Classic MachinesContractor

Schield C-35 Bantam excavator

Wanting a cheap and versatile cable-operated excavator capable of performing multiple tasks including backhoe, face shovel, dragline, crane or clamshell? Look no further than the Schield Bantam series, a true ‘universal’ excavator. By Richard Campbell.

Brothers Vern & Wilbur Schields first entered the earthmoving business in 1941, just prior to the United States entering WW2.

Their intention was to produce an excavator that could perform multiple functions, be cost-effective, and be mounted on a truck for easy job-to-job mobility.

To this end they succeeded, their Model M-47 Bantam selling almost 40 units before WW2 put a stop to production.

Following WW2 the brothers, correctly anticipating a great demand for their excavators, revised the specification somewhat and produced the Model M-49, a slightly more user-friendly version of their M-47.

This was manufactured at a new facility that the brothers had built in Waverley, Iowa.

Between 1949 and 1952, the Waverley plant manufactured 746 M-49 excavators, the majority of which were sold in the continental USA.

This month’s subject, the model C-35 universal excavator, was introduced in 1952 and replaced the model M-49 in production.

The Schield brothers, in the spirit of constant improvement, wanted the new excavator to be as versatile as possible.

The former M-47 and M-49 models had been designed to be fitted to on-highway trucks of the day for maximum mobility between jobsites.

The new C-35 series however, was crawler mounted, but could also be fitted to a truck.

It was offered with three different and interchangeable front ends to maximize its usefulness.

These attachments included a dragline/crane boom, face shovel rig, and a backhoe rig.

These different front ends could be changed over in under 8 hours to convert the machine into whatever configuration was required.

Basic setup

Power for a Schield C-35 was usually a Chrysler 6-cylinder gasoline engine rated at approximately 110 horsepower (one must remember that petrol was cheap in those days!)

An optional Buda, Cummins or GM diesel could also be installed in place of the Chrysler gasoline engine at an additional cost.

A power take-off on the engine flywheel housing engaged a set of dog clutches to power the winches and travel machinery.

The undercarriage was a very basic shovel type with flat linked track pads.

Drive to the tracks was provided by roller chain driven sprockets.

Somewhat ahead of their time, Schield offered two undercarriage layouts for its excavators, standard (most commonly seen on face shovels) and extended frame which included an extra track roller for jobs requiring less ground pressure.

C-35 Bantams were also quite fast travellers compared to their contemporaries, being capable of 2 mph on good underfoot conditions.

Operators’ area

As was the case with most excavators of the early 1950s, operator comforts (apart from the cab) were virtually non-existent.

A padded seat was provided for the operator however, in order to check operation of the engine, the operator had to turn 180 degrees to read the instruments!

Stout levers and pedals engaged the various clutches and brakes to the winches which were the heart of the machine and required some effort to engage and disengage.

Your author believes that if you did a day’s shift in one of these machines, you would know about it afterwards!

Crane or dragline

In its crane configuration, the C-35 had a 10.5 ton rating at full radius, a very handy tool for most building sites and a better tonnage rating than a lot of its contemporaries.

Rigged as a dragline, the standard bucket held 5/8 cubic yard.

The face shovel variant

The standard shovel bucket was manufactured by Esco for Schield and held ¾ cubic yards, and was usually fitted with three replaceable or welded on teeth depending on the customers preference.

This was an ideal setup for small pits or quarries.

The backhoe

Set up as a backhoe, the C-35 could dig to a depth of 18 feet, more than adequate for most trenching jobs of the period, especially subdivisional work.

The trenching bucket held ½ cubic yard and had four replaceable teeth.


The under one cubic yard backhoe/excavator market was very hotly contested in the late 1940s and 1950s and included machines from Bucyrus-Erie, Osgood, Byers, Northwest, Lorain, Link-Belt, Bay City, Wayne, Buckeye, Koehring and Insley to name but a few.

It is to Shield’s credit that in the period that the C-35 was in production, 1952 thru 1958, the company manufactured and delivered 4,774 units of all types (crane/backhoe/shovel).

Following the heady years of the 1950s, small cable operated excavators and shovels fell victim to the newer hydraulic types which were slowly appearing on the scene.

Schield attempted to counter this new market threat with a hybrid machine which featured a hydraulic cylinder for bucket crowding but sales were ultimately disappointing.

The end came in 1961 when the Schield Bantam Company and its manufacturing facilities was bought by one of its major competitors, Koehring, and the Schield name faded into history.


The Schield C-35 was a simple, uncomplicated machine which was robust and reliable in operation and, more importantly, easy to maintain.

It was also very affordable for the average or entry level contractor, a backhoe equipped machine costing a mere US$9,350 dollars fully equipped and delivered to site.

Schield Bantams were imported into New Zealand, but there is no surviving record of how many.

Several your author has seen in the late 1950s were mounted on war-surplus truck carriers rather than track type undercarriage and all were apparently imported as backhoes

Feast Contractors of Wellington used to own one in the 1960s and it would be interesting to know if any of these machines still exist in one piece.

Brief Specifications – Schield C-35 Bantam

Engine (std.):              110 hp Chrysler 6-cylinder, inline gasoline engine.

Diesel engine options also available at customer’s request

Transmission:             Schield-manufactured drop box with roller chain drive

Operation:                   Full cable with 2 winches (backhoe) or 3 winches (shovel/crane)

Drive:                          Tumbler type sprocket

Bottom Rollers:          6 per side in standard configuration

Carrier Rollers:           2

Standard Track Shoe: 20” flat pad, 36-section, side pinned

Operating Weight:      10 tons with backhoe, 11 tons with crane or front shovel

Related posts

Parting words from Jeremy Sole- a final column

Contrafed PUblishing

Smoko antics

Contrafed PUblishing

The Le Tourneau-Westinghouse C-500 motor scraper

Contrafed PUblishing