An extremely rare 1963 Scammell Scarab recovery vehicle which will be familiar to anyone who had the misfortune to break down in the Dartford Tunnel has been fully restored to its original 1963 condition and livery from a pile of bits.
507 YKL is one of two Scarabs built especially for use in the tunnel, and delivered to the Dartford Tunnel Joint Operating Committee for the opening of the first tunnel in 1963. They differed from standard Scarabs in having a twin-wheel rear axle, a ton of ballast in the nose for counterbalancing and, because this extra weight would otherwise make steering impossible, a bespoke low-ratio steering box. A Perkins 4203 engine was fitted which gave the Scarabs exceptional pulling power, but a top speed of just 20mph.
Scarabs were chosen for this role because the three-wheel layout meant they could turn through 180° within the tunnel bore. This was especially important before the second tunnel opened in 1980, as until then one tunnel handled traffic travelling in both directions.
Both Scarabs were finally withdrawn in 1993 and sent to a local scrapyard. Both, however, survive in preservation – 506 YKL was restored a few years ago and now lives in the Midlands, preserved in the later all-over yellow livery. In contrast, 507 had a rather more precarious life post-Dartford, being used at a preserved railway as a piece of equipment. After this it was dismantled for restoration, and while some work was done, interest waned. Salvation came in the shape of Sussex-based Scammell enthusiast Brian Carter, who acquired the dismantled vehicle in 2014 and with help from friend Brian Morley completed the restoration – a task which turned out to involve re-doing much of what had already been done.
The Scarab made its post-restoration debut at this year’s Historic Commercial Vehicle Society London to Brighton run, where it won the coveted Charles Banfield trophy for the Best Restoration carried out by an HCVS member of limited means. Some work remains to be done, including signwriting and refurbishment of the original Harvey Frost recovery dolly carried at the front – this, apparently, is next winter’s job.
For the full story of this restoration, see the July 2018 issue of our sister title Classic & Vintage Commercials, on sale now.