Liebherr has restored a 60-year-old prototype, making it the oldest preserved Liebherr wheel loader in existence, according to the company.
The LSL1500 wheel loader is the only remaining example of a pilot series of five machines. The company invested 650 working hours to restore the loader, which is now used as an exhibition piece of historical equipment in the company’s Bischofshofen factory.
“When developing wheel loaders, we deal with the latest technologies and trends on a daily basis,” said Martin Gschwend, managing director of the Bischofshofen plant and responsible for the worldwide distribution of Liebherr wheel loaders, in a prepared statement. “However, we also respect our roots. And this wheel loader here shows that Liebherr was getting innovative machine concepts off the ground even six decades ago.”
The wheel loader has had a full life. After a few years at a gravel factory in the Biberach area, the machine arrived at the Fried-Sped corporate group in Ummendorf circa 1980. The LSL 1500 served the logistics specialist reliably for around 20 years. At the beginning of the 2000s, with the shovel loader already around 40 years old, Liebherr took the prototype back and preserved the now decommissioned wheel loader.
In 2019, Liebherr-Werk Bischofshofen GmbH decided to fully restore this last remaining LSL 1500. The ravages of time, particularly in the form of rust and frost damage, had taken their toll on the machine.
The project began in the spring of 2020 at the Liebherr Bischofshofen plant. The wheel loader experts refurbished each individual part of the LSL 1500 down to the last screw. For the team, the renovation meant much more than mere nostalgia:
“Several apprentices worked on the restoration,” said Andreas Scharler, who ran the repair centre for many years, in a statement. “For them, this was a rare opportunity to observe and understand the technology of earlier times.”
In many places, technical skill and improvisational talent were required. “When you start the diesel engine, the operating voltage suddenly switches from 12 to 24 volts” Scharler said. “We first had to analyze this process correctly in order to be able to start the wheel loader successfully. It was a splendid moment when we heard the powerful six-cylinder diesel engine running for the first time.”
In the 1950s, Liebherr was experimenting with wheel loaders, a type of machine still in its infancy and underdeveloped at the time. Liebherr’s first two prototypes, the “Elephant” and “Mammoth” models, still had to cope with increased tire wear and modest traction.
In the early 1960s, Liebherr then managed to create a reliable wheel loader prototype with the LSL 1500, weighing around 10 tonnes and with 108 horsepower. The LSL 1500 had a rigid frame and hydraulically supported rear wheel steering. The load transmission was achieved by a torque converter and four-wheel drive, which could be switched off.
The loader had a dumping height of around three meters and allowed for the loading of construction site vehicles with larger side heights. For poor weather, an all-weather cover with sewn-in transparent windows and heating was available for the operator’s platform, which was still open at that time.