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Also known as www.oilyhands.co.uk and www.flamingskoda.com

Towable digger, excavator and backhoe website. Features Fleming Micron, Powerfab, Mantis, Benford, Roughneck, Gopher, Smalley, Tow-hoe, Standard Muscleman, Termite, Mitchell Cotts, Mini Gigant, Baromix, Euromach, Bronco, JPB, Digger 50, homemade and other small diggers. Links to current manufacturers such as Groupe-FCM and suppliers of plans for the Ground Hawg Homebuilt Backhoe and CDP Excavator. Includes other plant and mechanical information, Digger Bucket Page, Plant Photo Gallery, Dumper Restoration Project and useful links for Digger Spares and Repairs. Extra information and pictures to add to the site always appreciated. Also includes a section dedicated to preserving information about Johnson Machinery Limited.

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Mantis towable digger, Benford ME130 excavator - information and pictures

The Mantis towable digger was a competitor of the Powerfab, Fleming, Gopher, Roughneck and Smalley digger. It was also produced by Benford and marketed as the Benford ME130. Benford are now part of the Terex company (I think) which produces a lot of plant including the former Fermec wheel digger.

The Mantis must have had a low centre of gravity and like the Roughneck has the anchor legs fixed at the rear and hydraulically raised wheels for moving about.  It had 130 degree slew and was fitted with the Honda GX140 petrol engine which produces 5 horsepower and was also fitted to the Fleming Micron.

Mantis digger

Mantis excavator. I like the brochure, "no spanners needed"! See the links below for a full size PDF version.

Benford ME130 digger

And here's the same machine but from the Benford company.

I've seen a few of these machines for sale on Ebay and have had a number of emails from Mantis owners. They don't seem to be as numerous as Powerfab machines so I'm not too sure how many were produced or sold.

Mantis digger

The Mantis excavator was built in Corby by Mantis Excavators Ltd.

This is John's Mantis digger.  He has got used to driving it but says that it is a little slow to use.

Mantis digger, excavator

Another view of John's Mantis digger. The hydraulic pump looks fairly small which may account for its slow operation.

Steve very kindly emailed these pictures of his Benford ME130 which he has been using in France.

Benford ME130 Digger

Steve's digger is in great condition and he is obviously putting it to good use laying some pipes.

Benford ME130 digger,excavator

Front view of the Benford ME130 digger in action.

What Steve says about his Benford ME130

"My experience is the digger is very fast, in fact too fast at times, but was slow before replacement of the filter. The engine on mine is 13HP but this is a modification, the seat base has been moved up and a bracket let in to support the seat. I found the company who had bought all the spares from Benford. When I called them (two years ago) they had skipped all the parts a few months before! I never understand people who do things like that. I could get all parts off the shelf, except for pin bushes, which appeared to be made just for Benford and Mantis. I had a price list and they were horrendous. To cut a long story short, I found a cheap/free alternative which has worked very well maybe better than the correct ones. 22mm and 28mm polypipe is the same outside diameter and inside diameter. Just cut a piece to fit the hole and you are away. I was prepared to change every day or so, but have never changed in 2 years.  I have greased before and after every use, and dug some very long trenches.

The speed that the engine is running directly affects the output speed, more so than on other diggers I have driven. I have fitted a mower type throttle so when walking around you set it faster (after practice) and then when moving in confined spaces knock the revs back down. The output power is immense from such a small pump, but that is the beauty of hydraulics.

Towing the thing is easy using the proper wheels. The hardest thing I found about moving them is getting them on to a plant trailer, I ended up reversing it on to an Ifor Williams and only had about 2” width clearance overall."

Mantis and Benford ME130 technical information and sales literature

Stripping a Benford ME130 hydraulic ram (thanks to Pete & Len for this information)

WARNING - before you attempt any hydraulic repairs yourself, watch this video

Len says, "The Benford rams are easy to strip once you know the trick!  The clip that you can just about see is a square wire split ring with one end bent inwards at right angles for about 3mm.  It is just like a large circlip with one end that is plain and the other end bent inwards a little bit.  As installed, half the clip width sits in a groove in the ram cylinder and the other half of the clip width sits in a groove in the end bush that carries the rod seals. The bent end sits in a hole in the end bush. Grip the ram firmly in a vice and rotate the end bush with a C spanner/pair of Stillsons so that the end plug pushes on the bent end of the clip. The plain end of the clip should start to exit the hole you can see. You might have to help it up the ramp with a 'poky' thing. Once a full turn has been made, pull the bent end out out the hole in the plug and then the plug should simply tap out.   Difficult to describe in words. Very easy once you know the trick. Clean everything first. Use penetrating oil and heat if necessary. Do not force the issue. If you shear of the bent end of the clip you are in a world of pain!"

Benford ME130 hydraulic ram

The end bush on this type of ram is retained by a circular clip which runs in a groove around the end bush and inside of the barrel. The end bush is turned with a C spanner and the clip should come out of the slot. Great care must be taken not to break the clip off inside the barrel.

Pete has very kindly drawn a diagram of the ram with some part numbers for the seals which you can view here. Please check that your ram is the same before ordering parts as there may be slight variations.

Vic's Benford ME130

Vic's digger is in great condition and he had it shipped from Sheffield to the Shetland Isles where he lives.

Mantis towable digger

The Benford has been put to good use here with some landscaping. Vic is keen to contact other Benford or Mantis users. Please use the link to the discussion group for this.

Hans Mantis digger

Hans emailed these pictures from Belgium. Here the Mantis is rigged ready for towing on the road.

Mantis digger

Now the road wheels have been removed and the site wheels need moving to the rear and the lugs fitted in their place to get it ready to dig.

My mate Chris spotted this Mantis digger. The brochure said "no spanners needed" this one has a pile of spanners on the floor beside it! The Mantis was built at Corby. I wonder where the legs are?

Thanks to John, Steve, Vic, Hans and Chris for helping out with pictures of these machines and to Wayne for the original brochures. Copyright of these belong to Mantis and Benford. Further contributions for this page will be very welcome.

More towable digger information