Aveling-Barford was formed in 1934 from the merger of two long established British companies – Aveling & Porter (est.1862) and Barford & Perkins (est. 1860). Between them they manufactured a wide range of agricultural and contractors plant including a classic piece of construction machinery, the road roller. By Richard Campbell
It may come as a surprise to some readers to discover that the original Aveling-Barford motor grader was in fact an American design. Through its association with American equipment manufacturer Austin-Western, Aveling-Barford secured the rights to manufacture some of the Austin-Western range of motor graders in the UK.
Commencing in 1947, the first units manufactured were the Super-88 and the all wheel drive 99-H. Both were badged ‘Aveling-Austin’. This nomenclature was not carried on for very long before the familiar Aveling-Barford ‘Invicta’ shield logo was substituted.
These machines were equivalent to the American Super-88 (later Super 500) and model 99-H (later Pacer 200) and were manufactured at Aveling-Barford’s Invica works in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Rather than fit the Cummins and GM diesels that powered the American Austin-Western machines, Aveling-Barford chose to use British-built diesel engines including Leyland (a favourite), Rolls-Royce, Perkins and AEC.
This gave them the required level of local content, saved unnecessary expenditure of scarce overseas funds and made them more ‘acceptable’ to their traditional commonwealth export markets – It just wouldn’t be British to supply a machine with an American engine!
Sales of these machines domestically and for export were very high with a large proportion of the export machines going to New Zealand, Australia, India, Greece and South Africa.
To put things in perspective, it has to be remembered that during the 1950s competition was fierce with about as many equipment manufacturers offering motor graders as there are hydraulic excavator manufacturers today.
In Great Britain alone strong competition was encountered from Caterpillar, Wakefield, Allis-Chalmers and Blaw-Knox not to mention the rest of the world.
Aveling-Barford did extremely well to achieve the level of market penetration that they did.
Over the course of time Aveling-Barford began to develop its own machines and the agreement with Austin-Western (by now a subsidiary of Clark) was terminated in 1973.
Aveling-Barfords indigenous designs included an articulated frame machine, the TG2, designed to compete with Caterpillar’s recently introduced (at the time) G series graders.
Although no longer manufactured, Aveling Barford motor graders can still be found working although their ranks are thinning rapidly.
The Aveling-Barford motor grader described
We will examine the most commonly found New Zealand variant, the 99-H (or MG as it came to be known later on).
As mentioned earlier, there was a choice of engine that could be fitted. These featured horsepower ratings from 80 through to 125 flywheel horsepower and included offerings from Leyland, Rolls-Royce, AEC and Perkins, with the AEC-powered examples being very rare indeed.
The chosen engine was attached, via a Borg & Beck dry plate clutch to a three-speed manual gearbox with a high-low range splitter which gave an effective top speed of approximately 20 miles per hour. A drop box transmitted power evenly to both front and rear axles via long extension shafts
Both axles could be steered if required, which gave the 99-H an advantage in ditching and slope work and also when there was a drifting load against the blade as the machine could be “crabbed” along, much like the articulated steer graders of today.
The entire power train was supported by a very sturdy welded arched steel frame that provided good ground clearance for the blade and circle assembly.
All blade functions were hydraulically operated, which was a little unusual for the time as most contemporary graders of the period still relied on mechanical controls for blade operation.
Brakes were fitted to all four wheels and were of the expanding shoe type and activated hydraulically.
Rather than a steering wheel, a tiller bar was used to operate the machine’s steering. For the novice operator this could take a little getting used to, especially when travelling from job to job on the road.
For the operator, the 99H was a typical product of British engineering, with a reasonably comfortable seat, easy to operate controls and many built-in oil leaks!
All New Zealand imported machines were fitted with the optional cab, which resonated at a frequency that appeared to be designed to impart permanent hearing loss in a very short period!
The windscreen was a 2-piece affair which could be opened out separately to provide a bit of ventilation and aid in close quarter blade work. I daresay that it also helped some of the cab resonation to exit.
Most grading operations were done with the cab doors open and the operator in a standing position for better visibility of the blade.
All round visibility was good and the machine was reliable, easy to work on and repair, which endeared it to operators and maintenance staff alike.
Fairly basic instrumentation was provided on a sloped panel to the operator’s right hand side and included an ammeter, oil pressure gauge and water temperature gauge.
Aveling-Barford offered a host of optional attachments to equip the 99-H for a range of duties. These included snowplows and wings, blade extensions, a bulldozer blade, scarifiers and an elevating grader conveyor.
The New Zealand connection
Dominion Motors (later Domtrac) sold literally hundreds of Aveling-Barford (or “ambling bastards” as they were affectionately called) motor graders into the New Zealand marketplace.
Their biggest customer was the Ministry of Works who had them in quantity in every single operating district in the country.
These machines did sterling service over a long period of time.
During the 1970s many of the Ministry of Works machines came up for disposal by auction and these were snapped up by councils, local bodies and at least one very enterprising Auckland used machinery dealer who did a quick overhaul, paint job and re-exported the old girls to a waiting market in Greece, where the all wheel drive, all-wheel steer models were especially prized.
For the model collector
There’s not a great deal to get excited about here. There is a model available of the Austin-Western Pacer 500 to 1:50th scale by EMD but this is not readily available and is quite expensive.
However, there is a model of an Aveling-Barford machine and it is a 1:76th scale white metal kitset produced by Rosencombe Replicas in the UK. The model represents a type 99-H and is quite well detailed for its size.