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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Gopher towable diggers, excavators, backhoes - pictures, sales brochure and operators manual

The Gopher was a British digger built during the heyday of towable diggers in the 1980's. The Gopher was invented by a lady called Margaret Brown from Milton Keynes. You can view the patent for this digger at http://gb.espacenet.com (patent number GB 2075466B). Initially Gopher International Limited were a separate company based at Retford in Nottinghamshire and then latterly the Gopher was built by Manor Excavators who also made the Manor Micron and were based in Milton Keynes in the old Fleming factory.

Gopher towable digger

You can view full size PDF's of the marketing literature for the Gopher digger using the links further down the page.

Gopher digger,excavator, backhoe

Gopher owned by John who is currently using it in southern Spain somewhere.

The Gopher micro excavator had a very neat design, with 160 or 180 degree slew options and a very clever way of folding up ready for the road.  5, 7 and 10 horsepower options were offered and even an electric version. Wayne says "Gopher's main claim to fame at the time was its foldability, rather than its digging power as it had a very poor dipper arm ratio, but good rip-out on the bucket and jib ram. This machine was followed by the Gopher Boss (a bigger version) but I don`t know if many were produced". 

The unusual thing about the Gopher is that the seat is attached to the slew post so when you drive it you slew around too!  A bit like those large HIAB or ATLAS cranes on some lorries where you sit up high to drive or early Massey Ferguson wheel diggers. The idea is that the weight of the driver counterbalances the loaded bucket.

Gopher Boss digger

We believe this digger is a Gopher Boss. It is owned by a different John. This is a Manor Excavator model and has the same wheels and bucket as a Manor (or Fleming) Micron

Honda G300 engine

This is the Honda G300 engine as fitted to most Gopher diggers.

John's Gopher Boss towable digger has an 11 h.p Honda Engine and plenty of power. Note the multi lever controls. The big advantage of this machine is 180 degree slew (chain operated). The limited slew of other towable excavators is a disadvantage for quite a few jobs. John tells me he's been using the machine without its seat, operating it by standing beside it, which he finds convenient to save climbing on and off to use the muck truck. I wouldn't personally recommend this as getting mangled in the machinery is a distinct possibility if you have a mishap and accidentally pull the wrong lever. Most diggers are designed so that if you are sat in the seat you are out of harms way! See the picture below for the normal seat arrangement. Anyway seat or no seat, John soon had that big pile of soil shifted and his digger made short work of filling the muck truck. An ideal combo for working in a restricted space.

Gopher hydraulic pump

Gopher digger - hydraulic tank and pump.

Gopher - slew chain and hydraulic rams

The Gopher's slewing gear.  Slew is an opposed pair of single acting rams connected by a chain.

The Gopher's slewing gear is a novel arrangement. When one ram retracts it pulls the other open and so empties its oil back to the tank. John from Spain found his machine wouldn't slew when he first contacted me.  He discovered that the two large nuts had been over tightened.

Gopher hydraulic control valves

 Gopher digger hydraulic control valves.

Gopher digger

Gopher digger slew post.

Gopher owned by Kingsley. After looking at the other Gopher's on this page he has realised that the rear ram and anchor are missing from his machine.

Gopher owned by Jason. If you look closely you can see the normal stabiliser legs and the special one for digging beside a wall.

Gopher International Ltd

Gopher owned by Jason. The badge says Gopher International Limited so his machine dates from before Manor Excavators took over.

Paul sent this picture to show how the Gopher folds up for the road. Neat. He's lucky enough to have a full set of buckets for his digger.

John H emailed this picture of his Gopher digger which he has taken to his cabin in Norway. There is no road access and he took the Gopher across the lake on a raft.

Digger on the lake

Towing the raft behind a dinghy.

Unloading the digger

Unloading the Gopher from the raft at the cabin.

Gopher 5 Star (added 26/01/11) - thanks to Shaun for the pictures

Gopher 5 star digger

Shaun has owned this digger for 9 years and uses it regularly. It is a Gopher 5 Star.

Gopher digger

The 5 star has hydraulic drive to the wheels. Those shown are not the original wheels and tyres.

Gopher digger

The leg rams have steel covers to protect them when digging.

What Shaun says about his Gopher digger. "The machine was bought from a tree surgeon who had been using it to uproot tree stumps. He said I would find it a useful machine and it certainly is as I have found over the last nine years as a grave-digger. The Gopher takes most soil types, be they gravel, clay, sand or flint fairly easily. I think it has quite a good rip-out power. Also the drive allows for ease of access to most areas without making any impressions on grass or surfaces you would rather not disturb. Have thought many times about replacing it with a tracked machine, but the Gopher is so easy to drive and to hitch to the towing vehicle, then disengage drive, and away you go. Very interesting about the tyres, I think I shall try to find some. Also I have a Powerfab 125 which is a good machine, but in some ways I think the Gopher is a more powerful machine."

Mike added the following, "The Gopher in the pictures was known as the 5 Star. It was originally fitted with wide low ground pressure tyres which were capable of being run at 60MPH. The wheels in the pictures are later additions. The two wheels were hydraulically driven and could also be used for towing. The machine looks original except for the wheels. The bucket is what was known as the grave digging bucket because it rolled back further to allow the end of graves to be dug vertically. However the buckets were the same and interchangeable with the Micron as are the hydraulic rams. A 4 wheel drive version was also produced which was great fun." The following pictures are of the 4 wheel drive version (kindly supplied by Mike).

 Gopher 5 star

Four wheel drive Gopher in Northumberland for a demonstration.

Gopher 4 wheel drive

The machine could negotiate terrain which a small 360o machine could not.

Gopher digger

Having proved itself the machine went onwards to Sutherland where it was used to clear pony paths on a stalking estate to enable Argocats to get around.

Gopher 4WD

Another also went to Scotland for use on peatland, it was fitted with hydraulic driven water pump to put out heather fires.

More Gopher digger resources

PDFGopher original sales literature (Copyright belongs to Gopher) page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

Gopher Operators Manual - Click here

Link to Honda's Website where you can download manuals for all popular industrial engines as used on Gopher diggers

I am very grateful to the two John's who sent in pictures to enable me to start this page. Thanks also to the people who have emailed with all the other pictures since and to John H for the manual

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