Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator review

By: Ron Horner

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator The Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator (front) with its sister SH210 and the recovered Heking floating excavator Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator
Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator in water The Sumis had to operate in about 1m of water to have control over the floating vessel Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator in water
Sumitoma SH235 LCR cabin Ron Horner in the operator-friendly cab Sumitoma SH235 LCR cabin
Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator blade As always, the blade proved its worth Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator blade

Having recently brought you the stories on how he sank, recovered and restored a Heking floating excavator, here Ron Horner reviews a 23-tonne zero-swing Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator taken off rock-breaking duties to be used in the salvage operation.

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When I first met Johanson Earthmoving and Construction’s Adrian Johanson, little did I realise just how far and to what extent our friendship would grow.

After spotting his Cat D8R Series II dozer and his Sumitomo SH330 excavator and Rammer 4099 hammer well positioned at the Stanthorpe Show a few months back, I finally tracked him down and keenly asked if we could test his well-presented gear for

After completing the said tasks and becoming good friends on the way through, little did either of us know what lay ahead when I came to Stanthorpe to work on a video on the ‘Safe operation of amphibious excavators in Australia’.

A couple of days into the project and with me cleaning up a lake for the shoot, I had a very unfortunate incident when I sunk the amphibious digger belonging to Floating Excavators. Now when I do a job I tend to do it good and proper, and this was no exception. You can read the stories here:






The bottom line was I had to come up with a plan to salvage the machine from deep water, minimise any further damage to the machine during the salvage and, most importantly, get a crew of suitably qualified and passionate people to join me in achieving the impossible.

Adrian was one of the men I was determined to get. I knew his gear and his capabilities as a reputable contractor so when I went to him (cap in hand), I asked him if he had a couple of excavators laying around as I had a little project for him which just happened to be a touch on the urgent side.

Heking floating excavator
The dive team installed and inflating several air bags to bring the Heking to a safe height and level

I let him believe it was another review, this time on his Sumitomo SH235 LCR excavator, and eagerly awaited his arrival on site.

My plan to salvage the Heking from the murky depths was somewhat off-beat, but Adrian listened and, understanding that time was of the essence, agreed to get down and muddy and give us a helping hand.

He realised quickly why I requested two excavators and he promptly pulled his other Sumitomo – an SH210 model – off a job and delivered it as backup and assistance.



The SH235 LCR Excavator is a little beauty. Anyone who knows me also knows the passion I have for excavators and for those who have had the balls to design a blade for excavators in the larger range, and this includes the 23-tonne zero-swing Sumi.

I couldn’t let the chance go by and not get my bum in the seat, so Adrian threw me the keys in between salvaging the Heking and I decided to review it ... never let a chance go by, I say!

A quick look over the little Sumitomo had me keen to get in there and have a play. The blade appeared to be in a good positon for the operator to have a clear and reasonably unobstructed view of the corner tips when cutting and for balancing when digging or lifting heavy loads.

The distinctive red-and-white retro paint scheme was awesome and I fell in love with it immediately. This was a very low-hour machine and all the track gear was in good condition but that was not what it was engaged on this job for … unbeknown to Adrian I needed to know if it could swim!


In the cab

With keys firmly tucked in my hand, I jumped the tracks and quickly made it into the cab. A nice little monitor and reverse camera screen sat firmly ahead and to the right of me just above the control panel. A simple ‘dial-a-throttle’ sat at hand’s height on the right side of the operator’s seat and brushing up against the blade control lever.

A 12V aux outlet, cup holder and two-way radio completed the right side of the operator’s cab, with the two joystick controls with auto deceleration switch rounding it up. On the left side of the seating was a hydraulic lockout lever and radio. All very simple and effective.

Located beside the travel levers was the auxiliary hydraulic attachment control lever, which is operated via a foot control on the floor.

Vision forward is fine with a good view over the blade when in operation. Right side and rear view is limited but a camera and good-sized monitor screen balances it out nicely.

You will pay a penalty somewhere with the zero-swing machines, and engine compartment and vision are two trade-offs you will have to accept for having this gear in your stable.


Under the hood

An easy step up from the tracks onto the tapered fuel and hydraulic tanks makes access to the engine bay easy. The installation of well-designed curved hand rails keep you safe from falling into the tight upper-structure void.

The nice little 4-cylinder Isuzu turbocharged and air inter-cooled engine, which pushes out about 120kW, fits snugly into the tight engine bay but runs ever so sweetly.

Two variable-displacement axial piston pumps run the boom/arm/bucket, swing and travel while a gear pump runs the pilot controls. This mix is well proven and works well on this little digger.

Sumitomo SH235 excavator engine bay
Access to the engine bay is both easy and safe


On the job

The Sumi SH235 came fitted with a hydraulic grab bucket which suited this working environment ideally. The amount of rocks in the granite belt region of south-east Queensland can be a nightmare to pick up cleanly and this Jaws fabricated bucket was well constructed and easy to operate.

In the buckets of the two excavators were several lengths of cable and chain capable of reaching in excess of 100m, which were just ideal for dragging the sinking Heking out of the depths of the lake and on to the shore. Perfect!

Digging was not what I brought the machine in for, so I handed the keys back to Adrian while I took control of the salvage operation from the safety of the shoreline and via two-way radio.

The dive team from Adam Dodson Diving Services in Brisbane had been securing the Heking from sinking further by installing and inflating several air bags which had brought the machine to a safe height and level.

It had taken about six hours to achieve this and now was the time for Adrian and his team to show us they were brave and capable enough to get the now-floating-again-excavator back to shore in one piece.

The divers had identified the ‘best route, best fit’ to drag the machine to shore and, in doing so, minimised the amount of submerged rock we would encounter. A steep rock ledge was about 30m offshore and, with a bit of luck, we could get the excavators into the water to have more control over the direction when pulling the Heking into the bank.

With everything in place, the wire cable was hauled out to the Heking and attached to the retrieval plates fitted to the undercarriage.

Ever so gently the Sumi pulled the Heking into the deeper water between the opposite bank and the shoreline we were standing on. With the machine still awkwardly balanced it took little effort but significant skill to keep the Heking from smashing into the rocks identified by the dive team.

At one stage the Heking became lodged between a rock ledge and the other Sumitomo SH210 was called into action.

Once into shallower water, the dive team retrieved the inflatable air bags and bought them to shore ... the boys had done a great job.

Having successfully breached the rock area, the Heking was dragged up the bank along the muddy foreshore like a big, fat north Queensland crocodile sliding over the Daintree mud flats.

Both Sumitomo excavators had to operate in about a metre of water to have control over the floating vessel but the rocky base ensured that they were never in danger of bogging or sinking.

Adrian Johanson can now claim ‘Marine Salvage’ on his company profile!


The bottom line

Well, we didn’t put the buckets to ground but we sure did put them in the water.

The bladed Sumitomo SH235 excavator worked perfectly as when it needed more leverage to pull the Heking from the water and over the rock ledge. The blade was embedded firmly into the ground, leaving the pulling power to the dipper arm, bucket, slew and boom.

This machine is usually fitted with a rock hammer and diamond tip saw, working the unforgiving granite rock which abounds in this region, so this operation was a light relief from the hard chores of daily life.

It’s a fantastic testament to the fact that excavators don’t always have to be confined to trenching operations.


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