Technology

Apr 1, 2015

British Heavy Machinery

1945. Britain is just coming out of six years of world war and times are tough. Joseph Cyril Bamford begins business in a rented lock-up garage in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, using a second-hand welding set and some surplus military equipment to make tipping trailers for farmers to hitch to the new generation of petrol-driven tractors.

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Joe's pioneering spirit, huge capacity for hard work and flair for invention see him through these early years and by 1947 he moves to larger premises and has three employees. Mr JCB quickly goes from two-wheel to four-wheel trailers, then adding hydraulics to create the very first and revolutionary four-wheel tipping trailers, in 1948.

In 1949, J C Bamford introduces a machine that proves to be one of the most important of all early JCB models: the Major Loader, which is designed to bolt onto a Fordson 'Major' tractor. Later developed for a range of popular tractor manufacturers, it sells in its thousands.

By the end of 1950, the company is again looking to relocate to bigger premises and moves to a former cheese-making facility in nearby Rocester, where JCB is still based to this day.

On a sales trip to Norway in 1952, Joseph Bamford sees a rudimentary backhoe, realises its potential and is inspired to develop the JCB Mk1 Excavator; essentially a Fordson tractor with hydraulic excavator at the rear, Major Loader at the front and optional cab. The JCB backhoe loader is born. This is also a landmark year in the company's history, as machines start to appear in the famous JCB yellow, followed in 1953 by the company logo. Two other key machines are introduced in this period: the Si-Draulic Loader, a single arm unit with high lift and forward reach, and the Loadover Wheeled Loader, with a bucket that travelled over the top of the driver - only two were made!

Building on the success of 1960's JCB 4 backhoe loader, which replaced the Hydra-Digga Loadall, in 1961 the JCB 3 sets more trends with the ability to dig tight up against a wall. In 1963, another giant step is taken with the 3C. An acknowledged design classic, the 3C comes packed with innovations, including an integrated chassis and sideways sliding excavator assembly that gives a clear view down the trench. The following year sees the launch of JCB's first crawler excavator, the JCB 7.

In 1971, the company develops the JCB 110 hydrostatic crawler loader, a product truly ahead of its time which goes on to win the Design Council Award. By now new models are coming out each year and JCB is one of the UK's largest engineering and manufacturing companies, with a turnover of £40 million.

A brand new concept, the pioneering 520 telescopic handler, takes the industry by storm in 1977 and leads ultimately to the development of the hugely successful Loadall range. In 1978 sales stand at £84 million with £6 million ring fenced for building initiatives, including the new JCB transmissions factory.

After four years in development and £12 million invested, the world's first genuine high-speed, full-suspension draught tractor, the JCB Fastrac, is launched, revolutionising tractor design.

The year 2000 begins with the opening of the World Parts Centre in Rocester, a new factory in Brazil and the start of backhoe loader production in Savannah. In 2003, JCB assume full control of operations in India and the Defence Division lands its biggest contract yet: 150 4CXMs sold to the British Army.

As the company celebrated its 60th anniversary, it concluded the purchase of German firm Vibromax Compaction Equipment, work begins on the China plant and the Perkins power unit in the 3CX and 4CX is replaced with JCB's very own 444 engine. In 2006, a car powered by two of these engines reaches a speed of 317.021mph (510.196kph) on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, to take the world landspeed record for a diesel-powered car.

JCB reaps the ultimate reward for all its pioneering manufacturing efforts over the previous 68 years as it produces its millionth machine in May 2013. Amazingly, if all these machines were parked end-to-end, they would stretch from the UK to Australia. The actual millionth machine is a JS220 tracked excavator in a commemorative silver paint scheme.

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