers and such probably do. The tallest knob is obviously the gearshift. To its left is a lever with a pushbutton release, which I'd guess is the parking brake. Still farther left is a lever with knob which might be to engage the front axle. On the right side are two coupled levers, which I am guessing operate the PTO. This is all speculation - anyone know for sure?

Gear jammin' son of a gun

I see a parking brake lever (goes with the shiny drive shaft brake disc), Gear selector lever, rear axle hi/lo selector, a lever to engage front wheel drive and one for ? The button below the steering column is a starter button. What I can’t figure out is what the small tank under the dash is for. Looking at the size of the clutch lever can you imagine what the clutch would have been like in this thing?

Outright Lying Speedometer

Forty-five MPH was the manufacturer's claim for the M-3 half track's top speed, but that would be under the most favorable of conditions, on a dry, hard surface, and probably minus weaponry and most of the ancillary equipment normally carried into combat.

I suspect that the rush to field much-needed systems meant that White used what they had on hand for such non-critical accessories as the speedometer. Presumably, they had previously manufactured at least one truck that, running downhill and unladen, might have approached 80 MPH ... just before the differential disassembled itself.

The finished product

Wow! Had to go back six years to see this.

Optimistic meter

An eighty MPH speedometer in a half-track -- really?

Bigger things to worry about

Apparently the White Motor Company produced 15,414 (more or less) half-tracks for the Department of War -- its name before eventually being rebaptised as the Department of Defense. Who knows what that particular chassis went through, but paint drips were no doubt the least of its worries.

Drips and drab

Olive drab isn't my idea of a smart color; but this picture is more than a decade older than I am and tastes change. Some say there is no accounting for it--taste that is.

No need to be concerned about those drips. They will all be concealed down the line when the floorboard is finished.

Good enough for government work

I guess back then, "smart" was another word for "sloppy"!

No points for neatness

At least he's keeping the drips off himself.


My goodness, that's a lot of levers to operate!

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