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Priestman Caribou rare archive photos

Digger Blogger | 14:58, Sun December 11 2011

I recently came across a photo of an unusual product that was made by Priestman Brothers Ltd in the 1950’s. The shot was posted by Fred Evans on the Classic Machinery Network website and it inspired me to delve a little deeper to find out more about the mobile crane/dragshovel.

When I want to know more about Priestman machines, I always contact my good friend Bill Bromwich, who worked for Priestman Brothers Ltd in Hull for many years, primarily in the marketing and public relations department; the man is a font of knowledge for all things Priestman related. So I asked Bill to tell me more about the Caribou. 

Like so many Priestman products the Caribou was named after a wild animal - the Caribou being the North American name for a reindeer. Other animal themed Priestman products included the Beaver, Cub, Wolf, Tiger, Lion and my old favourites the Mustang range of hydraulic excavators.

Bill commented, “We designed and built the Caribou specifically for the Canadian market, as an initial attempt to get into North America. Competition in the US was fierce and they were not exactly enamoured with the quality of British goods at the time, so the plan was to give Canada a wheel mounted crane dragline/grab combination for rapid transit between sites, eliminating the need for heavy low loaders”  

The superstructure was a well tried and tested unit, the Wolf IIIB that had been on the market for some years and during that time had proved itself to be very reliable. The chassis was initially UK built but eventually Priestman had to supply anything that the customers wanted, in many instances the customers would mount the machines onto North American trucks, one of the most popular being the Mack, as seen in another photo from Dutch company Huss Ltd.

This Caribou example, which was owned by Dutch civil engineering company Huss Ltd, has become stuck on a boggy site in Holland sometime in the 1950’s

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Bill continued, “the dragshovel version gave us initial geometry problems at the start, due to the fact that the superstructure was higher than on the crawler Wolf models, so everything had to be re-designed to avoid damage to the chassis by the bucket. The machine did extraordinarily well, and we sold about 60 machines in a 9 month period, if my memory serves me well”

In this Dutch shot we once again see a Caribou mounted on a Mack 6x6 truck and fitted with a grab creating a pond around 1963.

The Caribou was a big hit with the Thames River Authority, as it gave them great mobility around the Thames basin as jobs arose.

The marketing team at Priestman Brothers Ltd made a full colour film with commentary about the Caribou back in the day, which Bill has recently made into a DVD and is proving to be a good seller. Other titles of DVD have also been produced including The Lion Crane, Mustang 90 wheeled excavator, Mustang 120 tracked excavator and the VC15. These have proven to be very popular as they show classic footage of the old Hedon Road production works in Hull, with many old factory employees recognising themselves in the footage!

The Digger Blog would like to thank Fred Evans, Bill Bromwich, and Huss Ltd for kind use of material used in the compilation of the post.

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