Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.
The information on this page was kindly provided by Julian who is keen to collect information about Steelfab. You can use the form at the bottom of the page to contact him with any further information for this page.
In 1935 a sheet metal work company set up business under the name of Steelfabricators in Birmingham and in 1946 moved to a disused munitions factory in Pengam Cardiff. In 1949 a licence was negotiated with Horn Brothers from the USA, to manufacture agricultural hydraulic loaders, and tens of thousands of “Horndraulic” loaders were sold.
A licence was finalised in 1952 with the Shawnee Manufacturing Company, USA, to manufacture under licence agricultural diggers which resulted in the introduction of the ‘Scout’ digger. Many ‘Scout’ diggers were sold, but it was not suitable for heavy work, so the heavier weight ‘Shawnee Warrior’ was launched in 1954.
In 1958 a licence agreement was made with Harold Poole to manufacture and market Shawnee Poole rear dump haulers. The trailers were commonly coupled to Fordson tractors and enjoyed considerable success throughout the world and were leaders in the articulated dumper field.
A market survey was carried out in 1959 with a view to introducing a stronger combination unit as opposed to the ‘Shawnee Warrior’ type attachment digger to fall between the JCB 4 and Massey Ferguson. This led to the launch in 1963 of the 160/180 backhoe loader with an innovative design which allowed the kingpost to be hydraulically locked in any position along the slide frame which was ahead of the competition.
The 160/180 was many years ahead of its time and sales were encouraging at first but there was an early history of problems with the Fordson Dexta power unit which was not strong enough and led to failures. The Mark II was launched in 1964 with a stronger International 2275 skid unit but the problems with the Dexta skid unit brought about its downfall. The bad reputation gained affected sales and the success of the original machine was never repeated and production ceased a few years later.
The Horndraulic '800' Digger was introduced in 1965 designed to fit a wide variety of different tractors and proved very popular with farmers. Production was discontinued because of the trend for larger capacity units for the industrial field.
The ‘Power X System handling system was launched in 1968 which could be towed by agricultural tractors. The scissor type trailer bodies could be picked up, carried, tipped and put down by a single chassis unit and were popular with local authorities. Sales declined over the years but production continued into the 1990’s.
Steelfab continued to manufacture agricultural loaders for Massey Ferguson but sales were badly affected by the problems faced in the farming industry in the 1990’s and production finally ended after six decades in 1998 when Steelfab went into receivership.
Steelfab staff picture from about 1965. David John (8) went on to found the Powerfab company.
If you worked for Steelfab or own a Steelfab machine, Julian would really like to hear from you. Please use the form below to contact him.