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.
M200 is the second design of the Melroe self-propelled loader, with a 12.9 hp Onan engine. The lift arms are again redesigned, giving the loader 750 lb. rated capacity -- 400 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.
M444 replaces the M440 less than a year later, with the addition of pressure-oiled clutches for better durability.
M500 delivered more power with a 24 hp Kohler K662 gas engine.
M500E is adapted with a 10 hp electric motor, allowing grain elevators to use the loader inside boxcars and in other dusty environments. A retracting cable reel allows the machine to work within a radius of about 50 ft.
M600 has a Wisconsin VF4D gas engine. It is built until 1975. A vertical forklift mast option makes it popular with bricklayers.
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.
M610, with a Wisconsin gas engine and 1,000 lb. rated capacity, will remain the most popular Bobcat model for the next decade. When the last M610 rolls off the assembly line in 1982, it signifies the end of the clutch-drive loader and the transition to diesel powered equipment.
1074 Bobcat feller buncher, a tree-harvesting machine with a shear attachment that can cut, bunch and transport trees. Over the next decade, several different models are built -- including the 1080 and an innovative six-wheel drive model 1213 -- but the product line is discontinued in 1987.
825 Bobcat, with a rated capacity of 1,500 lb., continues the trend toward larger, diesel-powered machines. It is discontinued in 1983, replaced by the new B-Series 843.
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.
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.
Next Generation “50 Series” 753 and 853 models introduced, with an innovative electronic monitoring and diagnostic system called “BOSS,” a dual path cooling system, protected axle bearings and a single tilt cylinder.
7753 is the first of the Bobcat vertical lift path loaders that would revolutionize the line. Its vertical path boosts lift capacity without increasing machine weight. These new loaders are called ideal “lift-and-carry” machines.
Long wheelbase 753L (later renamed 763) gains a bit of lift capacity by increasing the distance between the front and rear axles without sacrificing its characteristic skid-steer maneuverability.
873 marked the transition of the larger frame size loader to vertical lift path.
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.
S330 boasts 3,300 lb. rated capacity, making it the largest in the line. It has an 85 hp turbocharged diesel engine and 12 mph travel speed.
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.
S850 regains the “world’s largest” title with a rated capacity of 3,950 lb., lift height of 12 feet, and 92 hp diesel engine.
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.
500 M-Series frame size introduced. Six models offered, with operating capacities ranging from 1650 lb. (model S510) to 2100 lb. (model S590), and engines rated at 49 hp (models S510, S530), 61 hp (models S550 and S570) and 66 hp (model S590).
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.
T300 is built on the mainframe of the S300 skid-steer loader, signaling the end of the T200 model. It has a rated capacity of 3,000 lb. and 81 hp engine.
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.
MT55 mini-track loader is a “wide track” version of the MT52, but with 25 hp engine and 550 lb. capacity. It measures 44 in. wide, with a narrow track option of 36 in.
T140 added to the lineup, based on the S130 skid-steer frame size.
T320 meets market demand for a larger, more powerful track loader with a 92 hp engine. It is the first model to offer the Roller Suspension™ system, which provides a smoother, more comfortable ride.
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.
T870 is the largest of the Bobcat track loader models, with a rated capacity of 3,525 lb. and a lift height of 12 feet. It is powered by a 99 hp diesel engine. The Roller Suspension track undercarriage is offered as standard equipment.
T750 (85 hp turbo) and T770 (92 hp turbo), both with vertical lift path and 11 foot lift height, fill in the 700 frame size with 3,325 lb. and 3,475 lb. capacity, respectively.
T550 (radius path) and T590 (vertical path) filled in the 500 frame size -- the heart of the line -- with 1,995 lb. and 2,100 lb. capacity, respectively.
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).
T450 is the last and smallest model in the M-Series compact track loader lineup. Despite its compact size (56 in. wide with a bucket), the T450 has a 61 hp turbo diesel engine and 1,400 lb. rated capacity.
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.
130 excavator expands the range to 13 ft. digging depth.
100 and 116 models complete the first generation “100 Series” Bobcat excavator line. The 100 has a digging depth of 10 ft., and the 116 digs to 11 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.
220 is the first Bobcat compact excavator off the line in Bismarck. The model number signifies it is a second-generation excavator (“2XX”), with a dig depth of 2.0 meters, (“X20”). (Note the change to metric measurements.)
225 becomes the second U.S.-built Bobcat compact excavator, with a digging depth of 2.5 m. Model 231, the largest of the series, digs 3.1 m.
Product development continues fast and furious with the 300 Series compact excavators. The lineup initially focuses on the most popular mid-range models, including the 331 and 334, with digging depths of 2.8, 3.1 and 3.4 m.
Two new 300 Series models are added, with the 320 and 325 replacing the original 220 and 225, at 2.0 and 2.5 m digging depth.
337 expands the line with 3.7 m digging depth.
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.
425 extends the 400 range downward with a 2.5 m excavator and the increasingly popular Zero Tail Swing feature.
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.
E55 model is introduced in the 5.5-ton weight class. Models E63 and E85 are updated 6- and 8-ton machines replacing the E60 and E80 models.
E20 zero tail swing model replaces the 324.