Scammell Gritter

The beginnings of the motorway network created a need for the means to keep them free of snow and ice during winter months. Following the opening of the first section of the M1 motorway, the Ministry of Transport produced a specification for gritters, which was sent to various manufacturers in 1959.

The requirement was for an 8x6 chassis with a forward control steel cab. An Atkinson Agricultural Appliances Ltd, Clitheroe, Lancs spreader body was to be used. Plated weight was 24 tons.

This coincided with the opening of a new department at Scammell; Unit Construction. Headed by Ken Simonds, the Unit Construction department was conceived to make as much use of the group products, which had been available since the Leyland take-over of Scammell in 1955.

At the time, the only forward control Scammell cab available was the new Routeman Mk1 cab, which was plastic. With insufficient time available to develop a new cab, a compromise was offered to, and accepted by, the Ministry. This involved setting the engine as far back in the chassis as possible, creating the snub-nosed appearance.

A new steel cab was built and the bonnet section taken from the Highwayman design. The unusual sloping windscreens were intended to prevent the build up of snow on the glass and thus improve visibility.

A huge front crossmember and box-frame was designed to carry the front bogie and plough mounting brackets. This needed to be strong enough to withstand the shocks that would be created by a lowered plough blade hitting any uneven ridges or raised surfaces at speed.

The front axle was Scammell's spiral bevel and epicyclic axle with the drive transmitted through constant velocity joints to the steered wheels. This was the axle already used in the Constructor. The second axle, which was load carrying only, also steered and was the Leyland axle used on the Octopus. The rear bogie was from the Constructor. This provided the 8x6 configuration, possibly for the first time. All four axles were braked using a dual system.

Leyland's 680 engine provided the power, driving through Scammell's six-speed gearbox coupled to a two-speed transfer box as used on the Scammell Super Constructor.

A sign of the times is that although only conceived in 1959, the first chassis cab was ready for testing in December of that year and the first completed lorry with the body was photographed during testing at Hendon Aerodrome in February 1960.

Only seven gritters were produced by Scammell, all of them by the Unit Construction department at Watford. The bulk of the Ministry of Transport order being fulfilled by Atkinson.

From my article in Classic and Vintage Commercials, April 2007.