Latvia dealer resurrects vintage Bobcat loader

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Kono, the Riga-based authorised dealer for the Bobcat range in Latvia, has completed a project to renovate a very rare and historic Bobcat M-600D skid-steer loader that is around 50 years old and now fully working again.

The M-600D was first introduced to the Bobcat range in 1967. What makes this refurbished M-600D such an incredibly rare find is that it was not manufactured at Bobcat’s traditional base in North Dakota in the USA, but instead under licence by Scheid Maschinenfabrik GmbH in Germany in the early 1970s. The M-600D could have been lost for all time, but was found by Ivars Gailums, a director at Kono, buried on the internet, where it was being offered for sale by a used equipment supplier in Berlin.

In 2018, Bobcat celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the compact loader and a sixty year legacy second to none in the worldwide construction equipment market. After its introduction in 1967, the M-600D model was a popular model and Bobcat carried on producing it until 1975.

Manufactured in Germany 

Several challenges had to be overcome to transfer the M-600D from Berlin to Riga and Ivars Gailums has paid great credit to the truck driver who finally brought the machine to Kono about two years ago, when work began on rebuilding the unit. Ivars Gailums commented: “Thanks to the efforts of the driver, we now had this M-600D delivered and it was my goal to rebuild it as authentically as we could, to keep its original parts intact as much as possible. Shortly after the M-600D arrived, I contacted Robby Bosch, who has recently retired from Bobcat in EMEA after nearly 40 years of service, hoping that his experience and knowledge would be of great use, which of course it has been.”

Calling on expert advice

In the EMEA region, there can be no better person to ask than Robby, who has carried out similar refurbishments himself. Prior to joining Bobcat in 1981, Robby already had six years of experience as a service manager with a Bobcat dealer in his native Netherlands, where he worked with several customers with M-600Ds.

Ivars Gailums continued: “The first thing Robby asked me was whether or not the rear counterweight was still present, as this tends to be the first component that disappears. Fortunately it was still in place. Over the last two years, Robby has generously continued to provide valuable advice, as has Jurgen Gremez, Bobcat Institute director for Doosan Bobcat at the EMEA headquarters in Dobris in the Czech Republic.”

The biggest challenge has been obtaining specific parts, which because of the age of the machine are obviously no longer available to order. It was also a challenge to find out what the M-600D really looked like, as there were several engine variations that affected how the overall machine appeared.

Ivars Gailums added: “I have focused on every aspect – even whether the bottom of the seat was one piece or sewn together, as well as the colour of the bucket, they are all important to me. On the internet, the book published to celebrate Bobcat’s 50th anniversary had pictures of machines with buckets painted white. Again, thanks to Robby Bosch, who was able to answer questions like this about the M-600D.”

Refurbishing in busy times

The duration of the project has been just over two years, but it could have been shorter except for the last winter season, when it was much busier than usual at Kono and this delayed the renovation process.

Ivars Gailums continued: “Because we were busy, we changed our plans and speeded up the process. The M-600D when it was disassembled into many parts, tended to take up a lot of space so we had to take account of this so it didn’t cause problems in our workshop. The work on the machine was mainly done by a team of three of our service engineers.

“The team was led by our most experienced engineer, Juris Gailitis. The Deutz engine was brought back to life by our youngest service engineer, Davis Graustins, who can be assigned the finest and most accurate work tasks. Last but not least, the third member of the team was Dzintars Lorencs, who performed welding and repair work on the steel components.

“Demonstrating Bobcat’s ‘One Tough Animal’ motto, several components such as the chaincase and chain had survived the years of service in pretty good condition. But the engine cooler on the Deutz engine presented a real problem as the original was heavily corroded and it was not available as a spare part. But we managed to get it from Deutz, where it was also one of the last parts of its type in their stock.

“Sandblasting and powder coating services were outsourced and the leather seat was restored by a company which specializes in restoring old motor vehicles and rebuilding expensive modern cars. I also involved family members to get some unique spare parts – including a shaft, the air filter cap and authentic Melroe Bobcat and Clark stickers from the USA. In the period when our M-600D went into service, it would have carried stickers for Melroe Manufacturing Company, the forerunner to Bobcat Company, the Bobcat ‘animal’ logo as it was then and the logo for Clark Equipment, who bought the rights in 1968 to sell Bobcat loaders outside the USA.”

Jaroslav Fišer, product line director for the Bobcat compact loader range in EMEA, added: “We are very proud of what Ivars and the team at Kono have achieved with the refurbished M-600D. It is yet another episode in our story, which began over 60 years ago in North Dakota in 1958 when Melroe introduced its first compact front-end loader, with a commitment to outstanding quality, workmanship and innovation that is even stronger today. It is another tribute to the longevity and durability of the Bobcat loader range, which has seen us pass the production milestone of one million Bobcat loaders in 2014 and to strengthen our market leadership, so that one in every two skid-steer loaders sold today is a Bobcat machine.

”With the fine work carried out by Kono, their M-600D is far more than a picture in our history books, it is a real working machine again, proudly displayed in the company’s showroom in Riga, where it will be enjoyed for many years to come by visiting customers, admirers and Kono staff alike.”

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Saul Wordsworth is deputy editor of the iVT brand - which includes digital and print editions of a quarterly magazine and Off-Highway Annual, as well as ivtinternational.com. He is a keen cyclist and lives in north London.

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