The very last in a line of well respected motor scrapers from earthmoving giant Allis-Chalmers, the model 161 was a victim of both buyout and changing conditions within the earthmoving industry. By Richard Campbell
The origins of the Fiat-Allis model 161 elevating scraper go back to 1974 when Allis-Chalmers realised that it was missing out on potential market share in the 15 cubic yard elevating scraper market.
By this point in the companies’ time lines, Fiat had already exercised its controlling interest in Allis-Chalmers, and Allis-Chalmers’ products were being sold as “Fiat-Allis” machines globally.
The new injection of capital into the company did not really help speed up the development of the model 161 elevating scraper much and the machine had quite a long gestation period, not being introduced until 1978.
Style-wise, the Fiat-Allis 161 was very similar in appearance to the other two elevating scrapers in the Fiat-Allis lineup, the 261B and 263B.
However, while the scraper bowls of these two “200-series” machines were designed by Hancock, the bowl of the 161 was an entirely new design developed by Fiat-Allis’s own engineers.
Power for the model 161 was supplied by a Cummins V903 V8 diesel with a 229 flywheel horsepower rating as apparently there were no suitable Allis-Chalmers or Fiat engines available for the job.
This was connected to a Twin-Disc 11-speed powershift transmission.
Unfortunately, this combination proved unsuccessful as the transmission could not handle the torque that the Cummins engine produced, so the 11-speed transmission was replaced very early in production with another Twin-Disc unit, this time a 6-speed which worked just fine.
The model 161 rode on 26.5 x 29 tyres and had a top speed of around 50 km/h.
Air-operated dry disc caliper brakes were fitted to both tractor and scraper axles to provide good stopping power.
Around 1985, Fiat-Allis boosted the horsepower of the Cummins engine to 237 at the flywheel.
This increase also raised the machine’s top speed to almost 53 km/h.
Repetitive tyre failures began to occur on this improved model and forced Fiat-Allis to standardise the larger 29.5×25 tyre which had previously only been an option.
However, this change cured the tyre failure problem.
As mentioned previously, the elevating scraper bowl was an all new design and held 15 cubic yards.
Unlike the bowls on the other two Fiat-Allis elevators, the 261B and 263B, whose bowls had external stiffeners, the 161’s bowl was fabricated from oblong section boxes welded together for a very smooth, streamlined finish and was topped off by a small triangular spillguard.
The elevator was driven by a single speed, reversible hydraulic motor mounted on the top right side of the elevator frame.
The motor received pressurised oil from a hydraulic pump, driven from the engine’s power take-off.
Of conventional design, the elevator had twenty flights.
What was not conventional however, was the method of ejection.
Fiat-Allis mounted a hydraulic cylinder on either side of the bowl, their rod-ends being connected to the elevator frame.
When it came time to eject the load, these cylinders lifted the entire elevator assembly (which was pinned at the top), up and out of the way while a conventional bulldozer type ejector did the rest.
Depth of spread was governed by how high the operator was carrying the bowl.
Steering was accomplished using two double acting cylinders mounted on the bowl’s gooseneck and acting through multiplier linkages, a very similar design to that used by Caterpillar.
A universal stiff-hitch was employed and the model 161 had no suspension system other than the cushioning effect of the tyres.
The operator was placed on the left side of the machine and was provided with an air suspension seat, full instrumentation and a seat belt.
Although the Fiat-Allis 161 was a very modern-looking machine for the time, the operator’s compartment was very basic in terms of comfort features.
An open ROPS was fitted as standard and the purchaser had the option of buying the machine with a ROPS cab which had a heater/demister.
Fiat-Allis did not offer an air conditioner for the cab, so if the customer required one they had to go aftermarket!
Those units that were fitted with AC had the unit mounted to the top of the cab roof.
Operationally, the Fiat-Allis 161 seems to have been a basically reliable tool.
It was seldom seen in fleets of more than two, and mostly found favour amongst those contractors who did a lot of utility and site development work.
Production of the model 161 was shifted from the United States to Italy in the late 1980s in an attempt to make the type more accessible and cheaper for European buyers (who usually had to pay duty for machinery imported from the USA).
This didn’t quite have the flow on effect that Fiat-Allis had hoped for as sales of the model 161 could be described as low at best.
It is not known exactly how many Fiat-Allis 161’s were manufactured, but declining sales, high manufacturing costs and another downturn in the worldwide earthmoving industry forced Fiat-Allis’ hand, and the model 161 was discontinued in 1997.
The Fiat-Allis 161 had three major competitors in the 15 cubic yard elevator market.
Of these, Michigans was the first to go, being discontinued in the mid 1980s.
Caterpillar was next, ending production of the 615 (which by this stage had progressed to the model 615C) in 1993
Fiat-Allis pulled the plug on the 161 in 1997, citing low sales and high unit build costs.
That just left John-Deere, who had developed its model 860 into the 862B by this time.
In a surprise move, John Deere exited the scraper market entirely in 2007, leaving no machines in the 15 cubic yard scraper market..
The New Zealand Connection
To the best of the author’s knowledge, no Fiat-Allis 161’s were ever imported by the (then) Fiat-Allis dealer, CablePrice.
While Caterpillar and Michigan both managed to sell 15 yard elevators into the New Zealand market, it would appear that Fiat-Allis and John Deere missed out.
For the Model Collector
Regrettably, there are no models of the Fiat-Allis 161 available in any scale, even in the “limited run” market.
This also applies to other variants of Allis-Chalmers and Fiat-Allis elevating scrapers.
Brief Specifications – Fiat-Allis 161 Scraper (mid-production)
Engine: Cummins V903-C265 V8 diesel rated at 237 flywheel horsepower at 2,200 rpm
Transmission: Twin-Disc 6-speed full powershift
Differential: Allis-Chalmers Kon-Torq™, torque proportioning
Top Speed: 50 km/h
Brakes: Air operated dry disc on all four wheels
Tyres: 26.5×25, E3
Steering: Full hydraulic, 90° turns to either side of centre
Capacity: 15 cubic yards
Elevator: Hydraulic, single speed, reversible
No of Flights: 20
Operating Weight: 21.8 tons (empty), 39 tons (loaded)