The beauty of reviewing new and old machinery for the magazine is that there are so many lovely people whom read and follow the articles. I am often contacted and am invited onto their properties or job sites to view and test-run some of the old equipment that is still out there in a working mode and making good money for the owners.
Such was recently the case when I was informed of a 1982 Komatsu D65E-6 Bulldozer, in excellent working condition, on a job and just over the QLD/NSW Border Ranges about 250k to the south.
It is always a pleasure to witness the old girls still making good money either on a construction site or in the bush, however, due to its age there are very few fully fledged current construction jobs that the old girl would get onto.
Not so up here in the bush … this old dozer is still pushing way above its 13.5t weight when it comes to a good long hard days work.
I pulled up at the last one of many sets of gates encountered along the heavily timbered lined laneway when I saw the old girl under a stand of tall gums, parked up in the scrub.
First impressions count a lot for me and this was a perfect example .. nice and tidy, straight as a gun barrel and I immediately knew that this could be a good day providing the inclement weather could just hold off for a few hours.
THE KOMATSU HISTORY.
Lachlan and Robert Grassick are Farming Contractors and also run a Machinery Hire business on the Border of NSW and QLD. In their fleet are several tractors of 50-120hp, involved in making Hay and Silage, Ploughing and Planting, Harvesting, Weed Spraying, Slashing, Mulching and Power Pole suppliers for the region.
However of all the equipment they have in their fleet, the one that sticks out for me is the 1982 Komatsu D65E-6 Bulldozer.
Purchased some 23 years ago off an earthmoving contractor the boys are only the second owner of this very tidy tractor and now runs out at about 16,000 original hours. This 36 year old tractor has only averaged about 450 hours a year and upon closer inspection, has been fastidiously maintained and looked after during this time.
Delving into the history of Komatsu I was amazed to read that Komatsu was originally a spin off from Takeuchi Mining Industry in 1921, started selling to the public in Japan and eventually taking the plunge and landing on the shores of the US to take on the Caterpillar mega-giant on its home turf in the early 1970’s..
Now back in 1982 it was a big step for anyone in Australia to go away from the tried, proven and well established Caterpillar legend. Komatsu Australia had only been up and running for about 5 years and I remember those times very well.
Promising to give Caterpillar a run for their money in all classes of earthmoving equipment, Komatsu drew a line in the sand and delivered the goods. Excavators and Bulldozers led the way for many years as the Japanese giant pushed Caterpillar for world domination, the rest is history and now Komatsu are the second largest manufacturer of earthmoving equipment in the world just behind Caterpillar but not in all countries.
Tell-tale sign the old girl hadn’t been used for a while is that the grass had grown over all of the dozer track marks and piles of cow dung, compliments of a herd of well-fed cows, littered the areas previously worked.
The presentation of the Komatsu is exceptional and faultless.
The heavy duty steel main frame panels are carried on through to the engine bay and bonnet, tough enough to withstand those big hard hits and guarantee the area is kept free from loose branches, sticks and twigs which you will undoubtedly encounter when you are scrub pushing or tree clearing.
The tree canopy which covers the operator both top and partially to the sides, was built as a necessity and is a pearler. Strong, robust, well designed and built with (believe it or not) pretty good vision for the operator and fully enclosed with security mesh around the sides to protect the operator from those nasty sticks that will creep up on you and pierce you through the belly if you’re not watching.
The solid tapered roof line of the tree canopy protects you from those falling branches and keeps the operator dry but definitely not dust free.
The only sign of damage on this machine is in fact a few dents on the top of the tree canopy, further proof of the design of this structure and proving that it has done its job in protecting the main man at the sticks.
The better than 1.2m high and 3.6m wide straight blade is perfectly designed and shows no dents from over- zealous operators, cutting edges perfect and nicely rounded and splayed for cutting that nice neat trim pass.
The segmented drive sprockets are all in good condition along with the top and bottom rollers on the track-guided chains and the pins and bushes are still in great shape.
A tree pusher and root rake compliment the 3 tyne ripper on this little D6-D7 sized Tractor and balances out the machine just perfectly.
IN THE CAB
Well, one may say “what cab” ?
Placing my fat bum into the original leather padded seat with those big arm rests took me way back to the day when a young bloke could get his teeth into a machine fairly easily. Respect to the old blokes, cop your fair share of abuse and joking with the boys and learn to give it back just as much once you gained the old boys respect.
You done that through bloody hard work, not just for a week but for months on end, day in, day out and in all sorts of weather. No enclosed cabins in those days and if you didn’t cop enough crap from the boys you definitely copped more crap once you got into those open cab dozers and scrapers.
But oh how sweet it was … the smell of that diesel, the cranking of that big 155hp (115.6kw) Cummins donk, the crisp smell of the bush and that breaking of the bush silence as you fired the old girl up and watched every bird for a mile take off for a refuge to purgatory … ah you gotta love it.
The controls for the Komatsu sat perfectly for me, direct key start and relevant gauges in a cluster to the right of the dash panel, hand throttle to the left, steering clutches to the centre and de-accelerator on the floor right hand side.
Blade control and ripper control levers to the right beside the operator and slightly to the rear and I felt right at home … beautiful.
Vision, which is normally fairly obscured, is surprisingly good on this model and the roof protection canopy is more than suitably designed and effective in all ways.
As for the big Captains style seating, it is awesome. The open cab, the dust, wind and rain along with the smell and inhalation of that lovely diesel smoke when the big girls is under full power … WOW !!!
UNDER THE HOOD
Protective covers along both sides of the engine cowling form an effective protection against all the dirt, dust, twigs, bushes and leaves encountered during a bush clearing operation of this type.
The covers are easily removed (albeit solid steel plate and a touch heavy) but once removed allows easy access for engine maintenance and daily servicing duties.
The big 155hp 743 cubic inch Cummins diesel engine fitted to a 3 speed forward and 3 speed reverse transmission are tried and proven and perfectly suited to this classic dozer. Capable of 10.7kph forward and 13.6kph for the run home after the day shift works well with this tractor.
ON THE JOB
A quick hour or so on this machine left me with a bit of a lump (in my throat) .. so good was the feeling.
Emotions aside, the Komatsu D65E-6 performs just like it did when they were first introduced into the country way back in the late 70’s, just spot on. Vision for the operator was on par with anything of today and other than the steering clutches being foreign to the newbies of today, anyone could feel comfortable in slipping into the operator’s seat and performing a reasonable day’s work.
The condition of the machine is above par for anything I have seen of this vintage and is a credit to the current owners. Pushing timber and scrub with this beauty for the last 23 years has not detracted from the visual appearance and the owners vigilant servicing and maintenance programmes have kept this machine in pristine top working condition.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I need not say anymore on this machine other than here is living proof that Cat are not the only machine “built to be rebuilt” … difference here is that this Komatsu has not required a rebuild in 36 years and will still be going strong at that incredible 50 years post production mark.
Komatsu … this is a credit to your engineering and design of a bulldozer of some 36 years ago .. well done.