Rare restoration: Inchgreen IG-5 l excavator

By: Chris McCullough, Photography by: Chris McCullough


Quite possibly the world’s only restored Inchgreen excavator, the IG-5 looks the part, and Deals on Wheels went along for a look

Five years ago, the efforts of a team of plant machinery restoration experts was unveiled at a special ceremony at Stormont Parliament Buildings in Northern Ireland.

Excavator

That particular machine was a rare 1963 Inchgreen IG-5 backhoe excavator that had been meticulously restored back to former showroom condition under the instructions of owner Chris McCann from FP McCann Ltd, a civil engineering and quarrying company.

It could be the only example of an Inchgreen IG-5 excavator currently restored in the world but for its owners, this model has real sentimental values. The IG-5 has been restored for five years now but still is the pride of place at the company headquarters in Knockloughrim in County Londonderry. 

The backstory

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Back in the 1960s, the founder of FP McCann, the late Paddy McCann, first purchased an Inchgreen IG-5 just when the first hydraulic excavators were launched.

Roll on half a century later to 2009 and Paddy’s son, Chris McCann, decided to find and restore an identical model for sentimental reasons and that is the one that stands
proud today.

Paddy began operating as a sole trader in the 1940s supplying quarry products to the local construction industry. His passion for diggers was evident throughout the years and his first mechanical rope digger was the Priestman Panther purchased in the 1940s.

As the Inchgreen company did not continue its manufacturing for a long period, there are few of these backhoe loaders available today.

The IG-5 and IG-6 were produced in Scotland at the Inchgreen Engineering Company’s Greenock factory. Many were put in hard-working shifts all over Europe and no doubt have been lying in scrapyards for decades. But one was found in Ireland and was dramatically brought back to life, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Trevor Marsden.

From start to finish

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"Restoration work began on this 54-year-old digger back in February 2009 with extensive work required to bring both the bodywork and engine back to working standards," Chris says.

"The unveiling took place at the Northern Ireland Assembly Buildings at Stormont in 2012 when the project was completed. The quality of workmanship is a testament to the highly skilled and talented workforce within Northern Ireland and, in particular, Trevor Marsden who oversaw the restoration from start to finish."

Trevor and his team put in hundreds of hours of work to restore the Inchgreen and also had a helping hand from a one-time competitor of the brand.

JCB employee Julian Carder helped with the project on a personal level by carrying out research and helping source some scarce spare parts that were needed to complete the project.

When new in 1963, the Inchgreen would have cost in the region of under £4000 (approx. $7823), but this restoration costs were around 15 times that figure.

There Belfast unveiling of the completed project saw a nice reunion with the former managing director of Inchgreen Engineering Ltd present to witness one of his machines brought back to life.

The finer details

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The Inchgreen IG-5 was based on a Fordson Super Major 53.7hp unit and weighed 5.6 tonnes. It has a maximum backhoe reach of 5.05 metres and a maximum digging depth of 4.12 metres. The front loader reached 4.06 metres high when fully raised.

The Inchgreen Engineering Company Ltd redesigned their first Fordson-based backhoes to produce the IG-5 machine. The new model’s hydraulic system was operated by a Hamworthy pump, Dowty control valves with a hydraulic pressure of 2000psi, as well as Nichol and Andrew rams.

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Later on, when Ford replaced the Fordson E1A Major with the more superior Ford 5000, the machine had to have a major redesign and became the IG-6 in 1965–1966. The new IG-6 was based on the new Ford 5000 series tractor, with a redesigned frame and Dowty hydraulic control valves and pump.

Loader

The front loader used Nichol and Andrews rams and the backhoe had Power Jacks Ltd and used a Dowty Actuator slewing motor. Plus, the cab was made by local company Scottish Aviation in Prestwick.

The front stub axles came from Ford’s Thames Trader truck. The machines weren’t without their problems though and one of the biggest complaints was about the quality of welding on the machine. According to former staff, the Dowty hydraulic pumps also gave a lot of trouble, mainly due to the bearings wearing out and the rotors scoring the aluminium housing.

Unfortunately, the company stopped production in the late ’60s after the parent company amalgamated it with the sister company that was involved in shipbuilding.

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This was after spending £100,000 (approx. $195,580) on welding fixtures to improve the fabrications, but sadly, these were never used and were scrapped at the jig makers.

Incidentally, Chris also has the remnants of the IG-6 model ready to be put together and restored at some point in the near future.

"There are not too many people that have one of each model," Chris says. "I want to put it all together soon to see exactly what we have. It might be the case that we leave it in original condition but time will tell."

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