Champion's 100T was the world's largest grader ever sold commercially. Was it too big for the market?
In 1975, Dominion Road Machinery Co. of Goderich, Ontario, Canada, builders of the renowned Champion line of motor graders, took a bold step when it introduced the world's largest production-model grader. Originally designated the Champion 80T, this monster of the grading world tipped the scales at 180,000 pounds. With its wide, 24-foot blade and a GMC V16-71T diesel engine rated at 700 bhp, it was intended for use in surface mining operations to maintain roads for the largest haulers, or to reclaim vast areas of land.
In 1977, Dominion Road Machinery Co. became Champion Road Machinery, and the following year, the 80T grader was upgraded to the 100T and nicknamed the "Big Mudder." Changes included several modifications for increased strength, which raised its weight to 202,000 pounds. The same GMC engine was retained, but an optional Cummins VT-1710 at 700 bhp was also available. While huge in size, the 100T still boasted all the versatile blade movements found on smaller graders including blade power side shift and tilt, front wheel lean, and 45-degree circle rotation either left or right. Overall length was 50 feet 3 inches, width 14 feet 9 inches, and height to top of cab 17 feet 11 inches.
Only a few 100T graders were sold for work in surface coal mines, including locations in Illinois and the Appalachians, and also in the Canadian oilsands operations. Low sales numbers forced Champion to drop the 100T from its product line, and the last one was shipped in 1985 before even 10 had been built. Champion sold the manufacturing rights of the model 100T to Dom-Ex Corp. of Hibbing, Minn., in 1989, and continued successfully with the rest of its line. Volvo purchased Champion Road Machinery in 1997, and today markets a line of modern graders under the Volvo brand name.
Champion Road Machinery and its predecessor companies had been one of the oldest in the grader industry, building pull-type graders in Canada since 1892. The company had even earlier American roots going back to 1875 when Samuel Pennock of Kennett Square, Pa., patented a two-wheeled grader for pulling behind a team of horses. He went on to improve the grader idea and invented and patented a four-wheel pull-type in 1877 known as "The American Champion." The Champion label stayed with the company and became part of its name in later years. Known as S. & M. Pennock & Sons since 1878, the firm prospered and enlarged its factory to manufacture graders and other road building equipment. After reorganization, the American Road Machine Co. was founded, and a sales organization was established in Canada. That led to a Canadian company obtaining the rights to manufacture and sell Champion machines in Canada starting in 1892.
Corporate changes continued with the Canadian company, changing its name to the Good Roads Machinery in 1897, then Dominion Road Machinery Co. in 1915. It became an independent Canadian company in 1929, and by the early 1930s was the sole manufacturer of Champion graders. Today Volvo's graders are still manufactured at the original Goderich factory.
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Read more about the evolution of construction equipment in Keith Haddock's fully illustrated book, The Earthmover Encyclopedia, now available in bookstores. Also, consider a membership in the Historical Construction Equipment Association, www.hcea.net. And be sure to visit ConstructionEquipment.com for past Iron Works features.