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Manitou on a mission to push its skid steers

Appealing to pig and poultry enterprises along with smaller livestock farms, or just anywhere where space is a premium, Manitou hopes it latest skid steer loaders fit the bill. James Rickard reports.


When it comes to skid steer loader choice in the UK, particularly for agriculture, there are only really a couple of names which spring to mind.


However, since Manitou bought American manufacturer Gehl, which also includes the Mustang brand, it is now keen to extend its product offering in the UK (see panel for Gehl and Mustang explanation).



To find out what these American-built machines have to offer, and the differences between brand and spec, we checked out three of its core models ranging from 46hp to 70hp, with operating capacity ranging from 612kg to 748kg (see panel for models).


As a guide, model numbering relates to the machine’s operating capacity in pounds – an American thing. For example, a Gehl R135 has an operating capacity of 1,350lbs, as does a Mustang 1350R. In addition, R relates to radial lift.


Using Gehl model numbers, Manitou says its mid-sized R150 is the most popular machine in agriculture, with the more powerful R165 suitable for those requiring a bit more performance. If space is an issue, then the more compact R135 is the machine of choice.

Hydraulics and handling

One of the main design differences between the Gehl and Mustang machines is the geometry of the lift arms. While the Gehl receives ‘cranked’ arms for improved visibility over the tops of the arms, the Mustang machines stick with straight arms.


Rear towers, onto which the lift arms are mounted, are positioned quite high on both brands impeding some visibility to the rear quarters. On the plus side, lift height is generous considering the size of the machines.


As ballast, each tower contains a tank; one for fuel and one for hydraulic oil. If more rear ballast is required, upping the machine’s operating capacity, additional counter weights can be added.

Up-front, the manufacturer has employed quite an open design around the back of the headstock, with plenty of space in between components preventing muck from building up.


For the third service, a new, one-piece coupling block makes connecting oil pipes easier. This incorporates an automatic hydraulic depressurisation system which activates when its flat-faced couplings are pushed into the valve block.


As standard, a universal skid steer plate is offered with either mechanical or hydraulic locking. Each model can also be specified with optional boom suspension and hydraulic self leveling.

Engine and transmission

Rather than a single chain each side of the machine, final drive to each wheel is via a pair of chains coming from each of the left and right hydrostatic motors.


The firm says this reduces wear and tear, and also makes chain tension adjustment easier, with the ability to move each stub axle forwards and backwards along slotted holes.


As an option on the R165, a two speed drive transmission can be specified; 12kph in low range, 19kph in high.

Maintenance-wise, a robust lid and rear door, along with a swing out radiator core, open wide giving good access to the engine bay. The door looks like it could take some pain too.


A remote engine oil drain to one side of the machine, plus remote engine oil and hydraulic filters avoid the need to root round the depths of the machine, making servicing easier.


In the event of a major breakdown, the cab can be easily tipped back, as easily as a tractor bonnet. In addition, belly plates, running from front to back, protect the underside of the machine.

Cab and controls

Three main control options are available for the range of Gehl and Mustang skid steers; ‘T’-bar (on Gehl machines only), hand and foot (generally for Mustang users), or joystick (only available on the largest of the three models).


‘T’-bar controls feature two levers, both with the ability to be pushed forwards and back and twisted. The left takes care of machine drive, while the right looks after loader actions.


Similar to ‘T’-bar, joystick controls employ two levers, with the left controlling drive and the right the loader.


Compared to predecessors, cab access is said to be easier on the new models, particularly on the Mustang machines.


A refreshed cab layout also features all buttons and dials neatly incorporated into the two front pillars, including a digital dash which can display various combinations of information.


While the two smallest machines feature mechanical throttle levers, the largest machine gets a rotary dial to adjust the revs of its ‘fly-by-wire’ motor.


Cab options include side windows, a front door and air conditioning (on the R165 only).


As the name suggests, hand and foot controls make use of all your limbs, with the levers looking after drive (one for the left pair of wheels and one for the right), while the pedals take care of loader movements.










Lift height to hinge pin








Rated operating capacity (with optional counterweight)

612kg (680kg)

680kg (748kg)

748kg (816.5kg)

Operating weight




Retail price




Who the Gehl are they?

  • Gehl and Mustang were originally two different American companies producing various types of machinery.
  • In 1997, Gehl bought Mustang to strengthen its presence in the skid steer loader market.
  • In 2004, Gehl enters into a strategic partnership with Manitou to sell their telescopic loaders.
  • Four years later Gehl becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of Manitou.
  • Following production streamlining, Gehl and Mustang products are now produced in the same factory in Wisconsin, but retain subtle differences to keep their customer bases happy – a bit like Case IH and New Holland.
  • In the UK, Gehl and Mustang brands have a 50:50 following, hence why the Manitou group has decided to stick with both.
  • Manitou also has dedicated dealer networks for each brand throughout the UK and will be backing up and supporting both networks.
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