Scammell started as a late-Victorian period wheelwright and coach-building business, G Scammell & Nephew Ltd in Spitalfields, London. GeorgeScammell, the founder was joined by his nephew Richard and Richard's sons, Alfred and James. By the early 1900's, the firm had become fiancially stable, providing maintenance to customers of Foden steam wagons. One such customer, Edward Rudd, had imported a Knox Automobile tractor from the United States, and impressed with its low weight/high hauling power had asked Scammell if they could make a similar model of their own.
However, the outbreak of war in 1914 stopped the project and presented itself as a turning point in road transport history. Mechanical transport was seen to work, proving its vast potential beyond doubt to forward-thinking companies such as Scammell. George Scammell's great nephew, Lt Col Alfred Scammell, was injured and invalided out of the army, and he was able to apply the practical experience he had gained during the war and began developing the articulated six wheeler. Percy G Hugh, chief designer, conceived the idea and at the 1920 Commercial Motor Show 50 orders were taken for the new design. The vehicle's very low axle weight allowed it to carry 7.5 tonnes (8.3 tons) payload legally at 12 miles per hour (19 km/h), rather than being limited to 5mph.
Scammell started production of the 7.5ton articulated vehicle in 1920. Needing to move to new premises, Scammell & Nephew floated a new company, Scammell Lorries Ltd in July 1922, with Col Scammell as Managing Director. The new firm built a new factory at Tolpits Lane, Watford, next to Watford West railway station on the branch line from Watford Junction to Croxley Green. The original company remained in business in Fashion Street, Spitalfields refurbishing and bodybuilding until taken over in 1965 by York Trailer Co.
In 1929, Scammell designed and manufactured the "100 Tonner" low loader. Only two were produced; the first was delivered to Marston Road Services, Liverpool, for the transportation of steam engines to Liverpool docks. Scammell were also looking for new markets, and diversified into four- and six-wheel rigid (nonarticulated) designs. The 'Rigid Six-wheeler' found some success and, with its balloon tyres, at last permitted sustained high-speed, long-distance road operation.
In 1934, Scammell produced the three-wheeled 'Mechanical Horse', designed by Oliver North to replace horses in rail, postal and other delivery applications. This featured automatic carriage coupling and the single front wheel could be steered through 360 degrees. It was sold in three- and six-ton versions. The three-tonner was powered by a 1,125-cc side-valve petrol engine and the six-tonner by a 2,043-cc engine. Karrier had introduced a similar vehicle, the 'Cob', four years earlier.
From 1937, a Citroën Traction Avant-powered version was made under licence in France, by Chenard-Walcker-FAR, known as the 'Pony Mécanique'. This continued in production, in various versions, until 1970.
In the late 1940s, the 'Mechanical Horse' was superseded by the Scammell Scarab, with similar features, but a much less angular cab and now with a 2,090-cc, side-valve petrol engine in both models and a diesel version with a Perkins engine.
The company mainly concentrated on articulated and rigid eight-wheeler lorries, from the 1920s. One vehicle not in those lines that became well-known was the six-wheeled Pioneer. This was an off-highway, heavy haulage tractor first produced in 1927. It showed outstanding cross-country performance due to the design that included the patent beam bogie rear axle, with 2 feet (1 m) of vertical movement for each of the rear wheels. This design was the work of Oliver Danson North
The Scammell Pioneer was popular in the oil field and forestry (logging) markets, and formed the basis of the British Army's World War II 30-ton tank transporter. With the outbreak of war, development of new vehicles stopped and production concentrated on military Pioneers for use as artillery tractors, recovery and transporter vehicles.
Leyland Group subsidiary
Post war, foreign competition and rationalisation of the UK manufacturers led to Scammell coming under Leyland Motors Ltd in 1955. This provided access to ready-made compenents within the Leyland group, allowing the replacement of the "lightweight" range with the:
- Highwayman: bonneted 4x2
- Routeman: forward control 8-wheeler
- Handyman: forward control 4x2
Both the tractor units could be configured up to 50 tonnes (55 tons), and complemented by the full range of Scammell trailers made at the Moor Park works, allowed the company to continue production in specialist and military markets.
In the 1960s, Scammell contracted Michelotti to design its cabs, resulting in a series of Glass-reinforced plastic "spring"-like designs. The first to be redesigned was the Routeman, followed by the Handyman. In 1967, the 'Scarab' was replaced by the 'Townsman', which also had a GRP body. The factory also designed the 6x4 Contractor equipped with a Cummins 335 engine, Lipe clutch and Fuller semi-automiatic gearbox, that went into production in 1964. Offered with a choice of Leyland 24 tonne or Scammell 30 and 40 tonne bogies, the Contractor was popular in the UK for 240+ ton GTW operation, overseas heavy haul, and with the military for tank-transport.
In 1969 the 6x4 Crusader was introduced, designed as a high-speed, high-power tractor unit. Powered initially by a Rolls-Royce 305 engine, they were supplied to the MoD as plant tractors, enabled to do everything from recovery to tank transport. A commercial 4x2 version was developed, equipped with either Rolls-Royce 220 or 280, that proved so popular that production was moved to Guy Motors in Wolverhampton.
The 1970s started with a reorganisation of the Leyland Group, with heavy haul after the closure of the old Thorneycroft works in 1972 concentrated on the newly named Scammell Motors site at Watford. The Thorneycroft 6x4 'Nubian' heavy dumptruck was the first transfer inwards, regularly adapted for the military, followed by the lighter LD55 6x4 dumptruck.
In the late 1970s, the Contractor Mk2 was developed, together with the Commander Tank Transporter for the British Army. Fitted with the Rolls Royce CV12TCE 26 litre, 48 valve dual-turbocharged 625 hp intercooled V12 diesel engine, semi-automatic gearbox and Scammell 40 ton bogie, it was plated at 100 ton+ GTW. Desiged as part of the strategy to defend the West German border against a tank attack from the USSR, it hence was specified to have the same acceleration and braking performance as a contemporary commercial 32 tractor. Both tractors were brought into production within the newly built "moving line" construction shop, which gave Scammell a modern state-of-the-art factory. The Commander fleet came into operation in 1983.
In the late 1970s, Leyland Group decided to develop two new tractors: the overseas bonneted Landtrain; the UK forward control Roadtrain. Scammell was contracted to develop the Landtrain, which used the same cab and bonnet as the Commander replacement, the S24. Equipped with Cummins NT 350 or 400 engine, the S24 could be specified from 40 tonnes GVW to more than 200 tonnes GTW. Scammell also gained the contract to develop and build the eight-wheeled version of the Roadtrain, the 'Constructor8'. This also allowed Scammell to develop and produce the complementary S26 range of heavy-haul 4x2, 6x2 and 6x4 tractors, which was a parts-bin build from the Roadtrain and 24 components.
In 1986, Scammell tendered for the British Army hooklift DROPS tender, using the newly developed 8x6 variant of the S24. This was equipped with a Rolls-Royce 350 engine, ZF automatic gearbox and Kirkstall axles. However, shortly after winning the contract to supply 1522 such vehicles, Leyland group was bought by DAF of the Netherlands. DAF elected to build the S26 DROPS at the Leyland plant in Lancashire, and close the Watford factory.
DAF closed the plant in July 1988. It sold the site for redevelopment, and further sold the rights to manufacture (but no rights to the name or the premises)of the S24, Nubian, Crusader and Commander to Alvis Unipower who opened a new plant in West Watford, offering ongoing support and spare parts for Scammell vehicles.
Today the Tolpits Lane site is fully redeveloped as a combined housing estate, the Vale industrial estate, and a business park. Tennants include Camelot Group, the company that delivers the UK National Lottery.
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