Company marks 60th anniversary of iconic backhoe loader and announces heater system innovation
JCB have celebrated the 60th anniversary of their iconic backhoe machine. Company founder Joseph Cyril Bamford invented the concept of the backhoe and the first JCB model was manufactured in 1953 after he combined a lightweight backhoe with a major Loadall tractor loader.
It created, for the first time, a single machine which combined a front shovel and rear excavator arm. The company has gone on to manufacture the backhoes in the UK, India and Brazil, and to date more than half a million JCB backhoe loaders have rolled off production lines around the world.
From the early JCB Mark 1 backhoe, the concept developed rapidly with the launch of the Hydra-Digger in 1956 and the more powerful and heavier JCB 4 in 1960. Today, backhoe loaders are the fourth most popular machine in terms of global plant equipment sales, despite the evolution of new and competitive products over the past 60 years.
According to JCB, the iconic backhoe is the biggest selling model in the world – and has been for 13 consecutive years, dominating the market it created.
JCB chairman Lord Bamford said: ‘It is staggering to think that it’s 60 years since we produced the first JCB backhoe. The increasing versatility and innovation associated with this machine has been unrelenting and that is something that will continue apace in the future.’
Tim Burnhope, JCB’s chief innovation and growth officer, said: ‘The backhoe loader is not 60 years old, it’s 60 years young and this iconic machine has only just started its journey. The JCB backhoe will continue to develop and grow. It is a concept that has much to offer going forwards.
‘It is a hugely important machine and in the next few years we will see the backhoe loader develop rapidly as a powerful and versatile tool carrier. Because of this versatility, it is far more than just a digging machine and our customers are starting to reinvent the backhoe loader for themselves, based on what it can offer as a tool carrying machine.’
Over the last six decades JCB have continually developed and enhanced the backhoe concept. The company was first with turbocharged engines, powershift transmissions, four-wheel drive and extending dipper arms, all leading to increased performance and productivity. The concept has also broadened in scope, to include everything from a compact skid-based 1CX, through the all-wheel steer 2CX, the ever-popular 3CX to the equal-wheel 4CX, and most recently the powerful 5CX models.
One of the most exciting developments came with the unveiling of the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE). It is said to be the world’s fastest backhoe loader, travelling at up to 55mph on both roads and cross-country, with a crew-protection variant, enabling operators to have logistics capabilities in front patrols.
With the recent temperatures plunging to below zero and the first icy blast of winter strikes, JCB have announced that a new system is now available on its backhoe loaders that automatically heats the cab and engine before the operators start work on the machines.
Mr Burnhope explained: ‘This is another fantastic innovation on JCB’s backhoe loaders that will allow operators to simply get in and drive, without having to defrost windscreens or warm through the engine. As well as providing greater comfort for the operator it will cut downtime and boost productivity for the customer.’
The system is available as an option on JCB’s 3CX and 4CX backhoe loaders and can be activated using a 24h timer, with up to three pre-set start times, or manually through a switch in the cab. The heater can also be used manually throughout the day when the machine is not in use, maintaining a comfortable working environment for the driver.
It works by using a water heater that is integrated into the engine’s coolant circuit. The water heater unit automatically runs a safety check before heating, prior to starting an integrated diesel-fuelled burner. Atomized fuel is sprayed into the combustion chamber and ignited with a high-tension spark.
The hot combustion gases flow through a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat to the engine coolant system. This thermal energy is forwarded to the cab through the machine’s ventilation outlets, with residual warmth remaining in the engine. As the heater is electronically and thermostatically controlled, it works intermittently, only burning for the amount of time required to reach the desired temperature.
The heater system is not just intended as a comfort option for the driver. According to JCB, it removes the requirement for an engine block heater in colder climates and extends engine life by reducing engine cold starts. As the heater runs off the machine’s own fuel supply, there is no requirement for additional tanks or storage. There is also no need for an external power supply, as with an electric block heating system, so the machine can be left in remote areas overnight.
The heater consumes 0.27-0.62 litres/h of fuel, making this a low-cost option for customers. The pre-heater is available as an option for all two-wheel steer and four-wheel steer 3CX and 4CX models. It also incorporates a self-diagnostic function to ensure trouble-free running.