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Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Mon 20 May 2013

Old Hymac still doing a bit down on the farm

I recently returned to a local farm in Devon, to take a look at the at an old Hymac 580D excavator, which we featured on the blog back in April, after it had become seriously bogged in at one of the many soft spots around the fields.

Old Hymac still doing a bit down on the farm
As regular readers of my ramblings will know, I have a lot of affection for the old Hymac product, as I spent a lot of my youth operating them during the 580’s C series heyday back in the early 1970’s. I later went on to operate a 580D model for a 9 year period, which I worked with all over the Hampshire area from my home base in Southampton. In those days, the D series seemed like the crème de la crème of excavators, but climbing back into the seat of one yesterday reminded me just how far we have come with modern day machines. The 580D was first introduced in 1980. The very first models were designated as the 580DS with the S signifying Sweden, as Hymac had an excellent presence, through a great dealership network, in the Scandinavian country at the time. The standard D model was launched into the UK market shortly after and it was hoped to be the saviour of Hymac, who were coming under increasing pressure from the many Japanese manufacturers that were selling machines into the UK at the time. For far too long Hymac had sat back on their laurels thinking they had dominance in the market, which in the early days they did. The Hymac, was at the time, most people’s choice of machine, and the name Hymac became a generic term for a 360 degree excavator regardless of what the actual make was. Sadly lack of investment in the product over the years was the nail in the coffin for the famous British make. From the 580D’s introduction in 1980 until 1986 when production ceased they manufactured 870 units before the model was replaced by the infamous 121 model which was a bit of a disaster to be perfectly honest. This old model, although looking a bit rough, is still capable of a good days work, having recently had a new hydraulic pump fitted, she is understandably, a bit sloppy and slow when compared to modern day machines, but in all fairness, she wasn’t too bad to operate, despite having an awful amount of play in the levers. After a couple of minutes in the seat, the old memories came flooding back, initially the dipper arm in and out movement seemed really slow, I then recalled that the left hand floor pedal operated the auxiliary function, and that by using the pedal in conjunction with the dipper movement lever it used to speed up the flow of oil, which gave the machine a much faster response when digging. By the look of it, this machine has had a replacement dipper ram at some point, I recall the model did suffer from stripping the seal packs off the rod end inside from time to time, and according to Hymac aficionado Jeremy Rowland, this machine has been fitted with the later style dipper arm at some point. Also as mentioned in my earlier post on this machine, it has had the track lever conversion fitted, where the original levers by the side of the seat are replaced by todays more traditional track pedals with integrated levers. Looking inside the cab of the 580D, it seems hard to believe that at the time, these machines were cutting edge. No modern air-conditioning in here, which was fine in winter but back in the days when we used to get summers, the heat used to surge into the cab from the hydraulic valve blocks that were situated just behind the cab, it was enough to make your blood boil. Add to that, the in cab noise levels and it’s hardly surprising to hear that I am partially deaf in one ear! There was however a deluxe model cab, which was fitted to machines which were destined for sale in Nordic countries, and featured the Scandinavian approved cab, which was much more insulated and included an improved heating and lighting package. And in this poor quality shot, which sadly is the only one I have, is a young 21 year old Nick Drew at the controls of the Hymac 580D I worked on for nine years. My time with this old girl was over, but my friend Ian Vanstone, wanted to show me another machine that was working on the farm, so we headed off on the quad for a date with a JCB JS130. This machine is a 1998 model JS130, which would make it one of the machines from the joint venture period between JCB and the Japanese company, Sumitomo Construction Machinery (SCM), which was formed in 1991 and ended in 1998, which probably makes this machine one of the last models from the JV. These were good machines in their day, and when I jumped on board for a spin after the Hymac, it was like leaping forward 20 years in terms of technology. There was a fair bit of play in the bucket linkage and dipper, but it was still a pleasant tool to operate, and it had a lot more creature comforts inside, including air conditioning, something that sadly, still doesn’t seem to be fitted as standard on today’s JS models in this size class. It’s always a pleasant experience looking back at our machines from the past, so if you have something you would like me to visit and write about on the blog just drop me a line using the editors email address.  

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