Almost 60 years after its debut, Liebherr has restored one of the first wheel loader prototypes from the corporate group’s early years: the LSL 1500. The company has invested about 650 working hours in the restoration of the vintage loader.
“When developing wheel loaders, we deal with the latest technologies and trends on a daily basis. 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,” explains Martin Gschwend, who is managing director of the Liebherr Bischofshofen (Austria) plant and responsible for worldwide distribution of Liebherr wheel loaders.
The restored LSL 1500 wheel loader dates back to the early 1960s. It is the only remaining example of a pilot series of only five machines and is the oldest preserved Liebherr wheel loader in existence.
In the 1950s, Liebherr began experimenting with wheel loaders, a type of machine still in its infancy and underdeveloped at the time. Its first two prototypes, the “Elephant” and “Mammoth” models, still had to cope with increased tire wear and modest traction.
In the early 1960s, Liebherr created a reliable wheel loader prototype with the LSL 1500, weighing around 10 tonnes and with 108 hp. The LSL 1500 had a rigid frame and hydraulically supported rear wheel steering which was luxurious for the time. The load transmission was achieved by a torque converter and a four-wheel drive, which could optionally be switched off.
The new kinematics provided a dumping height of around 3 meters and allowed for the loading of construction site vehicles with larger side heights. For poor weather, 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.
Liebherr produced five LSL 1500 models but only the single model remains. The wheel loader specialists in Bischofshofen fully restored the machine – which had been in use for more than 40 years – over recent months.
The project began in the spring of 2020 at the Bischofshofen plant. The wheel loader experts refurbished each individual part down to the last screw. For the team, the renovation meant more than mere nostalgia.
“Several apprentices worked on the restoration. For them, this was a rare opportunity to observe and understand the technology of earlier times,” says Andreas Scharler, who ran the repair center for many years.
In a number of places, technical skill and improvisation were both required. “When you start the diesel engine, the operating voltage suddenly switches from 12 to 24 volts,” Scharler notes. “We first had to analyze 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.”
Scharler, with his team, invested about 650 working hours on the vintage wheel loader, which is now serving as an exhibition piece in the Bischofshofen factory.
Current and retired employees of the Liebherr Bischofshofen facility (Austria) in front of the restored wheel loader LSL 1500 (from left to right): Simon Schaidreiter, Andreas Scharler (both repair centre), Christian Reiter (retired customer service manager), Martin Gschwend (managing director sales), Johann Stickler (retired managing director and technical manager).