Gary Ashe visited businessman Robbie Knight in North County Dublin to check out his recently restored 1978 JCB 3C Mk3 backhoe loader.

Robbie Knight’s recently restored 1978 JCB 3C Mk3 backhoe has been brought back to its original glory by restoration specialist Julian Carder in the UK. ANorth County Dublin-based Robbie spared no expense getting this classic unit into pristine condition right down to the finest detail.

“I bought it about five or six years ago with the intention of getting it restored,” explains Robbie. “It was sent to a guy called Julian Carder who works for JCB and also restores them. Everything has been completely rebuilt, the engine, hydraulics, hoses, everything. It’s been sandblasted and repainted. The cab on it was rotten so we had to buy a purpose-built cab. The cabs on them were notorious for rotting.”

It took three years to restore and was actually driven by Julian in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee before coming back to Ireland. “It’s been on show at the Ploughing Championships,” Robbie informed me. “And It’s been at The Flavors of Fingal; all the kids love it. It was the first one in 1978 to come with the extra-dig boom and it was made in the last year they had short snout exhausts before changing in 1979.”

Classic power

Powered by a classic 70hp (BMC) British Leyland 4-cylinder 3.7l diesel engine, the machine features the 6-in-1 front shovel, and an extending dipper, all of which were regarded as cutting-edge components back in those days. I chatted with the man behind the restoration, Julian Carden, about the process. “A lot of man hours went into this project,” he said, “in fact I’d say well over 1,000 hours.

Many of the parts are simply not available anymore so I use every bit of my engineering background to get some items manufactured and machined. I like to restore these machines as much to the original spec as possible without any flashy extras. My enjoyment comes from getting the JCB back to it’s original state. In fact the only bit of chrome on it is the fuel cap.”

He has the world’s biggest collection of JCB literature containing tens of thousands of pages of spec and info so it’s no surprise when he tells me he’s also written the official JCB Haynes manual.

He has restored at least 20 JCBs to date and he’s also found his dream job as JCB global backhoe manager. He tells me he’s had many people come to him for parts so they can start their own restoration projects but many give up half way as they don’t realise the amount of work that’s involved.

Concrete business

Robbie runs his own business, Mid Knight Electrical, which recently diversified into concrete distribution. “We have a volumetric cement mixer which is the first of its kind in Ireland to be calibrated and certified. It operates under the new business Mobi Mix which I set up about a year ago,” he says.

Volumetric mixers batch, measure, mix and dispense concrete all from one unit. Volumetric concrete mixers can produce exactly the amount of concrete needed when it is needed at any time.

“We have a contract with GMC amongst others at the moment so we are fairly flat to the mat.” concludes Robbie.

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