Manufacturer Restores Its History

Mustang restores early skid-steer.

Mustang receives dozens of calls for replacement skid-steer loader parts from its dealers everyday. But this one was different. The drive belt the customer was seeking hadn't been used on a Mustang skid-steer loader in more than 40 years.

That's because the caller — Joe Gross of J. Gross Equipment in Aberdeen, SD — was looking to fix a 1965 Mustang skid-steer loader for his farming customer. Not only was the unit more than 40-years-old and still in good working condition, it was No. 18 of the original 25 units off the Mustang production line.

Following production of the first 25 units, Mustang — then known as Owatonna Mfg. Co. — put the unit through a complete redesign. The drive system was reengineered in the process and this particular drive belt was eliminated.

The unit, now with its third owner, still had the original decals, seat and tires. It had logged just 339.6 hours in its lifetime. The hour meter is original and still works. Further evidence of its low usage time is the pins, bushings and other wear points that are in like new condition.

After hearing of the original skid-steer's existence, Mustang employees pooled their money to buy the machine. Moved by the company's passion for the machine, Mustang General Manager Randy Vargason made the deal on the company's dime, refusing the employees' donations.

After purchasing the skid-steer in May, the company spent three months having it repainted and installing new tires. Other than paint, decals, tires, seat and a few hoses that had deteriorated from age there was no other restoration needed. The unit is currently on display at the Owatonna Village of Yesteryear, an attraction with 14 buildings that gives look into the history of Owatonna and life in Steele County.

The skid-steer was among the first manufactured in the United States. In fact, the machine was built long before the term "skid-steer" was even developed. The unit was marketed as a "self-propelled four-wheel-drive unit," and was recognized by its lime green and red color scheme.

The first units were designated as the Owatonna Mustang Series 1000.

Since 1965, Mustang has designed, manufactured and sold more than 40 different models of Mustang skid-steer loaders throughout the world. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005.

Currently, Mustang markets a product portfolio consisting of eight skid-steer loaders, eleven compact excavators, seven telehandlers, four all-wheel-steer loaders and three compact track loaders. Mustang distributes the entire range of these products throughout North and South America, and exports skid-steer loaders to 39 countries worldwide.