Liebherr restores 60-year-old wheel loader prototype: the LSL 1500

Almost 60 years after its debut, one of Liebherr’s first wheel loader prototypes has finally been restored: the LSL 1500. It is the only remaining unit from a pilot series of five machines produced in the 1960s, and thus is the oldest preserved Liebherr wheel loader in existence.

According to Liebherr, the restoration of the vintage loader took about 650 working hours, which is now presented as an exhibition piece at the company’s Bischofshofen facility in Austria.

“When developing wheel loaders, we deal with the latest technologies and trends on a daily basis. However, we also respect our roots. And this wheel loader here shows that Liebherr was getting innovative machine concepts off the ground even six decades ago,” explained Martin Gschwend, managing director at Liebherr-Werk Bischofshofen GmbH, who is responsible for the worldwide distribution of Liebherr wheel loaders.

From scrap metal to work of art

The LSL 1500 has had a full life. In Germany, after several years at a gravel factory in the Biberach area, the machine arrived at the Fried-Sped corporate group in Ummendorf around 1980. In early 2000s, Liebherr took the prototype back and preserved the now decommissioned wheel loader.

In 2019, Liebherr-Werk Bischofshofen GmbH decided to fully restore this last remaining LSL 1500. The ravages of time, particularly in the form of rust and frost damage, had taken their toll on the machine.

The project began in the first quarter of 2020 at the Liebherr Bischofshofen plant. The wheel loader experts refurbished each individual part of the LSL 1500 down to the last screw. For the team, the renovation meant much more than mere nostalgia. “Several apprentices worked on the restoration. For them, this was a rare opportunity to observe and understand the technology of earlier times,” said Andreas Scharler, who ran the repair centre for many years.

No doubt, technical skill and improvisational talent were required. “When you start the diesel engine, the operating voltage suddenly switches from 12 to 24 V. We first had to analyse this process correctly in order to be able to start the wheel loader successfully. It was a splendid moment when we heard the powerful six-cylinder diesel engine running for the first time,” delighted Mr Scharler.

A piece of history

In the 1950s, Liebherr was already experimenting with wheel loaders, a type of machine still in its infancy and underdeveloped at the time. Liebherr’s first two prototypes, the ‘Elephant’ and ‘Mammoth’ models, still had to cope with increased tyre wear and modest traction.

In the early 1960s, Liebherr managed to create a reliable wheel loader prototype with the LSL 1500, weighing around 10 t and delivering 108 hp. Liebherr produced a pilot series of five units. The LSL 1500 had a rigid frame and hydraulically supported rear wheel steering that was considered luxurious back then. The load transmission was achieved by a torque converter and a four-wheel drive, which could optionally be switched off.

The new kinematics provided a dumping height of around 3 m and allowed for the loading of construction site vehicles with larger side heights. For poor weather, an all-weather cover with sewn-in transparent windows and heating was available for the operator’s platform, which was open during that time. With pride, Liebherr described its LSL 1500 in a data sheet as a “new design based on many years of experience in the construction of earthmoving machines.”

Further information and video on the restoration of the LSL 1500, click here.