Review: Mecalac MCR8 excavator/skid steer

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

Ron Horner checks out the Mecalac MCR8 excavator/skid steer and describes it as a ‘modern, innovative, hi-tech, multi-functional, powerful earthmoving transformer on steroids’.

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If you are a young aspiring entrepreneur looking to get into the market with a mini-excavator and skid-steer combo, well, check this out.

It’s not very often that I get a bit stuck for words. I certainly met my match recently when I was fortunate to track down a Mecalac MCR8 excavator/skid steer owned by a good mate of mine in Queensland. Andy Haggarty is a legend amongst marine and civil projects up here and is one who definitely cannot be defined as a person stuck in the past.

Always looking for better, more efficient and cost-effective ways of developing his fleet of machinery, he recently purchased one of the first Mecalac MCR8 machines into the country with the idea of converting it to an amphibious excavator. Having had it running as a conventional machine for a while (although there is nothing conventional about this machine), he decided to stick with it and see how it fared in general hire. So popular has this machine been and so proficient his young operator ‘Rambo’ has become that Andy decided that he would leave it as is for the time being.

Now, Andy and I don’t catch up for a beer (we’re always in different parts of the country) but do talk about once a week on issues we wish we could fix or change, and have a very similar career path with a love and passion for earthmoving equipment, difficult projects, race cars and a dislike of corrupt and aggressive clients … it’s the industry bond drawing two people together to become friends.

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Andy Haggarty and Ron Horner

WALKAROUND

The first thing you notice is that the Mecalac MCR8 is no ordinary machine. The days are gone when you require a skid steer and a mini-excavator to do your work. Here we have the Mecalac which, with the flick of a button, converts from mini-excavator to skid steer to forklift, to telehandler and to grader. It’s a truly remarkable piece of equipment of which (I must admit) I had difficulty in getting my head around in the very short space of time we had with it.

Sitting at about 7.5/8 tonne, Andy has opted for the full set of attachments that make this the ideal ‘one-stop shop’ mini-rig for all occasions: a well-designed blade attachment which doubles as a dozer blade when in excavator mode; a bucket support for when in skid-steer mode; a set of front stabilisers when in crane mode; and, yes, it comes with a break pressure valve fitted ex-factory.

This helps when you have a set of forks in use and, in particular, when you have a ‘man cage’ fitted to the forks and there are men working at heights from it (ideal for confined space while working underground or limited access areas). The boom, dipper arm and bucket link arms’ configurations is where the machine now certainly develops its ‘Transformer-like’ appearance.

The boom is offset to the right side of the cabin, which can be extremely beneficial if you can look outside the square when pushing with the blade – double up the pushing width with plenty of that 50hp and away you go. The dipper also has the knuckle-type joint which, when all are combined with the tilting bucket or rotating adaptor-head attachment, the machine takes on this snake-like appearance along the boom/dipper arm, ensuring further difficult access is achievable.

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Very compact bay housing the hydraulic valve bank, radiator, oil cooler and AC units

ON THE JOB

We could go on and on about the excavator but it’s when the operator can flick a switch and the machine enters into a myriad of different modes that things get really interesting. By adjusting the boom height limiter, you can transform this machine into a forklift or telehandler with a flick of a switch and then convert it into the skid-steer mode. You now have another beast to contend with.

Andy has made a wise choice in going with the 4:1 bucket (reversible) and, by retracting and re-positioning the boom and dipper into the fold-down mode, the machine turns into a well-balanced beast ready to push and load materials of any nature into any transporter of materials.

It is capable of lifting 50 per cent of its own weight, which is really incredible. The reversible bucket is braced against the push blade and the power is all transferred into the frame of the machine and back to a central point – unbelievable.

The rubber tracks at 450mm wide are well suited to some applications, however you can opt for a 600mm wide steel-track plate configuration. This would make the machine so much more stable (nothing wrong as it is) but there are times when ‘over the side’ delivery of materials could be advantageous with the wider tracks. With the 600mm tracks it would also convert the machine from a close-radius swing to a zero swing machine, so subtle is the difference.

There are very few ‘slewing loaders’ on the market and the Mecalac has captured it in a big way. One wonders how much further development and technology can be squeezed into such a small frame as is with this little beauty.

The ‘high-track’ configuration is another first for the multi-use machine. Mecalac has decided to go with the large drive sprocket at the rear and feed the track chain to a smaller diameter front idler, thus developing a higher speed rating that enables this rig to absolutely gallop across the ground at a remarkable speed of 6.2mph or 10km/h. Surprisingly enough, it has plenty of power and you can operate it in slew mode, skid mode and lift mode without any hydraulic fade to the tracks.

The engine bay is as snug as the proverbial ‘bug in a rug’ with everything at ground level inspection. It’s easy to access once the belly plate is removed – but no such problem with the air-conditioner located to the right side of the cabin between the hydraulic valve banks and the radiator/oil cooler.

The 50hp Deutz diesel engine is ample for this little power horse (on par with other skids steers of the same size) and, when combined with the hydrostatic drive motor delivering full flow from its independent hydraulic pump, you better be locked in as it has a top speed of 10km/h across the ground. Servicing the AC can be a real pain in most machines but Mecalac has conquered the foes here, as by unscrewing a couple of wing nuts it can easily slide out into the open and away from the main frame. Easy!

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Very well presented and roomy cabin

IN THE CAB

How many times have you been impressed with the specifications of a machine and the visuals of the design only to be let down when your bum plonks itself down in that cabin? Well, that is not the case here.

The ergonomic design of the seating is perfect but pales into insignificance with the first impressions you get when you enter the ‘dark zone’ (tinted cabin). Vision is totally unimpeded in any direction: over the tapered rear-engine cowling; to the right side through the big glass window and neatly tucked-away boom; and front window and door side. It may be the best-laid-out and operator-friendly cabin I have seen in a small excavator to date, and I have seen a few.

All the gauges are modern and easy to read as one would expect. Push buttons and switches abound on both sides and front dash panels, so it will take you a time to get your act sorted here. Most are multi-functional for use in several modes and are interconnected to the control levers for both skid and excavator modes, but don’t think you are over it yet because there are floor pedals to contend with as well.

Although I am ticketed to cover all the aspects of the functions of the machine, I definitely would have needed far more time to familiarise myself with the operation of all of the functions before being deemed as competent to represent an unbiased opinion. The operator will have to be multi-ticketed to run a machine of the calibre and rightfully so – excavator, skid steer, forklift and telehandler come to mind immediately – and on most sites will be monitored by OHS, so best not to try to buck the system.

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Off set bucket

THE BOTTOM LINE

I may have well turned up to this review site with some expectations of the Mecalac, but once into it I was left for words to express what was unveiling. I rarely give a machine of any calibre a huge score out of 10, partly due to the fact that there is usually a mere 5 per cent change in any one machine over another at any one point in time. Most machines are really brilliant with very few faults in design and function but this machine is different.

The Mecalac MCR8 is hugely innovative and has leapt ahead of its competitors in design, functionality, multi-functional purpose, safety design and operator comfort. This is truly an ‘earthmoving transformer on steroids’ and leads the way to the future of which many other excavator manufacturers will be left scratching their heads not knowing what had just hit them.

Thinking outside of the box and discarding of the conventional ideals which have encompassed the industry for years has this machine at the top of the list as one of my must-haves.

Two thumbs up and high fives all round. This Mecalac MCR8 is a winner.

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