Used Equip­ment Test: Ko­matsu D65E-6 Bull­dozer

Ron Horner re­views a Ko­matsu D65E-6 bull­dozer that is still go­ing strong af­ter 36 years with­out a re­build

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

Iam of­ten con­tacted and in­vited onto prop­er­ties or job sites to view and test run some of the old equip­ment that is still out there in a work­ing mode and mak­ing good money for own­ers. Such was re­cently the case when I was in­formed of a 1982 Ko­matsu D65E-6 bull­dozer, in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion, work­ing on a job just over the Queens­land-New South Wales bor­der ranges.

It is al­ways a plea­sure to wit­ness old gear still mak­ing good money ei­ther on a con­struc­tion site or in the bush, how­ever, due to its age there are very few fully fledged cur­rent con­struc­tion jobs the old girl would get onto. Not so up here in the bush; this old dozer is still push­ing way above its 13.5-tonne weight when it comes to a good, long, hard days’ work.

I pulled up at the last one of many sets of gates en­coun­tered along the heav­ily tim­ber lined laneway when I saw the old girl un­der a stand of tall gums, parked up in the scrub.

First im­pres­sions count a lot for me and this was a per­fect ex­am­ple; nice and tidy, straight as a gun bar­rel. I im­me­di­ately knew that this could be a good day pro­vid­ing the in­clement weather could just hold off for a few hours.


Lach­lan and Robert Gras­sick are farm­ing con­trac­tors and also run a ma­chin­ery hire busi­ness on the state bor­der. In their fleet are sev­eral trac­tors of 50-120hp, used for mak­ing hay and silage, plough­ing and plant­ing, har­vest­ing,

weed spray­ing, slash­ing and mulching. How­ever, of all the equip­ment they have in their fleet, the one that sticks out is the 1982 Ko­matsu D65E-6 bull­dozer.

Pur­chased off an earth­mov­ing con­trac­tor some 23 years ago the boys are only the se­cond owner of this tidy trac­tor which now runs out at about 16,000 orig­i­nal hours.

This 36-year-old ma­chine has only av­er­aged about 450 hours a year and, upon closer in­spec­tion, has been fas­tid­i­ously main­tained and looked af­ter dur­ing this time.

Delv­ing into the his­tory of Ko­matsu I was amazed to read that the brand was orig­i­nally a spin off from Takeuchi Min­ing In­dus­try in

1921, started sell­ing to the pub­lic in Ja­pan and even­tu­ally took the plunge and landed on the shores of the US to take on the Cater­pil­lar mega­giant on its home turf in the early 1970s.

Back in 1982 it was a big step for any­one in Aus­tralia to go away from the tried, proven and well-es­tab­lished Cater­pil­lar brand. Ko­matsu Aus­tralia had only been up and run­ning for about five years and I re­mem­ber those times very well.

Promis­ing to give Cater­pil­lar a run for its money in all classes of earth­mov­ing equip­ment, Ko­matsu drew a line in the sand and de­liv­ered the goods. Ex­ca­va­tors and bull­doz­ers led the way for many years as the Ja­panese gi­ant pushed Cater­pil­lar for world dom­i­na­tion. The rest is his­tory and now Ko­matsu is the se­cond-largest man­u­fac­turer of earth­mov­ing equip­ment in the world just be­hind Cater­pil­lar.


Tell­tale signs the old girl hadn’t been used for a while are that the grass had grown over the dozer track marks and piles of cow dung, com­pli­ments of a herd of well-fed cows, lit­tered the ar­eas pre­vi­ously worked.

The pre­sen­ta­tion of the Ko­matsu is ex­cep­tional and fault­less. The heavy-duty steel main frame pan­els are car­ried on through to the en­gine bay and bon­net, tough enough to with­stand those big hard hits and guar­an­tee the area is kept free from loose branches, sticks and twigs which you will un­doubt­edly en­counter when you are scrub push­ing or tree clear­ing.

The tree canopy which cov­ers the op­er­a­tor both top and par­tially to the sides was built as a ne­ces­sity and is a pearler. Strong, ro­bust, well de­signed and built with (be­lieve it or not) pretty good vi­sion for the op­er­a­tor and fully en­closed with se­cu­rity mesh around the sides to pro­tect the op­er­a­tor from those nasty sticks that will creep up on you and pierce you through the belly if you’re not watch­ing.

The solid ta­pered roof line of the tree canopy pro­tects you from those fall­ing branches and keeps the op­er­a­tor dry but def­i­nitely not dust­free. The only signs of dam­age on this ma­chine are a few dents on the top of the tree canopy,

fur­ther proof of the de­sign of this struc­ture and prov­ing that it has done its job in pro­tect­ing the main man at the sticks. The bet­ter than 1.2m-high and 3.6m-wide straight blade is per­fectly de­signed and shows no dents from over-zeal­ous op­er­a­tors.

The cut­ting edges are per­fect and nicely rounded and splayed for cut­ting that nice neat trim pass. The seg­mented drive sprock­ets are all in good con­di­tion, and the top and bot­tom rollers on the track-guided chains and the pins and bushes are still in great shape. A tree pusher and root rake com­pli­ment the three-tyne rip­per on this lit­tle D6-D7 sized trac­tor and bal­ances out the ma­chine just per­fectly.


Well, one may say “what cab”? Plac­ing my fat bum into the orig­i­nal leather-padded seat with those big arm­rests took me way back to the day when a young bloke could get his teeth into a ma­chine fairly eas­ily. There were no en­closed cab­ins in those days and if you didn’t cop enough crap from the boys you def­i­nitely copped more crap once you got into those open-cab doz­ers and scrap­ers.

But oh how sweet it was; the smell of that diesel, the crank­ing of that big 155hp (115.6kw) Cum­mins donk, the crisp smell of the bush and that break­ing of the bush si­lence as you fired the old girl up and watched ev­ery bird for a mile take off for a refuge to pur­ga­tory. Ah, you gotta love it!

The con­trols for the Ko­matsu sat per­fectly for me. Di­rect key start and rel­e­vant gauges were in a clus­ter to the right of the dash panel, hand throt­tle to the left, steer­ing clutches to the cen­tre and de-ac­cel­er­a­tor on the floor right-hand side. Blade con­trol and rip­per con­trol levers were to the right be­side the op­er­a­tor and slightly to the rear and I felt right at home. Beau­ti­ful!

Vi­sion, which is nor­mally fairly ob­scured, is sur­pris­ingly good on this model and the roof pro­tec­tion canopy is more than suit­ably de­signed and ef­fec­tive in all ways. As for the big cap­tain’sstyle seat­ing, it is awe­some. The open cab, the dust, wind and rain along with the smell and in­hala­tion of that lovely diesel smoke when the big girl’s un­der full power. Wow!


Pro­tec­tive cov­ers along both sides of the en­gine cowl­ing form an ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion against all the dirt, dust, twigs, bushes and leaves en­coun­tered dur­ing a bush-clear­ing op­er­a­tion of this type. The cov­ers are eas­ily re­moved

(al­beit solid steel plate and a touch heavy) but once re­moved al­lows easy ac­cess for en­gine main­te­nance and daily ser­vic­ing du­ties.

The big 155hp, 743-cu­bic-inch Cum­mins diesel en­gine fit­ted to a 3-speed for­ward and 3-speed re­verse trans­mis­sion are tried and proven and per­fectly suited to this clas­sic dozer. Ca­pa­ble of 10.7km/h for­ward and 13.6km/h for the run home af­ter the day shift works well with this trac­tor. SUBHEAD: ON THE JOB

A quick hour or so on this ma­chine left me with a bit of a lump (in my throat), so good was the feel­ing.

Emo­tions aside, the Ko­matsu D65E-6 per­forms just like it did when they were first in­tro­duced into the coun­try way back in the late 70’s. Just spot on. Vi­sion for the op­er­a­tor was on par with any­thing of to­day and other than the steer­ing clutches be­ing for­eign to the new­bies of to­day, any­one could feel com­fort­able in slip­ping into the op­er­a­tor’s seat and per­form­ing a rea­son­able day’s work.

The con­di­tion of the ma­chine is above par for any­thing I have seen of this vin­tage and is a credit to the cur­rent own­ers.


Push­ing tim­ber and scrub with this beauty for the past 23 years has not de­tracted from the vis­ual ap­pear­ance and the own­ers vigilant ser­vic­ing and main­te­nance pro­grams have kept this ma­chine in pris­tine top work­ing con­di­tion.

I need not say any­more on this ma­chine other than here is liv­ing proof that Cat is not the only ma­chine “that has truly been built to be re­built”. The dif­fer­ence here is that this Ko­matsu has not re­quired a re­build in 36 years and will still be go­ing strong at that in­cred­i­ble 50 years post­pro­duc­tion mark.

It is a credit to Ko­matsu’s engi­neer­ing and de­sign of a bull­dozer con­ceived some 36 years ago.

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