The backbone of the New Zealand Ministry of Works haul truck fleet on hydroelectric power projects from the 1940s into the mid 1970s, the ubiquitous Euclid R-15 can still occasionally be found earning it’s keep.
In 1934 Euclid became the first manufacturer in the world to successfully produce a dedicated off highway truck. Prior to this time other manufacturers had offered dump trucks (notably Mack), but these were adaptations of existing on-highway vehicles and often fell to pieces under punishing conditions.
Euclid off-highway trucks were purposely manufactured for the hard jobs. Extremely ruggedly built and simple in design and construction, the R-15 could, and did, absorb a tremendous amount of punishment and still come back for more.
Originally introduced in the USA in 1936 as the type 1FD, the majority of the R-15 machines imported into New Zealand were actually built in the UK and were available with a choice of five engines – Leyland, AEC, Cummins, Rolls-Royce or GM.
Two body styles could also be fitted depending on the machines intended application; standard (with parallel side sheets) and quarry (with tapered side sheets and added external and internal reinforcing). Both were rated at 15 tons capacity and held approximately 12 cubic yards. Examples of both body styles were imported.
Employed worldwide and enjoying one of the longest continuous production runs of any off highway dump truck to date, the Euclid R-15 in its various sub types was produced literally in the thousands,
It was replaced by the R-18 in the USA commencing around 1957 and by the R-17 in the UK in 1968.
The R-17 continued in production under the Terex brand name following the US anti-trust lawsuit in 1968.
The Euclid R-15 described
Key to the longevity of the Euclid R-15 was its tremendously strong frame – two deep parallel “I” beams tied together at the front by a massive bumper and at the rear by a torque tube, and dump bed mountings. It would be a very rare and abused R-15 indeed to be found with frame problems!
Nestled within the frame was the engine and transmission.
For the purposes of this description we will examine the most common New Zealand variant, the B6FD.
B6FD R-15s were powered by a Rolls-Royce C6NFL diesel engine of 184 horsepower. This was connected via a 17 inch Borg & Beck clutch to a five-speed Fuller 5A1220 constant mesh gearbox. In racing trim, the R-15 was capable of 25 mph in top gear.
The Euclid designed and built drive axle which featured planetary final drives was semi-rigidly mounted to the frame offering little in the way of suspension other than through the tyres.
An Elliott type reverse ‘I’ beam front axle was fitted and supported by semi-elliptic leaf springs. Steering was via a manual box with a Vickers hydraulic steering booster to relieve some of the burden but steering did require considerable effort on the part of the operator.
Standard tyres were usually 12.00×25 on the steering axle and dual 14.00×25 on the drive axle although other options were available at customer request.
The dump box was an all-welded steel structure with external stiffeners and was raised by a single three-stage double acting hydraulic ram. Body heating was not offered.
The driver’s cab was a very substantial and roomy affair with doors thicker than your auntie’s dinner table but little in the way of modern refinements. It resonated at a frequency designed to inflict mild hearing loss within a week and total deafness within a month!
A bucket seat was provided for the operator and some examples also had a bench seat for a trainee or passenger.
Most machines were supplied from the factory with the three-section front window (although some had two). These either had Simms or CAV windscreen wipers fitted.
An instrument cluster was centrally placed containing oil, water air pressure and ammeter gauges and some later examples also held a tachometer.
Although the R-15 required a bit of brute strength to drive it was usually more than capable of putting in an honest day’s work, day after day with little in the way of maintenance.
The New Zealand connection
Clyde Engineering, the Euclid dealer of the day, imported 124 Euclid R-15s in five different model types – 49FD, 82FD, B3FD, B6FD and B7FD, with the Rolls-Royce powered B6FD type being the most numerous.
As newer, larger machines became available and more work was contracted out to the private sector, the older machines started to be pensioned off through Government auction to begin a whole new life.
As alluded to earlier, some of these machines can still be found in operating condition, some as water tankers, while others dutifully carry out their intended role as dump trucks, almost 70 years after they were manufactured. This surely must be some sort of record and is a testament to their sound construction.
The vast majority of the Euclid R-15s imported into New Zealand were initially painted “Armington Green” – a very dark sage green colour. It wasn’t until 1955 that they began to appear in the pale yellow “Hi-Lite Green” shade.
Nowadays when you find an example of an R-15 it is usually decked out in “Terex Green” a shade in which no R-15 was ever actually delivered.
For the model collector
Surprisingly, for a machine that was in production for the length of time that the R-15 was, there are only two models of it available – the now quite ancient Dinky Toys offering to 1:43rd scale and a delightful (and expensive) resin and white metal example to 1:50th scale which is made in the Czech Republic of all places, by MIM.
The Dinky Toy model should not be too hard to acquire as Dinky produced thousands of them in at least three different releases over the years.
It is accurate in shape but simplistic in detail and lacks dual drive wheels on the rear.
MIM’s model is available out of specialist diecast shops in the UK and on Ebay and is very good indeed. Expect to pay over NZ$400 for an example.
Brief specifications – Euclid R-15
Engine: Rolls-Royce C6NFL, 6-cylinder inline naturally aspirated diesel rated at 184 flywheel horsepower at 2100 rpm
Clutch: 17” single plate, manually operated
Transmission: Fuller 5A1220 five-speed constant mesh, manually shifted
Top Speed: 25 mph
Brakes: Full air operated, expanding shoe
Std. tyres: 12.00×24 front, 14.00×24 drive
Steering: Manual cam and roller with Vickers hydraulic booster
Turning Circle: 60’
Capacity: 15 tons
Length: 23’ 2”
Width: 8’ 10”
Height: 10’ 10”
Operating Weight: 14.5 tons (empty) 29.5 tons (loaded)