Welcome to www.oilyhands.co.uk

Also known as www.diggers-dumpers-plant.co.uk and www.flamingskoda.com

Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Powerfab towable diggers

Powerfab was a British make of towable digger, designed and built at Tredegar in Wales. Powerfab Ltd was a family run fabrication business that branched out into excavators during the recession of the early 1980's and designed, developed, manufactured and marketed mini excavators. The Model 125W was initially launched at SED in 1981 and in its heyday Powerfab Ltd employed 50 people.

Sharing many features with the other makes such as Fleming Micron, Roughneck and Gopher this type of digger could be pulled through narrow doorways, towed behind a family car and was the forerunner of today's tracked mini-digger which the firm ultimately went on to build before going out of business.

Powerfab 125 towable digger

The basic towable machine was continuously developed and by the end the 125WTD which had hydraulic motors for moving about on site was a very capable machine.

The whole basis of the Powerfab type machine was to appeal to the small builder/contractor because in the late 1970's early 1980's there was still a lot of hand digging going on. The idea of a digger which could be towed behind any van or car was really a very good one. David John (the managing director of Powerfab Ltd) decided to develop the micro digger after some laborious hand digging.

Powerfab micro excavator

At what point during the 1980's did flat caps give way to hard hats?

Powerfab 300 loader

Powerfab also made some other unusual machines such as the 300 skidsteer loader which was also towable.

Powerfab 125WT

Powerfab 125WT with a hydraulic winch. Original picture kindly supplied by Nathan.

Powerfab 1200XD

A Powerfab 1200XD 360 mini digger. This is one of the first produced. Thanks to Nathan for the picture.

Powerfab 150D

A Powerfab backhoe attachment fitted to a skidsteer. Thanks to Nathan for the picture.

Powerfab 360WT

A Powerfab 360WT 360 towable digger complete with canvas cab! Thanks to Nathan for the picture.

PDF's of Techncial Information, Original Brochure and interesting Powerfab articles.

(Copyright of original pictures, manuals and spec sheets belongs to Powerfab.)

Army Powerfabs

Army Powerfab digger

In 1985 Powerfab made some lightweight diggers for the Army. The engine/hydraulic pump was made to lift out so that you could run a jack hammer.

Powerfab excavator for the British Army

Army Powerfab and Landrover pictured in the 1980's. I am grateful to Nathon for providing me with these pictures.

Click here to read a press article about the Army Powerfabs from Jane's Defence Weekly, December 1985

Surviving Machines & More Pictures

On this page there are now pictures of many of the different models sent in by various owners from around the UK and even some from abroad. If you have a machine which isn't represented please send us a picture of it.

Powerfab 300 skidsteer loader

Berthold from Bavaria needs a parts diagram and manual for his Powerfab 300. Why has someone fixed a FIAT badge on it?

Powerfab towable digger

This is the Powerfab my brother hired in 1985. This influenced my decision to buy the Fleming Micron many years later.

Powerfab being towed

Very brave towing a Powerfab digger with a Fiesta! I hope it was an 1100cc not 950cc. Number plate dates it to the early 1980's.

Powerfab 125w digger

A Powerfab 125 digger owned by Mart and Bob. They are Powerfab enthusiasts and regular contributors to the site. This machine is very similar to my Fleming Micron.

Powerfab digger, excavator, backhoe

Front view of the Powerfab 125w. You can see that the legs are quite wide to give the machine the necessary stability when slewing.

Powerfab 125wtd digger

The ultimate towable digger. The Powerfab 125WTD. Innovations include hydraulic front legs, powered front wheels and skid steer.

Powerfab 125wtd digger

The Powerfab designers took all the shortcomings of the original machine and overcame them in this digger.

Powerfab 125wtd excavator

Powerfab 125wtd digging arm. Thanks again to Martin and Bob for the great pictures.

Powerfab 360W

Powerfab 360W. This must be a very useful towable digger as it can load a dumper behind itself as it has 360 degree slewing.

Powerfab 180

Another one of Mart and Bob's diggers. A tracked Powerfab. It's unusual as it only has 180 degree slew.

Powerfab 360 mini digger

Here's one of Powerfab's final machines the 1200XD 1.25 ton 360 degree mini digger of the late 1980's. Has a 2 cylinder Mitsubishi diesel engine.

Powerfab 125 wtd skidsteer

Powerfab 125wtd skidsteer owned by Richard. He got it home after towing it 110 miles from Sheffield. Thanks for the picture.


Front view of Richard's Powerfab 125wtd.

Powerfab 125w on trailer

Powerfab 125w loaded onto its trailer ready for the road. Note the two widths of buckets and separate skeletal trailer. Thanks to Mart and Bob once again.

ex-army Powerfab digger

This is Scott's ex-army Powerfab digger.

Electric Powerfab digger, excavator

This is a good conversion. A powerfab digger fitted with a 4kw electric motor (380v). Belongs to Reino who lives 30km North of Helsinki.

Reino's Powerfab was converted from petrol power to electric for digging in a cellar.  He bought the digger from Sweden and had a few problems when he first got it because there was water in the motor.  That is sorted now and it's running well. Reino says, "the electric motor is both practical and impractical. It is nice and quiet but it needs a lot of electric cable. Great care has to be used to not damage the cable when moving the digger".

Powerfab 125 digger

Powerfab 125 being put to good use by Leigh. Unfortunately the hydraulic pump has failed due to low oil. A reminder to all us digger users to keep the oils topped up.

More trouble this time the engine. Neill's Honda was a wreck so he fitted this Briggs and Stratton engine. It didn't take well to the job and the con rod broke. He's now got a new engine.

Powerfab 125wtd

Another Powerfab 125wtd. This one is owned by Peter. Looks like the bucket has lost its teeth at some time.

Mart and Bob's latest idea. A neat electric start conversion for Powerfab diggers. Looks good to me. With a battery on board some work lights could be added too.

Gary's Powerfab Samuri 360 degree mini digger. He says "it is heavy duty and very well made". The digger is a 1.5 ton version.

Powerfab Samuri

Close up of controls and seat on Gary's Powerfab. This machine is in great condition.

Mart and Bob have just bought this 360 Powerfab which is missing its engine and pump. It needs a bit of work to get it running but Mart and Bob know their Powerfabs.

Powerfab 360

Mart says "going to try and fit a power pack from a jack hammer (Ducati Diesel) which I bought with it.  I don't  know if it will work". Well there's only one way to find out!

This is an interesting find. A 3 phase electric hydraulic pack for the 360w. Mart and Bob are going to convert it to engine power. It was used for digging in a tunnel with no ventilation.

Powerfab flexible coupling

The electric motor has a much bigger flexible coupling to the hydraulic pump. Presumably because motors deliver very high torque compared to engines?

Mart and Bob have now converted the 360W power pack to petrol power by fitting a new Loncin engine. It's looking very nice with a fresh coat of paint.

Powerfab boom stay

This is a clamp which will fit around the boom ram and stops any movement while on the road. See the blue digger above which has it fitted. Thanks to Mart for the picture.

Mart and Bob have done a great job getting the 360W back into working order.

Powerfab digger

The digger has a new seat and a new Loncin engine.

This 360W was used for dredging canals so has an unusual clam shell bucket fitted. Very rare indeed. This machine is now owned by Ray who has repainted it very nicely.

Powerfab 360W

On a Powerfab 360W. The engine and pump can be swung out.

Kevin owns this Powerfab 300 which is fitted with an Auger which he uses for installing fence posts. The digger now has a Loncin engine.

Powerfab 300

The auger is driven by a hydraulic motor.

Gary from Australia owns this Powerfab 360WD which he is hoping to get running again.

Powerfab 360WD

Gary's Powerfab 360WD has a strange 3 wheel arrangement for moving about.

Gopher digger

This is clearly not a Powerfab 125wt despite the convincing paint job and new stickers! It's a Gopher owned by Kai from Germany.

Powerfab 180a

This is a very early Powerfab product a 180a backhoe which would fit onto a tractors three point linkage.

John's Powerfab 360W and Thwaites dumper

Powerfab 360W

John's 360W has 3 buckets, and long and short dippers.

Powerfab 360W

The 360W has been put to good use in 2012.

Powerfab 360WD (Three wheel version) and Uli's warning about it

Powerfab 360WD

Uli's Powerfab 360WD which is the three wheel version.

Hello Jim, I had a dangerous situation with my Powerfab 360 WD. Maybe you could put a warning on your website? I stopped the machine in a sloping area and got off to open a gate. As I thought that the Hydraulic Motor would function as a brake I did not use stabilizers or beam for this short moment to secure. When I came back, the 360WD started slowly to roll backwards. I tried to climb on and stop it with the hydraulic drive. Unfortunately it speeded up a lot rolling down towards a pond. My foot got between one wheel and the frame. I was lucky it was just the shoe which was destroyed, not my foot. I managed to bring the 360 into a safe direction where it stopped. Now we checked the hydraulics. It was all ok. But I learned, that the 360WD is very dangerous. As you cannot use the stabilizers at the same time as the drive there is no functioning brake. If you were driving up a hill and the engine runs out of fuel there is no chance to get the 360 stopped (you cant even drive a U-turn!). Although you can put the bucket down - it is passive without force so will not help a lot.

Uli is using this machine to dig a harbour at Lake Kemijärvi in Lappland

Lifton LE125

According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Mergers and Aquisition History, in 1995 PFL Powerfab, changed its name to Lifton UK. It was a subsidiary of the Danish hydraulic breaker company Lifton Industries. They continued to produce a version of the Powerfab 125WTD for a time but we don't know how many were produced or sold.

Lifton LE125

The Lifton LE125 was essentially a Powerfab 125WTD

Lifton LE125

The Lifton LE125 had an 11 hp diesel engine and slightly revised hydraulic controls.

The Lifton LE890 is basically the same as a Powerfab 1000X. This one is owned by Tony and has no engine and hydraulic pump at the moment.

Who are Powerfab Equipment Ltd?

This is a recent company (formed on 30/05/2006) using the Powerfab name to brand and market a range of towable diggers which are built in China. Its Managing Director Nathan John is the son of David John who was the CEO of Powerfab Ltd (the original 1980's company).

Powerfab Equipment Ltd

This is one of the latest machines being marketed by Powerfab Equipment Ltd.

Powerfab digger

A towable digger from Powerfab Equipment Ltd. These machines are built in China.

What Nathan says about the business, "my company Powerfab Equipment Ltd closely collaborates with a company from China who supply the excavators, indeed we visited them in February 2009. Upon arrival of the excavators in the UK they are then modified specifically for individual customers. For example, the basic excavator from China is 1.9m wide. If a customer requests we can reduce the width to 1m for narrow access, or if a customer requires hydraulic skid steer drive or a full cab we can provide that specification".

Other Chinese diggers include the Digalot and Hubei . Some visitors to the website have expressed concerns about the quality of Chinese built diggers when compared to the old British built models which have stood the test of time.

Update - On 30/07/10, Nathan John sent an email to the publisher of this website stating the following, 'we  are no longer importing the towable mini digger from China  Unfortunately despite us working closely with the Chinese supplier of the self trailering mini excavator we have had some disappointing feedback for the product'.

Links to Powerfab information on other websites