Mechanical Horse
Heritage Commercials|March 2017

In their way, they changed the history of road haulage and for the most part have been seen as a small element of British road transport, but the three-wheel tractor made a huge contribution to the economical and effective haulage of road freight. Mike & Julie Blenkinsop look at their history and meet a man who doesn’t miss that fourth wheel!

Mike & Julie Blenkinsop

In Victorian and Edwardian England, local cartage was dominated by a four legged equine animal until the 1930s, when it was replaced by its petrol powered successor, the ‘Mechanical Horse’.

It must have been the marketing name of the decade; to come up with a suitable description which epitomises the actions of the device, but also a name that would trip off the tongue for nearly a century. The term ‘Mechanical Horse’ deserved an award.

For a glimpse into the world of three wheeled truck ownership, we met up with David Warren, his wife Alison, his kids, Matthew and Adam, and his parents, at the annual road run known as the Tyne Tees. The run, the biggest single gathering of commercial vehicles in the north east of England, starts from Stockton-on-Tees on the first Sunday morning of June, passing through rural parts of Durham and ending up at South Shields a few hours later; it was in Bent’s Park that we caught up with the family, deck chairs placed, enjoying the blue sky and gentle North Sea breeze.

David has had his Scammell Scarab for 13 years. Although the plate would lead you to believe that it was born in 1964, it hides its age well, as it is really a 1958 model despite its 1964 suffix ‘B’ plate. It had spent its early life in the protected environment of the Leyland factory, working as a shunter. It acted as a ‘gopher’ running around the interior, picking up trailers and distributing them around the factory.

When you own a Scarab, the great temptation is to restore it into the most popular and well-remembered livery of its type, that of British Railways, but David has great reservations about this, as, although not a purist, he felt pulled towards putting it back into its original Leyland factory livery. It currently is in the colours of the Scammell demonstrator which he saw on a works film from the 1950s. For the moment, the little Scarab sports a generally white/ivory finish with red detailing and is pulled along by a Perkins 4.203 diesel engine, mounted longitudinally behind the driver’s cab. The milometer shows 6,079 miles, which is entirely feasible knowing its works history. The radiator sits where you would expect to find the vehicle’s fuel tank.

With protection from the HCVS northeast marshals looking after safety on the Tyne-Tees run, we were allowed special permission, during a refreshment break, to move the Scarab to show its best features. A crowd gathered as this was now the only vehicle on the park which was moving.

AUTOMATIC COUPLING

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