Matbro no. 1755 4x4 tractor reg VCF 951 of 1979 at Carrington 09 - IMG 9935

A rare example of a Matbro tractor s/n 1755 seen at the Carrington Steam and Tractor Rally in 2009

Matbro was a brand of lifting equipment, popular with farmers. The company was based in Wallington, Surrey. Set up by brothers Horace & Leonard Mathew to deal in 2nd hand ex war dept. machinery. The Matbro Co. went on to produced a wide range of telescopic handlers in their distinctive yellow livery, using engines derived from Perkins. The vehicles had different arrangements of lifting booms, but the basic principle was the same. Matbro began operating at a loss in the late 1990s and in the end went under in 2003 after accounting issues in their parent company Powerscreen. (from Wikipedia entry, rather brief and neglects company history)


Matbro was set up by 2 brothers after the war, to trade in army surplus machinery and latter they started to build industrial handling machinery under the Matbro brand. In 1949 they developed a rough terrain forklift based on a Fordson E27N Major tractor skid unit, the US Army surplus forklift they used in the yard kept getting stuck on the rough surface. This machine was demonstrated to the press in 1950 and put into production. The option of petrol or Perkins P^ power for the Fordson E27N Major unit was offered, as well as a choice of wheels. The machine had a 2 ton lift to a max of 9 ft height. When the Forsdon was updated the MkII was introduced in 1953. They Built them in a 10000 sqft factory that there father rented to them and produced up to 9 a week.

They introduced a loading shovel, in 1953 based on the Fordson Major Skid unit, called a Matbro Super Loadstar. This was fitted with a 1 cu.yd bucket with a 10 ft reach. At the same time Bray introduced the HL 27, with both claiming to be first. The machine was very popular and sold well in France. In 1956 a 4WD version was offered. Production continued till 1964.

Another experiment gave rise to the Matbro Mantis in 1956, which was a backhoe based on the forklift unit, with mast swapped for the digger arm. The Production model being fitted with a bulldozer blade for backfilling trenches. Other attachments were offered but only about 40 were Built. Of which only a couple are known to have survived.

They then went on to develop the pivot steer principle to solve transmission problems on hard surfaces with 4WD systems. They developed prototypes and applied to patent the idea in 1957.

1958 saw the MkIII Forklift introduced, based on the Power Major unit, a torque converter, and with power steering.

The Matrbro Mastiff Loading shovel incorporated the pivot steer system, and used two ford Power major rear axles. 1959 saw the company split from H&L Mathews Ltd and become a Ltd company, which moved to new premises in Horly, Surrey.

The Mastiff Super Loadstar series II was introduced in 1961, based on the new Super Major unit and powered by the Ford 590E 6-cylinder engine.

The Pivot steer system was Licensed to Caterpillar, International Harvester, and Allis-Chalmers for $1 million (each ?).

In 1962 the brothers also went on to build a few High Horsepower 4 wd tractors, based on the pivot steer system. The Matbro Mastiff 6/100 MT as it was called. This new tractor was built with the 3-point linkage on the rear unit. A new factory was opened for Loader production in Frome, in Somerset. These tractors are now rare collectors pieces fetching high prices at auction, some were fitted with a Zettlemeyer cabs. Only 20 were built, as it was very expensive at the time.

A MkII version was introduced in 1967 with a 128 hp Ford 2704E and Ford 5000 axles and gear box.

In 1973 they took over Bray another manufacturer of Loading Shovels and similar products from Sheepbridge Engineering.

Later they went on to develop some of the earliest telescopic handler designs in the UK. With the Matbro RAM 40 a Pivot steer loader/ forklift cross for farm use. This developed into the Teleram introduced at the 1981 Smithfield Royal Show.Several manufactures now build similar machines; including JCB, John Deere & Co., Manitou

Both the founder Horace and Leonard Died in 1981 and John Mathew took over running the company. He then merged Matbro and Bray.

Matbro Telestar forklift - IMG 1828

The Matbro Telestar- telescopic forklift

1983 saw a new Telescopic loader the Telestar with a rigid chassis introduced at the Royal Show.

One of Matbro's machines was based on the RWC Teleshift machine developed by farmers Ron & Tony Collins. They sold RWC & the design to the Benson group in 1985, and latter Matbro-Bray bought the designs & manufacturing rights in 1991. This had twin extending arms and resembled a Skid steer loader, but was fitted with pallet forks, Grain bucket or Muck grab. One of the early machines is still running today according to a recent magazine article.

The company was sold to Powerscreen International of Northern Ireland in July 1991.Why is there NO MENTION of the FROME factory in Somerset, south-west UK?

I worked for MATBRO LTD in their Frome factory for 6 years and when POWERSCREEN INTERNATIONAL took us over in the early '90's, we were told that our jobs were safe in the Frome factory. Yes they were safe. For FOUR DAYS, they then shut Frome and all was moved to TETBURY. At this time I left the firm and worked elsewhere. Then in '92 I went to work at the TETBURY PLANT,(travelling 52 miles a day for work) where I actually DEVELOPED the TELERAM TR250, When in full production I was building upto 15 FRONTS a week. I stayed until August 1995, when I left to have a change of career.

I am so surprised that there is NO MENTION of the FROME factory.  

Following the sale to powerscreen deals were signed to sell the Matbro TS260 machines badged as Ingersoll Rand VR60 in some markets. Followed by a deal with John Deere in 1995 to market the TS260 & TS260 as JD machines in markets other than the USA. With Matbro fitting John Deere Engines to them. These were to be made in the Dunganon factory in Northern Ireland.[1] It was also reported that in 1994 Matbros share of the UK telehandler market was 24% including forklifts.

The old designs were then passed to the Construction plant giant Terex when they bought Powerscreen International in 1999 following accounting difficulties.[2] The Matbro Teleshift design has been updated by Terex and John Deere, which has continued to evolve the designs and build them under license for Terex, with new ideas such as side mounted engines instead of rear ones and hydrostatic drive instead of the often problematic torque converter system used in earlier Matbro models.

Terex shut Matbro (telehandlers) Tebury factory in 2001 as part of a global restructuring, moving production to the former Fermec facility in Manchester, along with Benford Dumpers production.[3]

Model rangeEdit

The later machines have been absorbed into the Terex line up and re badged, or dropped under their recent revamp of models and ranges with consolidation of production and re branding strategy. Some of John Deere's models are based on the Matbro models.

Preserved MachinesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. Contracts journal 1995 report
  2. news report 2001 (PDF)
  3. Cranes today News report 2001
  4. CP&M, vol 2 no.6, p9
  5. Photo on


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