Scammell Lorries Limited was a British manufacturer of trucks, particularly specialist and military off-highway vehicles, between 1921 and 1988.
Scammell started as a late-Victorian period wheelwright and coach-building business, G Scammell & Nephew Ltd in Spitalfields, London. George Scammell, the founder, was joined by his nephew Richard and Richard's sons Alfred and James. By the early 1900s, the firm had become financially 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 World War I 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 (7.4 long tons; 8.3 short tons) payload legally at 12 miles per hour (19 km/h), rather than being limited to 5 mph.
Scammell started production of the 7.5-ton 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 6×4 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 Pioneer proved popular in the oil field and forestry (logging) markets, and formed the basis of the British Army's World War II R100 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.
Smart, whose real name was Stanley, was the tenth child and third son of Billy Smart Sr. His father was a showman and fairground proprietor, who bought a circus in 1946. He would travel with the Circus and go to local schools when at a location for a lengthy period. One school was 'All Saints' at Blackheath, London in 1958, the heath being a popular location for the circus. The first appearance of the Billy Smart circus was on 5 April at Southall Park in Middlesex. The circus toured alongside Smart's funfair; the tents blew down and the circus carried out its performances for two days in the open air. Smart made his circus debut with "Billy Smart's New World Circus" as assistant ringmaster aged 12. He was soon performing with ponies and horses, but became best known later for his elephant acts. In one famous incident, he tamed a herd of performing elephants when they stampeded in the ring. At its peak, Billy Smart's four-masted Big Top could hold over 6,000 people, with a show including hundreds of animals and performers.
Smart, together with his brothers, Ronald Smart and David Smart, took over management of the circus when their father died in 1966 at Ipswich. The circus ceased touring in 1971, but televised performances continued until 1983, drawing audiences of up to 22 million at its height. The Smart Brothers also developed Guernsey Zoo, selling it in 1972, and opened Windsor Safari Park in 1969 before selling it in 1977, for the equivalent of £30m in 2017 (it is now the site of Legoland Windsor). He lost the sight in his right eye in 1978 after cosmetic surgery severed the optic nerve, ending his career as an animal trainer.
In 1985, the Smart circus Winkfield winter quarters were sold for the equivalent of £20m in 2017.
The "Billy Smart's" touring circus was revived by his brother Ronald and nephew Gary in 1993, but Smart concentrated on a second career as a property developer, based in Spain.