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Caterpillar celebrate 25 years of Backhoe Loaders in style (Top blogs revisited)

Digger Blogger | 19:54, Thu January 06 2011

Here is another chance for old and new readers to catch up on another one of my favourite Digger blog posts from last year.

On 10th September 2010, Caterpillar held a special weekend of events to celebrate the 25th anniversary of backhoe loader production at the Desford assembly plant in Leicester.

Around 170 VIP guests consisting of customers, sales personnel and press from all over Europe and America attended a gala dinner on Friday evening at the visitor's centre, which was transformed into a top class dining venue for the night.

This part of the evening ended with the silver painted 444E, affectionately known as "Sylvia", cutting the cake with a specially adapted knife which was fitted to the backhoe.

This stunning silver machine is 01 of 25 special edition models which have been produced to celebrate this amazing milestone. The machine has recently returned from a European tour stopping off in Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland and Serbia to name a few.

Guests were then treated to demonstration show with a twist outside on the demo plot. It was a stunning performance, based on a Star Wars theme, complete with lights, pyrotechnics, a squad of storm troopers and of course a cast of backhoe loader models from the past to the present.

The team should be very proud of their efforts in putting on such a spectacle.

After the performance we were all invited down from the grandstand to take photos and get up close and personal with "Sylvia".

The very first model of Cat backhoe loader built at Leicester was the 416 in 1985. The machine, which was primarily aimed at the American market, was a centre mount version and was co-developed by a design team in Peoria, Illinois and the manufacturing team in Desford.

The first model to be aimed at the UK market was the A series 428 (1985-1989), which was aggressively marketed using the slogan "It's not just a backhoe loader it's a Cat"

In this photo you can see the 428 with examples lined up in chronological order behind from the B series (1989-1996), C series (1996-2001), D series (2001-2006, and E series (2006-present).

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Since those early days Caterpillar has sold nearly a quarter of a million backhoe loaders worldwide. Impressive figures when one considers that back then Caterpillar had built a reputation for building big earthmoving kit, and at that time these backhoe loaders were the smallest products in their range.

On Saturday, around 50 guests, primarily from overseas, remained to attend one of the most popular events at the visitors centre, "operator stick time", where you are invited to try out the machines in a real life scenario on the extensive demo plot.

I took the opportunity to have a go at the T-bar challenge on a 432E model just for fun, and tried out some digging on the 434E.

This menacing looking black prototype model was the "baddie" in the Friday night show as it battled it out with the silver machine in a classic good versus evil storyline!

Our visit culminated in a trip to watch the Caterpillar sponsored reigning English champions, Leicester Tigers, take on newly promoted Exeter Chiefs in an Aviva premiership rugby league match. The Tigers won 37-27 but not before Exeter had given them an almighty fright in the first half!

"Sylvia" was also on display on Saturday, outside the Cat Stand.

Digger would like to thank all our friends at Caterpillar for giving us such excellent hospitality, in particular Fleur Foster, Simon Hill, Roy Vinden, and Adrian Forrester.    

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