Liebherr restores 60-year-old wheel loader prototype

LIEBHERR has restored one of its first wheel loader prototypes – a 60-year-old LSL 1500.

The machine is the oldest preserved Liebherr wheel loader in existence. The manufacturer said it invested about 650 working hours in the restoration of the vintage loader, which is now used as an exhibition piece in the Liebherr Bischofshofen factory.

“When developing wheel loaders, we deal with the latest technologies and trends on a daily basis,” said Martin Gschwend, MD of the Liebherr Bischofshofen plant. “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 LSL 1500  is the only remaining example of a pilot series of just five machines. After a few years at a gravel factory in the Biberach area, the machine arrived at the Fried-Sped corporate group in Ummendorf around 1980. The loader served the logistics specialist for around 20 years before Liebherr took the prototype back.

Last year, Liebherr-Werk Bischofshofen GmbH decided to fully restore the machine. Each individual part was refurbished down to the last screw. Andreas Scharler, who ran the repair centre for many years, explained, “Several apprentices worked on the restoration. For them, this was a rare opportunity to observe and understand the technology of earlier times.

“When you start the diesel engine, the operating voltage suddenly switches from 12 to 24 volts. We first had to analyse 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 already experimenting with wheel loaders, with such machines types still in their infancy at the time. Liebherr’s first two prototypes, the ‘Elephant’ and ‘Mammoth’ models, still had to cope with increased tyre wear and modest traction.

In the early 1960s, Liebherr created a reliable prototype with the LSL 1500, weighing around ten tonnes and with 108 hp. The LSL 1500 had a rigid frame and hydraulically supported rear wheel steering. The load transmission was achieved by a torque converter and a four-wheel drive, which could optionally be switched off.

Liebherr explained that the new kinematics provided a dumping height of around three metres and allowed for the loading of construction vehicles with larger side heights. 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.