Designing a New Breed of Skid-Steer Loaders | Bobcat Blog

520 in 1976

Bobcat 520 in 1976

The 30 Series represented the first “clean sheet” redesign of the Bobcat® skid-steer loader lineup. The design project started in 1975 with a conversation between the heads of engineering and manufacturing, which went something like this:

“Let’s play keep ‘em out,” said manufacturing VP Jim Strand.

“What the heck is keep ‘em out?” replied engineering VP Jim Bauer.

“Well, anybody with a shear, press brake, and a welder can build a loader,” replied Strand. “Let’s make it more difficult than that.”

With few design elements linking the previous 14 years of Bobcat loader designs, each new model had a unique parts list and assembly process. That fact complicated manufacturing and increased the cost of producing and stocking parts, and providing service support — both for the factory and Bobcat dealers.

Half the Part Numbers

520 and M610

Bobcat 520 alongside the M610

The New Breed 30 Series — referred to internally as the “B-Series” — would be different. Common components, parts lists and assembly methods would set new standards and put these Bobcat machines years ahead of the growing list of competitors. The new loaders would have just half the part numbers of the popular 610 model — 1100 vs. 2200.

We quote below from a 2007 interview with Jim Bauer, featured on pages 110-119 of the commemorative history book, “Bobcat: Fifty Years of Opportunity — 1958-2008.”

“In April 1975, we started the B-Series design project. We wanted to use as many parts from the first machine [as we could] on all the rest of the machines,” recalled Bauer. “The 500 Series [would have] the same overhead guard, the same steering levers, the same seat, and the same pedals as the 800 Series. Engineers were able to reduce the parts count in the machines dramatically.”

“When we started on that B-Series design project, it was about the same time Boeing was working on the 747 aircraft,” said Bauer. “We took a page out of the Boeing book. Every component was tested before they built the first prototype.”

“We started out with the 500 B-Series loader (the 520 was first) and by the time we got around to the first prototypes in August, 1975, we had already tested all components of the B-Series loaders.”

Tougher, More Reliable

The result of this new process resulted in much tougher, more reliable machines than previous ones. Totally new from the ground up, the machines were faster, had more lift capacity, stronger frames, and larger engine compartments to make servicing easier.

Development of the B-Series followed on the heels of two low-volume machines — the M970 “Big Bob” in 1970 and the M371 “Mini Bob” in 1971 — which defined the upper and lower bounds of the skid-steer loader market, limits that still exist today. With the B-Series family design, focus returned to the core skid-steer lineup — making the loaders more efficient to manufacture and service — and stimulating new customer interest.

Timeline of New Breed Introductions

    • 1976 — the first “B-Series” 520 model, rated at 800 lbs. capacity, was the first loader of this size to have hydrostatic drive.
    • 730-732-733-Specs-1980_Page_1

      730, 732, 733 Specs

      630-632-Specs, 1980

      630, 632 Specs

      530 Specs, 1980

      530 Specs

      1977 — a new model numbering and decal scheme was out, with the 530 replacing the 520, along with the larger 630 at 1000 lbs. capacity.

    • 1978 — “heavy duty” 730 model size introduced with air-cooled gas (730), air-cooled diesel (731) and liquid-cooled gas (732). Although the frame size matched that of the 630s, the 730s were beefier, with heavier lift arms, mainframe and drive train components.
    • Mini-Bob — another significant model change (although it was not a B-Series model) occurred with the development of the first hydrostatic “mini-Bob” models in 1977. The 310 featured an air-cooled gas engine, and the 313 used an innovative liquid-cooled diesel engine.
    • Bobcat logo in Bauhaus font 1977

      Bobcat logo in Bauhaus font 1977

      WorkSaver Cover, Volume 1 No 3 1977

      WorkSaver Cover, Volume 1 No 3 1977

      Bobcat 30 Series loaders were the first to sport the new “Bauhaus” Bobcat logo and product markings, also known as trade dress.

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Watch how we trained Bobcat operators in the 1970s. The film Bobcat Kid was produced in 1974 to help standardize operator training and reinforce the notion there are safe procedures every Bobcat operator needs to follow. Although the film medium and machines have changed, the underlying message is the same and has been repeated millions of times since. As with most Bobcat films, it featured recognizable company employees in key roles.

Watch the Slide Show below to see more 1970s photos, downloadable specification sheets and literature.

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