Driving something different

Posted on November 30th, 2011 in Driving Emotion,Opinion,tools by Julian Edgar

Back here  I raved about how much fun I had driving a Bobcat (or, more correctly a skid-steer Cat 226 B2).

I’d hired it to clear the site for my new home workshop, a step I’d taken as a result of getting crazily high quotes for others to do the work. Before hiring the Cat, I’d thought it might be rather fun to drive such a machine, but after only a few minutes of driving the Cat around my block, I knew it was much better than that – it was just an absolute blast.

So when I needed an absorption trench dug, I didn’t bother getting quotes for others to do it – instead, I went off and hired a small excavator.

As with the skid-steer machine, the hire company was happy to deliver the excavator to my place, and – again as with the skid steer – they gave me just a short tuition in operating the machine before heading off.

So what did I have this time?

The machine was a Cat 301.8, a 1.8 tonne machine boasting only 14kW from its little naturally aspirated diesel. It had a grader blade at one end and an excavator arm at the other, complete with three different buckets to choose from. It ran on rubber tracks.

Compared with the skid-steer, it was harder to drive – more levers sprouted within the cabin and their use seemed less intuitive.

So it was harder – but was it fun? Well, no, not really. And definitely not in the same way as the Bobcat.

Look, if I get a chance to drive a little excavator again I’ll take it – but I won’t be wildly excited. To me the machine felt like a workhorse, a slow plodder that dug my trench, put the spoil to one side, carried the rocks to fill the excavation, and then pushed the soil back over the top.

But its movement from place to place was akin to a snail, tree roots required tedious successive bites with the bucket, and when you tried to do multiple operations simultaneously, you could feel the engine slow. I even stalled it a few times – interesting, when there’s no clutch!

Good aspects were its ability to rotate while keeping the tracks still (and it didn’t make me feel sick as I thought it might) and, as with the skid steer, the subtlety of control was impressive.

Now a much bigger, more powerful excavator? Now I reckon that would be a heap of fun…

4 Responses to 'Driving something different'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. Barry dal HERBERT said,

    on November 30th, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Hello Julian

    This is not a response to your digging adventures, but the only way that I could find to communicate with you.

    I bought a 1991 Lotus Elan M100 a couple of weeks back, and have not surprisingly been doing a few web searches since then!

    Your “Back to the DeLorean” article was found when searching AutoSpeed, but not I believe validly. Using this as my reference: http://www.lotusespritworld.com/EHistory/DeLorean.html I think that not the Lotus Elan, but the Lotus Esprit is the correct chassis source for the DeLorean, well chassis family anyway. So I am not nit-picking then, just commenting in the cause of accuracy.

    30-Nov-11 13:53

  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on November 30th, 2011 at 1:01 pm


  3. Paul said,

    on December 1st, 2011 at 8:34 am

    A 3Ton machine or bigger is a whole different exercise, especially if it’s got a decent engine. I did a heap at my place. The smaller stuff is for under house only and has trouble digging. 3T+ just eats clay soils.
    Of course the 650Ton Face Shovel at work is even more effective – 2 x V16 Turbo diesels do that.


  4. doctorpat said,

    on December 6th, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Meanwhile, here is a new technical paper of ultralight-human powered vehicles that I found interesting.