Bobcat – A 60 Year Legacy Second to None

Posted: 27 April 2018

This year Bobcat celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the loader and a sixty year legacy second to none in the worldwide construction equipment market.

The story began in 1958, when Melroe Manufacturing Company, the forerunner to Bobcat Company, introduced a compact front-end loader that evolved quickly into the M-400, the world’s first true skid-steer loader.  The M-400 was succeeded by the M-440 and in 1962, Melroe adopted what would become the world famous ‘Bobcat’ brand for the M-440 loader and its success created the global compact equipment industry we know today. 

Over the next sixty years, there were many more evolutions, but one thing always remained: Bobcat’s commitment to outstanding quality, workmanship and innovation that has helped to maintain its market leadership, so that one in every two skid-steer loaders sold today is a Bobcat machine.  Bobcat products have changed the way the world works and today the Bobcat brand and influence is as strong as ever.

In 2018, the range of compact loaders including skid-steer, compact track and all-wheel steer models that Bobcat has developed over the last six decades continues to dominate the market, combined with 100+ attachments to meet every specific customer’s needs. 

To mark this anniversary year, Bobcat is proud to share the timeline of innovations and events over the last 60 years that have helped establish the Bobcat legacy.  Part of this legacy has been expansion to offer a complete and wider range of compact products.  Bobcat moved into compact excavators well over 30 years ago and the company can also boast of 55 years of experience in telehandlers (through the acquisition of Sambron).  The company has continued to increase and develop these products so that today, Bobcat is pleased to offer full line-ups of both compact excavators and telehandlers that match the same tough internal requirements on reliability and productivity that Bobcat applies to the company’s loaders.

The beginning

In 1958, Melroe Manufacturing bought the rights to a 3-wheeled compact loader from Louis and Cyril Keller and brought the M-60 self-propelled loader to the market.  1959 saw the launch of the M-200, a three-wheeled model powered by a 12.9 HP engine.

The four-wheel-drive M-400 model, introduced in 1960, was the world’s first true compact skid-steer loader.  Some 200 units were built.

Bobcat born

In 1962, Melroe adopted the Bobcat brand for its machines in honour of the ‘tough, quick and agile’ animal.  The first Bobcat-branded skid-steer loader, the M-440, improved on its ground-breaking predecessor by adding a 15.5 HP, 2-cylinder Kohler engine, giving it a rated capacity of 500 kg.
The first Bobcat skid-steer loaders arrived in Europe in 1963. In 1969 the company was bought by Clark Equipment Company.

Loaders Expansion, Start of Bobcat Mini-Excavators

1970 saw the introduction of several key innovations, including the Bob-Tach quick-change attachment system, the ROPS (Rollover Protection Structure) operator guard as well as the M-970 model, the first skid-steer loader with a hydrostatic drive.

In 1972, the M-610 model with a Wisconsin gas engine was introduced and it remained the most popular Bobcat model for the next 10 years.  By the end of its life span, however, it was clear that the industry was moving away from clutch-drive loaders and transitioning to diesel-powered engines.

In 1982, Bobcat introduced the 40 series of loaders and the 743 model, in particular, quickly became the world’s most popular product in its class.  Bobcat became increasingly popular thanks to a conscious effort by the company management to avoid raising prices while not stripping away features, which turned out to be a significant market advantage in the economic recession of the early 1980s.

In 1986, Bobcat expands its product line with the addition of compact excavators. The Bobcat 56 was the first model, produced with an overseas partnership. In 1990 Bobcat manufactures the first compact excavator in the United States in Bismarck, North Dakota – the 220.

In 1990, Bobcat launched the new 50 Series model 753/853 loaders with the innovative BOSS electronic monitoring and diagnostic system, dual path cooling and single tilt cylinders.  Bobcat introduced the X-Change system in 1996, allowing excavator operators to quickly switch attachments.

In 1998, Bobcat launched the G-Series loaders with an increased focus on operator comfort.  New cabs were equipped with air-conditioning, increased elbow room, improved seats and enhanced instrumentation.  The new hydraulic Power Bob-Tach system gave operators the luxury of changing attachments at the touch of a button.

Adding tracks, half a million loaders sold

In 1999, Bobcat launched its first compact track loader – the 864.

The company’s 773 skid-steer loader became the most popular of its era and the 773 Turbo 500K edition from 2001 celebrated the half-millionth Bobcat loader production milestone.

Adding telehandlers to Bobcat family

In 2000, Bobcat Company purchased Sambron S.A., a long-established French manufacturer of telescopic handlers based at Pont-Château in northwest France. Sambron was one of the founding companies in the telehandler category.
In the same year, Bobcat revamped its line of compact excavators with the D-Series, focusing on manufacturability and cost reduction, while retaining the X-Change system. 

Three years later, the G-Series of loaders became the first in the industry to add air conditioning. 

The A220, introduced in Europe in 2001, was the world’s first compact loader which combined all-wheel steering with skid-steering.

In 2006, the loader line was completely remade with the M-Series, introducing the S650 (vertical lift path) and S630 (radius lift path).  The distinctive ‘cab-forward’ design improved visibility while the sealed and pressurized operator cab provided for a cleaner working environment, better lighting and the latest electronic instrumentation.

In 2006, Bobcat also launched its first European designed and manufactured mini-excavator, the 319 model.

Investments in EMEA, the arrival of Doosan

In 2007, Bobcat opened a new manufacturing plant and training centre in Dobris in the Czech Republic and a new logistics facility for machines and parts in Puurs, Belgium.  At the same time, the S100 model was launched as the first Bobcat loader to be both designed and manufactured in Europe. In the same year, Bobcat launched its innovative T2250 telehandler in Europe.

The sale of Bobcat Company to Doosan Infracore was announced in July 2007.  At that time, there were more than 170 dealers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. The first Bobcat office in the Middle East opened in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in the same year.

In 2008, Bobcat celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the skid-steer loader and built its 750,000th loader. In 2012, Bobcat marked 25 years of success in the compact excavator market and in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the Bobcat telehandler plant at Pont-Château was celebrated.

One million Bobcat loaders

In 2014, special editions of the S650 and T650 were built to commemorate the production milestone of a million Bobcat loaders.

EMEA Investment in Research and Development

In 2015, Bobcat opened the new Innovation Center at Dobris, a European Engineering Centre of Excellence, serving as an expert R&D centre for all Doosan Bobcat engineering teams across EMEA.  A new Parts Distribution Centre for Bobcat products also opened in Dubai.

In 2015, Bobcat launched the new EVO Generation of rotary telehandlers and in 2016, a new range of backhoe loaders was introduced for markets in the Middle East and Africa. 

New generation telehandler ranges for construction and agriculture were also launched, backed by a new three-year warranty.

Redefining MEX industry standards

The new 2-4 tonne R-Series compact excavators developed at the Dobris Innovation Center are launched at the Intermat 2018 Exhibition.
Jemylia Raimbault, Senior Marketing & Training Director in EMEA, commented: “Over the last six decades, Bobcat products evolved dramatically and today we proudly offer a complete range of loaders, mini-excavators and telescopic handlers.  Throughout the range, Bobcat products share the same DNA: they are all tough, agile and versatile – built for demanding operators and ready to get tough jobs done.”


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