The JCB journey from a garage to global force

In a tiny garage in the Staffordshire market town in the United Kingdom, JCB was founded on October 23rd in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford.

It was the same day as his son Anthony, now Lord Bamford, was born and as Bamford remarked “being presented with a son tended to concentrate the mind and when you were starting at the bottom, there was only one way to go and that was up.”

The first product built in the garage was a tipping trailer made from war time scrap, which today stands proudly in the showroom of JCB’s world headquarters. 

It was produced in his garage and sold for £45 at the town’s market. The buyer’s old cart was also taken in exchange, and Bamford refurbished it and sold for another £45 – achieving the original asking price of the trailer.

Within two years, JCB was expanding. As Bamford’s landlady also disapproved of his work on Sundays, he moved a few miles down the road to a stable block at Crakemarsh Hall. JCB also hired its first ever full-time employee, Arthur Harrison, who became foreman.

By 1950, JCB was on the move again, this time to the site of a former cheese factory in Rocester.

A pivotal year for JCB

For JCB, 1953 proved to be a pivotal year for new products, as Bamford invented the backhoe loader with the launch of the JCB Mk 1 excavator. It was the first time a single machine had been produced with a hydraulic rear excavator and front mounted shovel.

This ingenuity still bears fruit today: JCB has manufactured more than 600,000 backhoes and they are now manufactured on three continents.

RELATED: Guinness World Record holder retires from JCB

With the launch of a range of new backhoes, by the time the 1960s arrived it was clear this machine was revolutionizing the building industry, increasing productivity, and reducing reliance on manpower. 

As the new decade dawned, the company was also harnessing new tools to generate business and promote the brand.

JCB Aviation

In 1961, JCB Aviation was formed and the company’s first ever plane, a twin-engine de Havilland Dove made its inaugural flight, with customers from Europe now able to make a return visit to the factory in a single day. JCB Aviation is older than many of today’s airlines.

The following year, the JCB Dancing Diggers were introduced, and JCB’s first ever overseas subsidiary in Holland was opened. A year later the JCB 3C backhoe, an acknowledged design classic, was launched. Such was the growing success of the company that in 1964, with sales up by 60 per cent to £8 million, employees shared in a £250,000 bonus. The news made national headlines and payouts were on such a scale that some employees were able to buy their first homes with the bonus they received.

“I am giving you this money because I want you to share in the success of the company you have helped make,” Bamford said.

In the same year, JCB exported its first ever machine to the United States – a JCB 4C backhoe loader.

By 1970, JCB opened up for business in the United States, setting up a base in Baltimore to harness the huge growth opportunity North America offered.

Between 1971 and 1973 sales doubled to £40 million.  In 1975 JCB’s founder retired

“Anthony faces the tough job of moving JCB forward through the next decades into a new century,” Bamford said in a farewell message. “This is a demanding task, but he has been well trained for it and is supported by a very strong team from works staff to management. There cannot be any limit to the successes.”

A new era

With Anthony Bamford at the helm, a new era had dawned – and one that would see huge expansion of both manufacturing facilities and product ranges.

In 1977 the wraps came off the Loadall telescopic handler, a machine which revolutionized the way loads were handled on both construction sites and on farms. The Loadall has gone on to be one of the most successful products in JCB’s history. 

The decision to start manufacturing in India in 1979 heralded a period of global expansion as Anthony Bamford spotted the potential of this market. Today JCB has factories in New Delhi, Pune and Jaipur and India is now JCB’s biggest market behind the United Kingdom.

Product innovation continued to be the lifeblood of the company and in 1985 the 3CX Sitemaster backhoe loader was launched and went on to be JCB’s biggest-ever selling backhoe. It’s also the year JCB celebrated the production of its 100,000th backhoe.

In 1988 the JCB GT was introduced, a backhoe capable of speeds of 160 km per hour, and a fantastic promotional tool which continues to draw the crowds wherever it appears around the world.

Knighthood

By 1990 JCB was expanding into new fields with the launch of the JCB Fastrac tractor – the world’s first genuine high-speed, full suspension tractor. This was also the year that Anthony Bamford was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and became Sir Anthony Bamford, an honour he said, “recognized the efforts of the whole JCB team.”  

Product development continued unabated with the launch of the 2CX backhoe loader in 1990 followed three years later by the even smaller 1CX.

In 1994 Joseph Cyril Bamford had a rose named in his honour. Called ‘Mr. JCB’, the yellow rose was unveiled in the presence of the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show.

A year later and JCB was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a visit by Queen Elizabeth II to its World HQ, where she unveiled a replica of the Uttoxeter garage where Bamford began his business all those years ago.

In 2000, the first machines began rolling off the production line at JCB’s new North American headquarters in Savannah, Georgia.

On March 1st 2001, flags at JCB factories around the world flew at half-mast following news of the death of the company’s founder Joseph Cyril Bamford. Britain’s Financial Times newspaper said he was blessed with a rare combination of “engineering genius and marketing flair.”

In 2004, JCB reached the milestone of 500,000 machine produced. It had taken nearly 60 years to reach that milestone. The next half million machines would be produced within nine years. The same year, JCB took the bold step into engine production with the launch of the Dieselmax engine, manufactured at JCB Power Systems in Derbyshire.      

JCB’s largest order in history                                  

In 2005, JCB opened its factory in Pudong, China and announced news of the biggest ever order in its history, a $140 million deal to supply the US Army with a high-speed backhoe loader for military engineering tasks, a machine known as the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE). In 2006, Sir Anthony Bamford’s son Jo became a director of JCB, the third generation of the Bamford family to hold such a position.

It was in this year that JCB achieved its highest ever machine sales of 72,000 units.

RELATED: JCB 1 backhoe restored to mark the manufacturer’s 75th anniversary

A national shortage of engineers inspired Lord Bamford establish the JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire in 2010 to train the country’s engineers and business leaders of the future. The facility has been a resounding success with nearly 1,000 students passing through its doors and with every single one going on to employment or further education.  JCB also announced a $40 million project to develop a brand-new range of skid steer and track loaders to be manufactured at its North American headquarters.

Global manufacturing extended to Brazil in 2012, and British Prime Minister David Cameron officially opened the new £63 million facility in Sao Paulo state.

As JCB approached its 68th birthday in 2013, a new independent economic report revealed the company supported 24,000 jobs in the United Kingdom, and contributed £545 million to the British Exchequer.

It was also a momentous year for JCB’s chairman Sir Anthony Bamford as he became Lord Bamford after being invited by Prime Minister David Cameron to be a Conservative working peer in the House of Lords.

70th anniversary

In 2015, JCB marked its 70th anniversary with a continued focus on product innovation with the release of the 3CX compact backhoe loader, a machine 35 per cent smaller than its bigger brother and designed to work on increasingly congested building sites.

In 2016, JCB celebrated the production of the 200,000th Loadall telescopic handler. It took almost 30 years for JCB to sell the first 100,000 Loadalls, but it has taken less than 10 for the next 100,000 to be.

Today, JCB is the world’s top producer of telescopic handlers. In this year, JCB also marked the production on its 100,000th mini excavator and celebrated 25 years of production of the revolutionary Fastrac tractor. It was also the year when the new JCB Hydradig was launched to international acclaim. 

A new market

For JCB, marked the launch of a new range of JCB powered access equipment after two years of secret development. The company was entering for the first time a market worth $8 billion a year. The year also saw the company celebrate another Loadall milestone – 40 years since production started. Later in the year, JCB marked the production of its 500,000th engine, which is enough engines to stretch from London to Paris. 

If 2017 was a year of milestones, 2018 was certainly a year for exciting product introductions with the unveiling of JCB’s first ever electric excavator leading the way.

The 19C-1E electric mini excavator was developed in response to customer demands for a zero emissions machine which could work indoors, underground, and close to people in urban areas. Once fully charged, it is ready to put in a full normal working day on the building site.

The year also saw the launch of the hugely successful X-Series range of tracked excavators and the start of site dumper manufacturing at the World HQ in Rocester.

A Guinness World Record

By 2019, the new electric mini excavator was in full production at JCB Compact Products in Cheadle, Staffordshire, with the initial first 50 orders delivered to customers. It was also a year for records. In June of that year, JCB set a Guinness World Record for the fastest tractor.

Called Fastrac One, the tractor reached a speed of 103.6 miles per hour, with motorbike racer and truck mechanic Guy Martin in the driver’s seat. JCB then embarked on an ambitious plan to break its own record and developed Fastrac Two – which is 10 per cent lighter and even more streamlined than its smaller brother.

In October, Fastrac Two hit an astonishing peak speed of 153.771 miles per hour on its way to recording an average of 135.191 miles per hour.

As JCB entered its 75th anniversary year, the sad news was conveyed in January that Bill Hirst, the third employee recruited by the company in 1947, had died at the age of 86.

Silent production lines

In March 2020, JCB marked the production of the 750,000th backhoe loader before the world became a very different place as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. When the company’s production lines fell silent in March, JCB turned its attention to helping those in need during the unprecedented times.

In India and the UK, company chefs prepared more than 200,000 meals for those most in need. A Staffordshire production line closed because of the coronavirus crisis was re-opened to produce prototypes of special housings for a new type of ventilator following a national call to action. 

JCB also reopened its Innovation Center at the World HQ in Rocester so that employees could volunteer to make medical grade visors for NHS staff on the company’s 3D rapid prototype machines.

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