For those interested in statistics, the Keller brothers built seven loaders in 1957-58. In 1958-59, some 18 M60 Melroe loaders were built. Another 400 M200 Melroe loaders were built in 1959-60.
And of the world’s first skid-steer loader, the M400, there were 200 built from 1960 to 1962.
1962 marks the introduction of the M440 -- the first Bobcat-branded loader, white with red trim -- and two years later celebrates its 1000th loader. By 1969 the company builds its 10,000th loader.
Another decade later (1980) the company reaches its 100,000th loader milestone. In two more decades (2001), it hits the 500,000-loader mark. The growth was skyrocketing, and by 2008 the company celebrated number 750,000. Then in 2014 it hits the 1,000,000 loader milestone. Whew!
Over the course of six decades, from the first three-wheeled loader to today, there has been -- on average -- one Bobcat loader built every thirty minutes, every day, every week, every year.
However, since the 50th anniversary and 750,000th loader celebration in 2008, the pace is even more impressive: one loader built every 12.5 minutes!
Keller Loader, the first three-wheeled loader built by brothers Louis and Cyril Keller for Eddie Velo, a turkey farmer whose barns needed cleaning. The Keller Loader has a rear caster wheel and two drive wheels with an innovative clutch drive mechanism, and powered by a 6 hp Kohler engine. The Keller brothers build six more loaders at their Rothsay, Minnesota, machine shop before being introduced to the Melroe brothers in 1958.
The Melroe brothers invite the Kellers to demonstrate their loader at the Melroe farm equipment exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair. The loader is an instant hit, and before the fair was over the Melroes invite the Kellers to join them. After reaching a royalty agreement on their clutch drive design, the Kellers are hired to design a new loader and bring it to production at Melroe Manufacturing Company in Gwinner, North Dakota.
M60 Melroe self-propelled loader is an improved version of the Keller loader with a larger 9 hp engine and improved lift arm geometry, sometimes called the “grasshopper boom” design -- 17 are built.
M400 is adapted from the M200 by adding a rear axle. With four-wheel drive, it is the world’s first skid-steer loader. Some 200 M400s are built. What makes the skid-steer unique is the use of two independent transmissions that allow it to turn in its tracks. The new loader is 6 inches longer than the M200 and – with some tweaking – will eventually achieve a 70-30 front to rear weight ratio for optimal skid-steer performance.
M440 is the first Bobcat-branded skid-steer loader. With a 15.5 hp Kohler 2-cylinder engine, it has a rated capacity of 1100 lb. It is a totally new design, with the drive system enclosed in side tanks that feature an oil bath for lubrication. The design change allows the operator to enter the loader from the front.
M970 -- nicknamed “Big Bob” -- has a massive 3000 lb. rated capacity and choice of 78 hp Perkins diesel or Continental gas engine. It is, at the time, the largest skid-steer ever built and the first to use a hydrostatic drive system (vs. clutch drive), for tremendous pushing and digging power.
The M970 is also the first Bobcat loader to incorporate a lever-actuated attachment mounting device -- called the Bob-Tach® system when it is patented in 1972 -- instead of pin-on attachments. It is a defining moment, a change that spawns the attachment industry and makes the skid-steer loader what some call the “Swiss Army Knife” of construction equipment.
Mini-Bob, the smallest skid-steer ever built at just 3 ft. wide, is first shown to dealers in Chandler, Arizona.
Cyril Keller demonstrates the loader, which was developed in secret by his brother, Louis. It is introduced the following year with an overhead guard (or ROPS) and given the model designation M371, powered by a 14 hp Kohler engine.
520 is the first of the “B-Series” design, a complete makeover of the Bobcat loader line. The goal was to make many components -- operator cabin and ROPS, seat, steering levers, pedals and tailgate -- interchangeable among several frame sizes. Such design standardization will allow more efficient mass production of the Bobcat loader in the Gwinner factory.
New Breed 30 Series launches, including models 530, 533, 630, 631 and 632 with gas and diesel, air- and liquid-cooled engines. A major product feature is its center-mounted chaincase with drive chains in a “bowtie” configuration, which eliminates adjustments, a highly touted competitive advantage. Models 730, 731, 732 arrive the next year.
The new “Bauhaus” Bobcat logotype is unveiled with the cathead symbol that is still used today.
310 Bobcat -- measuring 3 ft wide by 6 ft tall -- continued the Mini-Bob tradition. It features a Kohler gas engine; a diesel version, model 313, was introduced the following year.
Articulated loader, called “the Bobcat that bends in the middle,” diversifies the loader lineup. A rough-terrain forklift version -- the 2000RTF -- is introduced a year later. The market for articulated loaders doesn’t grow as expected and the line is discontinued in 1995.
40 Series Bobcat 743 launches and quickly becomes the world’s most popular skid-steer loader. At its peak in the late 1980s, production of the diesel-powered 743 represents half of all Bobcat loader factory output. The 40 Series loaders are the first to incorporate the new Seat Bar operator safety system. Other 40 Series models include the 540, 542 and 543; the 641, 642 and 643; the 741, 742 and 743; and the 843.
After the early 1980s recession, company management makes a conscious effort to keep from raising prices on its Bobcat loader line. The strategy lasts 10 years and, much to the dismay of competitors, is touted in ads saying, “Still at 1983 Pricing.” As a result, the skid-steer loader becomes a cost-effective solution of choice across many industries, unseating the once popular tractor loader backhoe.
440 and 443 are the first to have a transversely mounted engine. The newest Mini-Bobs replace the 310 and 313 and are still 3 ft wide and 6 ft tall.
943 is the second Bobcat loader with the engine mounted transversely, allowing the hydrostatic drive pumps to be belt-driven for more efficiency, lower noise and easier service access for routine maintenance. This transverse engine design is repeated on succeeding loader generations and continues today.
G-Series cab is the result of a serious internal focus on operator comfort. Loaders equipped with the new cab offer factory-installed air conditioning, more elbow room, a more comfortable seat and improved instrumentation. The hydraulic Power Bob-Tach system also debuts with the G-Series, giving operators the ability to change attachments with the push of a button.
G-Series 773 Turbo 500K edition marks the half-millionth Bobcat loader production milestone. It features an enclosed, heated cab with factory air conditioning, a Power Bob-Tach system, and turbo diesel engine as a standard “Gold” package.
A220 is the first Bobcat loader to offer both all-wheel steer (AWS) -- for low impact operation on sensitive surfaces -- and skid-steer for maximum maneuverability, both at the flip of a switch. It is also the first Bobcat loader to feature joysticks for drive control and lift arm operation. A larger A300 model is added to the AWS line in 2002.
S185 model replaces the 773 Turbo, with a prefix “S” to signify it is a skid-steer loader, and “185” hinting at its 1850 lb. rated capacity. Other product types get similar designations: “T” for compact track loader, “A” for all-wheel steer, “E” for excavator.
S300 with its larger frame size, continues to push the skid-steer loader into more demanding construction and industrial jobs. Powered by an 81 hp engine, the vertical lift path S300 has 3,000 lb. lift capacity. A radius path loader, the S220, is introduced the same year and has a 75 hp engine, with 2,200 lb. capacity.
M-Series kicks off another complete remake of the loader line. The first to be introduced are the S650 (vertical lift path) and S630 (radius path). The distinctive “cab-forward” design moves the operator closer to the work, giving better visibility of the attachment and all around the loader. It offers easier entry and exit, a sealed and pressurized operator cab for a clean working environment, better lighting and the latest electronic instrumentation.
Vertical lift path S750 and S770 models fill in the lineup, with 3,200 lb. and 3,350 lb. capacity.
A770 all-wheel steer (AWS) loader replaces the A300. AWS offers both low impact all-wheel steer and maneuverable skid-steer operation at the flip of a switch. With the new 700 frame size and M-Series features, the A770 has a rated capacity of 3,325 lb.
First-ever Bobcat-branded Tier 4 engine is used in the 500 and 600 frame sizes in 2014. The new engines, ranging from 49 to 74 hp, are designed to significantly reduce the amount of particulate matter created in the combustion chamber, achieving Tier 4 EPA emissions compliance without using a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
S450 is the last and smallest of the M-Series skid-steer loader models, wrapping up a five-year launch cycle.
Special edition S650 and T650 are built to commemorate the production milestone of a million Bobcat loaders, 56 years after the first Melroe self-propelled loader in 1958. The special edition loader was available through participating Bobcat dealers.
Bobcat enters the compact track loader (CTL) business. Using the mainframe, lift arms and cab of an 863 skid-steer, the new model 864 has a solid track undercarriage for durability. Rubber tracks give the CTL great flotation (i.e., low ground pressure) and superior traction, making it an instant success. It extends the construction season by allowing operators onto a jobsite sooner and working later in the year. In time, there will be a Bobcat® track loader counterpart for most every skid-steer loader size. It is a game-changer for Bobcat and the industry.
T190 is the second model size in the Bobcat compact track loader line. It uses the mainframe of the vertical path 773/S185 skid-steer loader and features the popular G-Series operator cab. The vertical lift arm configuration gives the T190 more capacity (1900 lb. at 35% of tip capacity), relative to its smaller frame size, a benefit many customers prefer for tight quarters operation.
864 is re-badged as the T200.
MT50 marks Bobcat Company’s entry to the mini-track loader product category. Unlike loaders with a cab, the operator walks behind it for ultimate maneuverability. The MT50 can get through gates and narrow side yards, with the flotation and power of a track loader. It has a rated capacity of 500 lb.
MT52 mini-track loader updates the MT50 with numerous improvements, including an all-new operator console and a new operator safety system. Most noticeably, the MT52 has an optional ride-on platform, removable for walk-behind operation. The new loader has 520 lb. capacity, a 20 hp engine, and measures less than 36 in. wide.
Compact track loader lineup grows to include the radius lift path T180 and T250 models, built on mainframes of the S160 and S220 skid-steers.
M-Series kicks off with the T650 (vertical lift path) and T630 (radius path) compact track loaders. The T630 features 2,230 lb. rated capacity, the T650 with 2570 lb., and both used the same 74 hp engine. M-Series features include a distinctive “cab-forward” design that moves the operator closer to the work, giving better visibility of the attachment and all around the loader. It offers easier entry and exit, a sealed and pressurized operator cab for a clean working environment, better lighting, and the latest electronic instrumentation.
First-ever Bobcat-branded Tier 4 engine is used on the 500 size compact track loaders and the 600 size the following year. The engine is designed to significantly reduce the amount of particulate matter created in the combustion chamber. It achieves Tier 4 emissions compliance without using a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
Bobcat announced its plans to enter the compact hydraulic excavator market. As expected, Bobcat would bring its attachment expertise to excavators, expanding the range of applications (and money-making opportunities) for owners. The big splash came with the introduction of the X-Change™ system a decade later. X-Change allowed excavator operators to quickly remove one attachment and switch to another. Over the next three decades, Bobcat would bring to market multiple generations of excavator product designs.
Compact excavator models 56 and 76, built in Japan, are the first Bobcat-branded excavators to reach North America. The 56 has a digging depth of 5 ft. 6 in. The 76 digging depth is 7 ft. 6 in.
The compact excavator, a product concept well developed in Europe and Asia, is a relative newcomer in North America with annual sales of just a few hundred units. Still, the combined volume -- and Bobcat success to-date -- is enough for Bobcat to justify building its own. Initially, some excavator components were purchased and others were manufactured in-house. They were assembled in the Bismarck, North Dakota, factory where Melroe agricultural products had been built. In 1990, Bobcat becomes the first manufacturer to make excavators in North America, a record that would remain for 25 years.
Customer demand calls for more options for different digging conditions, so Bobcat begins to offer long-arm and extendable arm variations. The 341 is the first, a long-arm version of the 337. The 331E is the first model with an extendable dipper.
322 replaces the model 320, featuring a hydraulically retractable undercarriage for tight quarters operation. Retracted for transport, the 322 measures just 39 in. wide.
A new design focus shows up in the D-Series excavators. They were designed for manufacturability, to reduce cost and reflect the needs of excavator owners. The D-Series models feature a wide, swing open rear tailgate, offering exceptional engine serviceability and easy side access to the hydraulics. The new models also have new instrumentation with monitoring, keyless start and automatic shutdown protection.
Bobcat attachment focus is reflected in the innovative X-Change system. For the first time, operators have fingertip auxiliary control for hydraulic attachments. Advertising and literature begin showing excavators with many different attachments and applications. Eventually they include augers, breakers, plate compactors and clamps, plus an assortment of bucket sizes and styles that can be easily exchanged.
The next generation G-Series compact excavators are the first in the industry to offer factory air conditioning, much like the now-popular option on Bobcat loaders. Long arm options are plentiful, with 323, 325/328 long-arm, 331/334 long-arm, 337/341 long-arm, and the extendable arm 331E.
400 G-Series Bobcat excavators launch with a rounded styling, improved hydraulics, roomier cab and a zero house swing (ZHS) feature that keep the tail of the excavator within the width of the track undercarriage. The 430 ZHS and 435 ZHS models are ideal for foundation work.
442 pushes the limit on the term “mini excavator”. Technically known as a “midi excavator,” the 442 bridges the gap between full-sized and mini excavators. It has a 4.2 m digging depth and zero tail swing.
418 becomes the smallest Bobcat excavator model, with a 1.8 m digging depth. The zero tail swing model had a hydraulically retractable undercarriage, measuring just 28 in. retracted.
E32 model is the first of the M-Series generation of Bobcat excavators, starting a full redesign of the lineup over the next five years. The E32 replaces the 331 that had been part of the Bobcat line since 1993. Model numbering again switches to reflect industry terminology, making the E32 a 3.2 ton operating weight class, conventional tail-swing excavator.
E35 (3.5 tons) is introduced with the much larger E60 (6.0-ton) and E80 (8.0-ton) models. Models E42, E45, E50 follow later in the year.
E60 expands the Bobcat excavator lineup into the 6-ton class, and the E80 replaces the 442 in the 8-ton class.