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The early 1940s
1945. Britain is just coming out of six years of world war and times are tough. Joseph Cyril Bamford begins business in a rented lock-up garage in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, using a second-hand welding set and some surplus military equipment to make tipping trailers for farmers to hitch to the new generation of petrol-driven tractors. Joe’s pioneering spirit, huge capacity for hard work and flair for invention see him through these early years and by 1947 he moves to larger premises and has three employees. Mr JCB quickly goes from two-wheel to four-wheel trailers, then adding hydraulics to create the very first and revolutionary four-wheel tipping trailers, in 1948. In 1949, J C Bamford introduces a machine that proves to be one of the most important of all early JCB models: the Major Loader, which is designed to bolt onto a Fordson ‘Major’ tractor. Later developed for a range of popular tractor manufacturers, it sells in its thousands. By the end of 1950, the company is again looking to relocate to bigger premises and moves to a former cheese-making facility in nearby Rocester, where we are still based to this day. This is the start of a truly remarkable story.
1952 is a huge milestone in the story of JCB. On a sales trip to Norway, Joseph Bamford sees a rudimentary backhoe, realises its potential and is inspired to develop the JCB Mk 1 Excavator; essentially a Fordson tractor with hydraulic excavator at the rear, Major Loader at the front and optional cab. The JCB backhoe loader is born. 1952 is also the year machines start to appear in the famous JCB yellow, and in 1953 we begin to brand products with the company logo. Two other key machines are introduced in this period: the Si-Draulic Loader, a single arm unit with high lift and forward reach, and the Loadover Wheeled Loader, with a bucket that travelled over the top of the driver - only two were made! In February 1956 the company is officially incorporated as J C Bamford (Excavators) Ltd and a service business is launched. Machine development continues with, in 1957, the Hydra-Digga, the first JCB machine to provide a comfortable cab, and 1958's JCB Loadall, featuring an innovative hydraulic shovel. In 1959, combining Hydra-Digga and Loadall creates the first truly recognisable backhoe loader, with the chassis, not the tractor skid, taking the digging and loading forces.
Building on the success of 1960's JCB 4 backhoe loader, which replaced the Hydra-Digga Loadall, in 1961 the JCB 3 sets more trends with the ability to dig tight up against a wall. In 1963, another giant step is taken with the 3C. An acknowledged design classic, the 3C comes packed with innovations, including an integrated chassis and sideways sliding excavator assembly that gives a clear view down the trench. The following year sees the launch of JCB's first crawler excavator, the JCB 7. JCB continues to go from strength to strength with 1967's 3D, launched with typical theatrical flair when a full-sized model is raised out of a swimming pool and left suspended in mid-air. In 1968, JCB announces its purchase of Lancashire's Chaseside Engineering Company; a pioneer of hydraulic wheeled loading shovels whose acquisition brings a whole new product line into the JCB stable. By now the Rocester site is fast running out of space, so a redevelopment programme gets underway, including the landscaping of the surrounding environment that has become a feature our plants around the world. By 1969, we are exporting more than half our machines and we receive our first Queen's Award for Export Achievement.
The new decade begins with the opening of the JCB factory in Whitemarsh, Baltimore, signalling the start of our American adventure and a hugely successful decade for JCB. In 1971, we launch the JCB 110 hydrostatic crawler loader, a product truly ahead of its time which goes on to win the Design Council Award. By now new models are coming out each year and JCB is one of the UK's largest engineering and manufacturing companies, with a turnover of £40 million. In 1975, the year we celebrate 30 years of successful business, our founder, Mr Joseph Cyril Bamford, retires and his son, Anthony Bamford, takes over as Chairman. A brand new concept, the pioneering 520 telescopic handler, takes the industry by storm in 1977 and leads ultimately to the development of the hugely successful Loadall range. In 1978 sales stand at £84 million with £6 million ring fenced for building initiatives, including the new JCB transmissions factory. In 1979, Anthony Bamford sees the enormous potential of the Indian market and enters into a joint venture with a local tractor manufacturer; a move that proves enormously successful with JCB growing to become market leader in the country.
The 80s begin with the launch of one of the most important machines in our history. The 3CX is believed to be the most intensive R&D programme in a single product line ever undertaken by a construction equipment manufacturer. In all, some £24 million is invested in this new generation backhoe loader for the new decade. It isn't until the 80s that another JCB machine sells in anything like the quantities of the backhoe. That model is the Loadall, of which 1000 have been sold by 1981. Later on this year, the 3CX Sitemaster is launched and goes on to become our best-ever-selling backhoe. 1984 marks another record turnover when sales exceed £150 million. Also in this year in this year, JCB begins manufacturing for the British military, producing specially modified 410W wheeled loading shovels. 1986 begins with a top-secret project that will result in yet another iconic JCB machine. Anthony Bamford originally had the idea for a new type of tractor that would feature a higher top speed than conventional models and incorporate elements of truck design, such as suspension. The concept begins development under the codename Project 130.
After four years in development and £12 million invested, the world's first genuine high-speed, full-suspension draught tractor, the JCB Fastrac, is launched, revolutionising tractor design. 1990 also sees the launch of the 2CX backhoe loader, developed in response to customer demand for a more compact version of the 3CX, and Anthony Bamford is knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours to become Sir Anthony Bamford. In 1991, we launched our all-new backhoes, which are crammed full of new technology, and a joint venture begins with Japan's Sumitomo to produce their excavators in the UK for the European market. In 1993, JCB's innovative robot skid steer loader is launched and instantly becomes the world's safest skid steer thanks to its patented single-arm loader design and unique side entry cab. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 1995, JCB becomes Europe's number one manufacturer of construction equipment and, in 1996, we produce our 200,000th backhoe making us the world number one for backhoe loader production. In 1997, yet another pioneering machine concept is previewed; the JCB Teletruk, which is an immediate success and wins the Institute of Transport's Management Innovator of the Year award.
The year 2000 begins with the opening of the World Parts Centre in Rocester, a new factory in Brazil and the start of backhoe loader production in Savannah. In 2003, we assume full control of operations in India and JCB Defence lands its biggest contract yet; 150 4CXMs sold to the British Army. As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we purchase German firm Vibromax Compaction Equipment, work begins on the China plant and the Perkins power unit in the 3CX and 4CX is replaced with our very own 444 engine. In 2006, a car powered by two of these engines reaches a speed of 317.021mph (510.196kph) on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, to take the world landspeed record for a diesel-powered car. In 2008, JCB Heavy Products opens a new £43 million factory, followed in 2009 by a £40 million investment in India to create the world's biggest backhoe loader factory. Today, we are India's market leader for construction equipment with one in every two construction machines sold in the country made by JCB.