HISTORY LESSON: As infrastructure on both sides of the Atlantic evolved, so did the need for machinery to help build roads
The American Road Champion, the first horse-drawn grader in the United States, was built by the Pennock family enterprise to its own patent in 1875. The firm later became The American Road Machinery Company, establishing a subsidiary in Goderich, Canada, in 1892. It changed its name to Champion Road Machinery in 1977 and was eventually acquired by Volvo in 1997. Champion’s first motorized grader appeared in 1928, and was equipped with a covered area for the operator.
On the other side of the Atlantic, engineers in Sweden introduced the first motorized grader in 1923, due to the urgent need to improve transport infrastructure after the First World War to cope with a growing number of cars. Volvo’s forerunner Munktell concluded that a grader powered by an internal combustion engine would be a more efficient machine.
As with all its early construction equipment, Munktell’s motor graders were originally built around a power unit based on a tractor. The first motor grader, known as Model 24, was launched in 1923 with a driveline identical to Munktell’s third tractor model, the Type 22, launched a few years previously in 1921. The 5,000kg machine – compared to today’s 17,470kg monster – was powered by a two-cylinder, two-stroke hot bulb engine with an output of 22hp.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Model 24 was the first road grader made in Sweden. Deliveries began in 1924, although the grader made its first appearance at the Swedish Agricultural Meeting in Gothenburg in 1923, where it was awarded the King’s Prize of Honour. Model 24 graders could still be seen working on Swedish roads well into the 1950s.
The Model 24 on display at Volvo’s Munktell Museum in Eskilstuna, serial number 5579, was finished on 31 March 1930. Sold to a road maintenance depot at Kälarne in Jämtland, Sweden, it was dispatched to its new owner on 7 May 1931. The museum acquired the grader in 1986, courtesy of former museum director Sven Arnegård, accompanied by a colleague, who drove it more than 100km to its new home.
During 1932-1944, Models 30 and C1 – in which hydraulically/mechanically operated grader blades were introduced – followed Model 24.
In the early 1950s, Sweden’s Royal Board for Public Road and Water Structures requested tenders for machines from several motor grader manufacturers. By then, Munktell had merged with Bolinder, and it was stipulated that all machines would be based on a unit designed and manufactured by Bolinder-Munktell.
MAKING THE GRADE
In 1950, AB Volvo acquired the company and the products were branded BM-Volvo. In 1973, the company changed its name to Volvo BM AB and the products became Volvo BM. Launched in 1954 and fitted with mechanical transmission, the VHK 55 was the first motor grader in this series. Subsequently, several mechanical motor grader models followed, leading to the famous VHK 115, which was manufactured until 1965. Next came the VHK 310, which was the first grader with hydraulic transmission and a Powershift gearbox, followed by the VHK 312 in 1970.
The last generation of Volvo BM graders, the Volvo BM 3200-3700 series, was manufactured between 1977-82. During this time the Champion Road Machinery company had also grown its product lines and market coverage. By leveraging several industry firsts and patents along the way, it climbed to second place globally and was represented in over 100 countries by the late 1990s.
In 1958, the hydraulically powered circle was adopted, then in 1989 the patented Duramide was introduced to extend the wear life of key machine components. In 1999, the company provided a low-speed creep mode on AWD models along with crossover brake circuits to enhance safety.
Volvo introduced the 11-speed transmission in 2006 with the launch of the 900 series graders. The latest model, the heavy-duty G946C motor grader, features a powerful Tier 4 Final/Stage IV-compliant engine and delivers the ultimate in performance and precision – features the construction machinery pioneers of the last century could only have dreamt of.