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Refurbishing a 60-year-old wheeled loader

Digger Blogger | 09:00, Thu October 29 2020

Liebherr has restored one of the first wheeled loader prototypes from the company’s early years.

The LSL 1500 is a Liebherr shovel prototype from the early 1960s; it is the oldest preserved Liebherr wheeled loader in existence.

Liebherr has invested about 650 working hours in the restoration of the vintage loader, which is now used as an exhibition piece in the Liebherr Bischofshofen factory in Austria.

“When developing wheel loaders, we deal with the latest technologies and trends on a daily basis. However, we also respect our roots. And this wheel loader here shows that Liebherr was getting innovative machine concepts off the ground even six decades ago,” says Martin Gschwend, managing director of the Liebherr Bischofshofen plant.

There were only ever five of these LSL 1500 machines made and this is believed to be the only remaining example.

It began its working life at a gravel factory in the Biberach area of Germany – Liebherr’s heartland. It arrived at the Fried-Sped logistics company in Ummendorf sometime around 1980, where it worked for 20 years.

Liebherr took it back at the beginning of the 2000s but only this year began the full restoration. The ravages of time, particularly in the form of rust and frost damage, had taken their toll on the machine.

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The project began in the spring of 2020 at the Liebherr Bischofshofen plant. Each individual part, right down to the very last screw, was refurbished.

It proved a useful training exercise as well as a labour of love. “Several apprentices worked on the restoration. For them, this was a rare opportunity to observe and understand the technology of earlier times,” says Andreas Scharler, who ran the factory’s repair centre for many years.

Liebherr began experimenting with wheeled loaders in the 1950s. Its first two prototypes, the Elephant and the Mammoth, had to cope with increased tyre wear and modest traction.

By the early 1960s, the LSL 1500 proved a more reliable prototype, weighing around 10 tonnes and with 108 horsepower. It had a rigid frame and hydraulically supported rear-wheel steering – a luxury for the time. The load transmission was achieved by a torque converter and a four-wheel drive, which could optionally be switched off.

The new kinematics provided a dumping height of around three metres and allowed for the loading of construction site vehicles with larger side heights. The operator’s platform was still open at that time but an all-weather cover with sewn-in transparent windows could be added to create a rudimentary cabin. Heating was also available.




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