Welcome to episode fiftyfive 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. In this episode we’re up to 1969, the year of the first man on the moon.

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 55: 1969 – Men walk on the moon, as fork lifts work under water

1969 began with the general sales of new models supplied by Coventry Climax. Amongst the update of their standard capacity forklifts were two heavy duty pneumatically tyred trucks. The smallest of these, the 100 DA was capable of lifting 10,000 lb and the 150 DA up to 15,000 lbs. Both machines were diesel powered the smallest fitted with a 4 cylinder 65 bhp engine and the other a 6 cylinder 104 bhp unit. For the future it was disclosed by a company representative that a truck with a lifting capacity of 12,000 lbs was also nearing the final stages of development. The majority of the new models were now fitted with the single piece up and over counterbalanced engine cover. This gave maximum access to the new Perkins 4 cylinder engines as fitted to the 40 and 50 DA diesel machines and the 40 and 50 PA, petrol and LPG machines. Most of the other machines with 6,000lbs plus lifting capacity were fitted with six cylinder Ford engines.

Forklift news from Japan gave details of the FB-1.5 Shinko Elector. This battery powered machine had a 3,000 lb lift capacity and was the first Japanese forklift truck to be fitted with an electronic control system. Other news about the Japanese economy informed that production was taking off at an estimated rate of 30 percent a year. In truck quantities this amounted to more than 39.000 machines for this year with over 10 percent going for export. In terms of the total manufactured truck mix 75 percent would be petrol/LPG, 15 percent diesel and the other 10 percent battery powered.

Three new trucks were added to the Henley fork truck range to extend its range. The trucks known as the ‘Hawk’ series had lifting capacities of 4,000 lbs, 5,000 lbs and 6,000 lbs and were developed to complement the already successful ‘Husky’ range. These machines also answered the many requests from their customers for a more manoeuvrable and compact truck to work in confined spaces. One machine especially can be singled out to more than meet this request and that is the 6,000lb Hawk. In comparison to the ‘Husky’ heavy duty yard truck of similar capacity it was appreciably smaller in size and as such had a tuning radius of 85 inches compared to that of 94 inches. Each of the ‘Hawk’ models was powered by the then increasingly popular four cylinder Perkins 4203 diesel engine developing 60 bhp at 2,400 rev/min. Transmission was through a single stage torque converter and all machines have power steering as standard. Many common components were used in manufacture and as such parts were interchangeable with the ‘Husky’ models to fit in with the companies design policy.

The 50th anniversary of the MEXE (Military Engineering Experimental Establishment) completes this year’s report. The organisation was set up at the end of the 1914-18 war to experiment on bridging methods but has, through time been involved in almost anything concerning logistics. As an example of its diversity the testing station in Christchurch Hampshire recently carried out a series of tests on an underwater forklift truck. This was a forklift conversion of a Bray general purpose tractor. The MEXE advised the Bray Company on the conversion required and the result was a machine that could lift a 2 ton load to a height of 10ft 9in whilst working quite happily in 5 feet of sea water. As part of its modification the engine and water sensitive parts within the engine compartment were air pressurized to 3/5 lb per square inch and air/exhaust for the engine itself was supplied through a 9ft 6in high breather tube.

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

To be continued…

If you would like to support the National Fork Truck Heritage Centre, please call James Brindley on 0780 195 4167

1 Comment

  1. Jong Min Lee

    Mr. Brindley, it is very useful information.
    However, i need more information on forklifts not only the history part but other things for my engineering report.
    Can you please send me your email address to my email above(chicken0618@hotmail.com) so I can ask you more questions about it through the email.
    Thank you very much.