The History of Manitou and Skid Steers

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Manitou skid steer working on a construction site

How much do you really know about one of the most popular and adaptable pieces of equipment ever created? How did this enormous tonka toy become one of the most popular products in North America? What are some of the wildest attachments ever produced?

These are some of the questions we'd like to address for you, as well as introduce you to a company with a long history in this sector. Leavitt Machinery and its North American affiliates can help you and your operations save money and enhance productivity.

It all began in 1957

Originally, the Skid Steer Loader was called the Keller Self Propelled Loader; it was invented by Louis and Cyril Keller in Rothsay, Minnesota.

The brothers were approached by a local Turkey Farmer, who wanted them to design a versatile machine that could be used on the farm; the invention soon spread, and demand skyrocketed. A year later, in 1958, Louis and Cyril joined forces with Melroe Manufacturing to boost production and improve the device, shortly after which the Skid Steer began to resemble more of what we're accustomed to seeing today.

An Impressive Sized Market

Over the years, the Skid Steer Loader's design has evolved a great deal. One of the most prominent modifications occurred in 1999, when the first "Tracked" machines hit the market. Today, there are over 15 manufacturers making Skid Steers and Compact Track Loaders worldwide. Every 9 minutes, on average, about 60,000 skid steers and compact tracked loaders are sold in North America alone, equivalent to one every 9 minutes.

If that wasn't enough, Skid Steers and Compact Tracked Loaders come with over 110 distinct attachments, ranging from the ordinary to the exotic, such as Olive Tree Shakers or Flame Throwers employed in the forestry sector.

Manitou Enters the Skid steer Market

Manitou is another example of a financially responsible firm, just like Leavitt Machinery. Manitou launched its first rough terrain forklift in 1958 and became an international leader in innovation with Forklifts, Rotating Telehandlers and High-Capacity Telehandlers capable of lifting up to 33,000kg or 72,752 pounds. Manitou saw an opportunity to buy Gehl Manufacturing, which was based in the American Midwest and made Skid Steers, in 2008 when the housing market was extremely hot in the United States and financial markets were sinking into free fall. South Dakota's two Skid Steer manufacturing plants as well as engineering test grounds in Indiana are owned by Gehl. This was an excellent moment to continue their worldwide expansion and acquire a firm with production and manufacturing expertise since the mid-1960s. For 10 years, Manitou made improvements to streamline manufacturing, enhance product and part support, and lower costs without changing the heart of the product or for good reason. Gehl's equipment were all made and installed in the United States by a highly trained staff. In addition, Gehl held many patents relating to both Skid Steer and Compact Tracked Loaders as a testament to the firm's engineering expertise.

Manitou and Leavitt Machinery

Tom Leavitt founded Leavitt Machinery in 2001; he had previously worked as the General Manager of Material Handling at Finning. When Finning decided to sell off their material handling department, Tom jumped on the opportunity and bought the entire material handling division from Finning with his brother Brian.

Manitou and Leavitt Machinery have collaborated to serve clients across Canada and the United States since those early days. Today, Leavitt Machinery is the biggest Manitou retailer in North America.

What’s In It For Me?

Some of you may be asking why it's necessary to try a new brand and perhaps a different dealership. It is more than reasonable if that is where your thoughts have gone. The aim of this article is not to go into technical details about the Manitou Compact Loaders and Skid Steers, but it will leave you with one key difference that will affect your operations.

Hydraulic work horses include Skid Steer Loaders and Compact Tracked Loaders, as well as boom-type tractors. The engine drives a hydraulic pump that powers both the wheels and the loader functions. Most manufacturers have opted to use a belt to drive the main hydraulic pump.

The use of a drive belt to operate the hydraulic pump is a cost-effective alternative for the equipment's manufacturer, but it means lost power and extra maintenance worries for the owner. Every 250 hours, according to most manufacturers, you should check and adjust the tension on your drive belt. Anyone who has ever looked in an engine compartment of a skid steer understands that nothing is simple about getting at the engine. In addition, every 1500 to 2000 hours, the Drive Belt needs to be changed.

The engine and hydraulic pump are coupled in a very distinct way by Manitou. Rather than connecting them with an adaptor, they're employing the driveshaft to operate the hydraulic pump. This solution requires no scheduled maintenance and provides more usable horsepower (net horsepower) greater torque and increased traction.

Leavitt Machinery is a full-service dealership that not only provides our clients with outstanding equipment, but also offers a wide range of services. We can also teach your employees how to operate a machine safely so you don't have to; we can even design a maintenance program for your vehicles and assist you with your New, Used, and Rental equipment requirements; we can even buy equipment you no longer need if you're not looking to trade it in on new stuff.