Scammel Scarab – it is not your ordinary semi-truck – it is a mechanical horse

Scammel Scarab – it is not your ordinary semi-truck – it is a mechanical horse

Pretty much everything that you ever buy at one point or another has been on a truck. Semi-trucks are just a crucial part of our civilization and economy and that is why manufacturers are constantly pushing for greater efficiency and performance. However, nowadays most semi-trucks look a bit similar, even though in history we had some pretty weird examples. Just look at the mechanical horse Scammell Scarab – one of the most bizarre-looking semi-trucks in the world.

Mechanical horse is its actual nickname. Back in the beginning of the 20th century rail companies in Great Britain had to use horse carriages for short distances. This, of course, is not very effective, but there were no trucks that were small enough to replace horses. In 1929 Karrier Colt was introduced – a three-wheeler truck, which was small enough to replace horse wagons and yet more efficient and easier to maintain.

Scammel Mechanical Horse, manufacturer in 1934-1948, had a wooden cabin. (Hugh Llewelyn, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Karrier Colt was called a mechanical horse because of its role in pulling trailers. It wasn’t very stable or fast, but rail companies didn’t really care for these characteristics. However, in 1930 a new improved three-wheeler semi-truck Karrier Cob was introduced and a bit later Napier & Son Company designed an even better mechanical horse and sold the design to the famous truck manufacturer Scammell.

British Railways made full use of impressive manoeuvrability of the Scarab. (Don O’Brien, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

And so in 1934 Scammell started manufacturing its own Mechanical Horse. Its front wheel could turn 360 degrees, which gave the truck unprecedented manoeuvrability. The automatic hitch mechanism received a lot of compliments from people who were working with these machines, because it allowed quick change of semi-trailers. This tiny truck had a wooden cabin which, at the beginning of the production, didn’t even have doors. Buyers could choose from two versions – the 1125 cc engine could tow 3 tons while the 2043 cc engine had a 6 ton towing capacity.

Scammell Scarab was not very powerful and its semi-trailers were not big either – up to 6 tons. (Supermac1961, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Scammell Mechanical Horse was widely used by rail companies, postal service and even military, which used the little truck in its warehouses as well as on aircraft carriers. However, the Mechanical Horse had disadvantages, the most obvious of which was the high centre of gravity. The engine was mounted in a very high position and off-centre to the left, which made the truck behave differently when turning left or right. These problems were addressed in 1948 when a new version, called the Scarab, was introduced.

The automatic hitch was one of the most important innovations of the Scarab. (BazzaDaRambler, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Scarab had a fully metal cabin, stronger frame and the 2 litre engine now used in both versions was installed lower and closer to the centre of the chassis. Scarab could reach about 32 km/h, which was more than adequate, because it was unmatched for its manoeuvrability. It even retained the front wheel, which could turn 360 degrees. Most importantly, Scammell Scarab was reliable and easy to maintain, because the engine was very easy to reach. Companies didn’t baby these machines – they were working hard and working very well.

The engine and transmission were easilly accessible at the rear of the semi-truck. (Andrew Bone, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Eventually, after 19 years of production it was time to replace the Scarab. In 1967 Scammell introduced the Townsman – a new three-wheeler semi-truck with a glass fibre body. It looked completely different and could reach 80 km/h. However, despite how modern the Townsman looked the history of the mechanical horse was over – its production ended in 1968 because of new regulations for semi-trucks.

Royal Air Force used Scarabs too. (Roland Turner, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the period of 1934-1968 Scammell sold over 30 thousand mechanical horses. Scarab, of course, was the most successful model. Sadly, there are not many Scarabs surviving till this day. This happened because they were used as tools and scrapped when they were done. No one protected them because no one thought they would become valuable museum pieces someday. However, it is a very interesting machine and little weird piece in the puzzle of the history of the semi-trucks.

This is how the more modern Scammell Townsman looked like. (Mikey, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.0)

Goliath GD 750 – three-wheeler truck with a tiny engine was more useful than you’d think

Goliath GD 750 – three-wheeler truck with a tiny engine was more useful than you’d think

Truck is a very important tool for many businesses around the world. In fact, for many businessmen it is difficult to imagine smooth operations and success in a competitive market without a truck. But in some periods in history trucks were difficult to purchase. That is why Goliath GD 750 could be considered one of the saviours of smaller German businesses after WW2.

Goliath company was established in Bremen in 1928. The company made its name by manufacturing small three-wheeler cars and some of them were quite successful. In 1931 Goliath introduced the Pioneer, which became one of the most successful cars in its class. Several thousands of them were sold without much effort. However, as you may imagine, the war paused the car industry. But even after it ended Germany did not look too good.

There were many different body modifications of the Goliath GD 750, but all of them could carry no more than 750 kg os weight. (Wouter Duijndam, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

When WW2 was over, people were lacking many things, including hope and economic resources. As years went by, things began looking better and businesses started needing tools for further development. And that is how in 1949 Goliath introduced the new kind of truck – GD 750. It was an affordable small truck with one wheel in the front and a more conventional driven axle in the rear.

Goliath GD 750 today looks tiny, but it was a useful tool back in the 1950’s. (Lothar Spurzem, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0 de)

GD 750 was essentially a pickup truck, but it was also sold as a van. It was what small businesses and farmers needed – an affordable means of transporting goods. Standard GD 750 had a 398 cc two stroke two cylinder engine, which was driving rear wheels through a 4-speed manual gearbox. This tiny engine (it is a truck, after all) produced 14 hp, which was enough to get to around 50 km/h. Presumably, top speed suffered if you loaded your truck too heavy. However, a little more expensive version had a 465 cc engine, which made 15 hp and allowed the GD 750 to reach 55 km/h.

Less than a hundred of these van version were made. (RudolfSimon, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

A simple pickup truck version of the GD 750 was the most popular, but there were 26 different body options. Stores opted for vans and farmers chose special trucks for carrying cattle. Limited power meant that the maximum load ingcapacity was just 750 kg, hense the name of the truck.

The interior was very simple – GD 750 was a tool and not a luxury vehicle. (Eckhard Henkel, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

Goliath GD 750 cost around 3.6-4.4 thousand Deutsche marks. It really did spread through the West Germany – around 30 thousand trucks were made until 1955 when the production ceased. In 1958 the Goliath brand also disappeared from the map.

Today GD 750 is just a cool vintage vehicle people restore and keep in their collections. (AlfvanBeem, Wikimedia)

Interestingly, Goliath GD 750 now is a valuable collector’s item. Not many survived until today, because people of the period did not value these old trucks. Those who have driven it say that it was actually quite stable, especially if it had more weight at the back, but very slow – 50 km/h is not really the speed modern pickup trucks max out at.

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