Warehouse & Logistics News is proud to bring you the fifty third instalment in our exclusive series on the history of the fork lift truck, the machine that over the decades has revolutionised the face of materials handling around the world.

Our writer is James Brindley, an acknowledged authority on fork lift trucks. James’s distinguished career has involved engineering and management roles with BT Rolatruc and serving as a Director of the Fork Lift Truck Association, before he set up the National Fork Truck Heritage Centre in 2004 as Britain’s first such collection open to the public.

The Heritage Centre continues to need your support in 2011, and if you or your company would like to help in any way, you can contact James on the number below. Now sit back and enjoy the latest part of this fascinating series.

Episode 53: 1967 – The summer of love and fork lift trucks

Following the latest report on short term trends from the Economic Development Committee for Mechanical Engineering, there were forecasts of high level activity for the first quarter of 1967. This news came in spite of increasing attention being paid to the cost of handling in industry for the previous year. This news would seem to have been taken to heart by Matbro as they launched two new forklifts in their economy range. The ‘Economat’ 70 with a 7,000 lb capacity and the 90 with a 9,000 lb capacity were advertised with a price of £2,195 and £2,295 respectively. The power for the machines was a 50 hp Perkins diesel engine driving through a torque converter with fully automatic gear change. Both trucks were advertised with a low first cost and a low maintenance cost.

The Henley Company of Birmingham also launched four new models in the Hercules range. These machines had load capacities of 15,000, 18,000, 22,000, and 26,000 lbs at 24 inch load centres. The specification for all four models was similar; each was powered by a Ford 2704E six-cylinder engine and had a twin disc hydraulic torque converter. A constant mesh gearbox and duplex clutch packs permitted reverse and forward changes at full engine speed. Also released at the same time was a truck designed for the small freight container market. The 26/48 model was similar in specification to the other four apart from its lifting capacity, which was up to 26,000 lbs at 48 inch centres.

Another British company that released new forklifts into the market was the Bonser Company of Giltbrook Nottingham with two Models. This company, from its first sale in 1964 until this date, had manufactured only a standard 4 ton capacity model of its forklift truck. Its policy of one size fits all was a deliberate ploy by the company so that full cost advantage could be made of using units and parts from a limited number of suppliers. The machine had a maximum lifting capacity of 9,000lbs and was based on the David Brown U/565-990 tractor unit with a four cylinder diesel engine that produced 55 bhp at 2,200 rpm. The policy of only one model obviously worked as the company, up to the end of 1967 claimed that 40 percent of its production went to export in over 25 countries. Now the Company seeming to concentrate on the British Market launched two of its new additions to the range. The first was an update to the standard 9,000lb truck but with torque converter transmission. The other was a 3 ton rough terrain model which had differential lock and power steering as a standard specification.

Youngman/Saxby also launched a rough terrain machine named the ‘Lidder,’ which was described by the Company as a cross country model. Designed for heavy duty work on gradients of 1 in 3.3 the machine was released in three sizes: a 20/50, 25/50 and a 30/50, which had lifting capacities of 4,400lb, 5,500lb and 6,600lb respectively. They were all rated at 20 inch load centres and were powered by a Ford 3 cylinder diesel engine with a rating of 46 bhp at 2,200 bhp. The transmission was through a single plate clutch and manual gearbox giving four speeds in both forward and reverse directions.

By James Brindley, Director, National Fork Truck Heritage Centre.

To be continued…

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