Long title, right? Bingham Equipment Company deserved a service review, though, and a product review for our new 2015 Kubota L45 TLB (tractor/loader/backhoe) fairly demanded publication, so whatcha gonna do?
It all started in 1949, give or take a year or two. Jim McMahon’s backhoe dug the trench all the way down from the hillside spring to the water corral on Elvin M Baker’s ranch while five year old me looked on in amazement and envy. From that day forward, I wanted a backhoe. This year, after paying another backhoe operator to dig 400 feet of trench work on our southern Cochise County, Arizona, property…I’d finally had enough.
“Time to get us a backhoe of our own,” I told Pam. I didn’t mention my thought that it would count as the present for my 72nd birthday. For my 70th, I got myself a folding Buck knife. This would be a step up.
She agreed. “Go for it!”
“But we don’t have the cash. I’ll have to finance it.”
And thus the search was on. That the selected unit ended up being a Kubota was no big surprise; my rancher brother in law in Montana bought a sizeable unit in 2006, the first Kubota I’d ever seen, and he uses it a lot to this day. But I didn’t jump to any conclusions in the beginning. Uncounted hours of online research found me studying the specs and reviews for everything from the tiny towed backhoe units capable of digging trenches only a few feet deep to full sized units from John Deere, Case, Mahindra, and a host of other brands.
As it happened, I narrowed down the choice of dealers to Bingham Equipment Company some time before I realized the Kubota L45 was the only machine I truly wanted to own. With that in mind, here are a few details about the dealer, whom I highly recommend to one and all.
1. Based in Arizona with 11 stores, two of them reasonably close to us in Casa Grande and Tucson, Bingham Equipment Company was founded by Norm Bingham. That didn’t mean a whole lot to me until I found out Norm was an old cowboy (among many other things), and I figured, “Hey, I gotta be able to connect with a company like that!” Turned out I was right, too. (Note: For those who don’t know me, I consider myself “ranch raised and rodeo bred” and competed on the high school, college, and professional rodeo circuits at one time, primarily in saddle bronc riding and bull riding.)
2. When I fired off an introductory email, asking the company if they thought they could work with my credit record (which isn’t terribly ugly but isn’t totally clean, either), Russell Bingham himself (presumably one of Norm’s sons) fired a warm answer right back–on a Sunday night! When I saw that, all sorts of warm fuzzies ensued. Here was a businessman who worked as crazy a set of hours as I did! Beyond that, as we emailed back and forth and I got my choice of machines narrowed down to the Kubota L45 (and a new one at that), he went more than a couple of extra miles, having the machine moved to Tucson for me to inspect. He didn’t have to do that, but he knew travel was tricky for me due to my wife’s health situation, so he shifted the L45 on his own dime without any advance commitment from me whatsoever. (Though admittedly we both knew full well I was going to buy the machine unless there was a credit glitch.)
3. I drove to Tucson to look the backhoe over on a Saturday because our part time hired hand hangs out with Pam on weekends, leaving me free to explore. The gentleman on duty, Greg Gatewood, filled out my credit app for me. I didn’t have to lift a finger except to sign the thing, just answered his questions and he filled in the blanks.
4. Mike Ramage of the Tucson store called me one business day later with the news that Kubota had approved my credit application.
“How much down?” I asked.
“Zero down,” he replied.
“Really? Awesome! So…what’s the interest rate?”
“Let me check the paperwork…zero interest.”
“That’s right. Zero interest for five years, 60 months.”
To say I was impressed (and pleased) would be an understatement. “You’re one helluva hand, Mike,” I told him. That’s Mike on the tractor in the header photo, above. The purchase contract included delivery. Mike rode down with the trucker and drove the tractor down onto our ground and over to where I asked him to park it. Only after that did I sign the necessary papers. He’d also gotten me the “best of both worlds” on this particular tractor. It had been used as a rental tractor, but only briefly–170 hours on the meter–and had never been registered in the rental fleet. So what did Bingham Equipment Company do for me? Get this: They (A) took $5,000 off the new price to account for the 170 hours of rental usage but then (B) wrote the contract up as NEW, which got me the unbelievable financing terms and warranted the machine as new, the warranty only beginning to run after I took delivery.
Hot damn! Not only that, but it turns out Mike is an old bull rider himself, having rodeoed “every weekend during high school” in east Texas. Can’t beat them thar cowboy connections.
But wait. There’s more. After delivery, while Pammie and I were going over the Kubota in a lot more detail than I’d done before deciding to buy it, I noticed that the oil hadn’t been changed prior to delivery. No biggie, especially since the manual only calls for oil changes every 200 hours, but Mike got his service guy down here two business days later to change the oil and filter–in the rain, with the service tech justifiably worried about sticking his truck in a mudhole in our driveway (which I’ve since repaired with the front end loader) and doing his actual work in the rain. We’d also noticed a number of small rock chips in the hood of the tractor, and the tech also brought along a can of Bright Orange II Kubota touch-up spray paint (which is still sitting on my desk, waiting to be used).
Bottom line: When it comes to equipment dealers, Bingham Equipment Company is the best of the best, bar none.
Now, about the machine itself….
I didn’t get to work with the Kubota right away. The remainder of the day after delivery was devoted to getting my wife to a medical appointment, following which I was out of town for a week on a trip to Montana to rent out our second home.
By the time I got back, I wasn’t feeling so hotsy totsy. Throat-to-chest cold. Lots of coughing and lack of energy. But a bit of time outdoors couldn’t hurt, so I started working with the backhoe and/or the loader for a minimum of an hour each day…and the Kubota L45 did not disappoint. It’s powered by a 45 horse diesel engine, several horsepower more than the gasoline fueled 3-plow Allis Chalmers WD and D14 tractors I worked on the Montana ranch during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It’s set up on “automatic”, limiting the number of moves the operator needs to make to use the machine, though there is a clutch (even though the transmission is hydrostatic, not manual per se).
Overall, though the L45 is not exactly what the industry would consider a “full size” backhoe, it’s still a burly beast and gets the job done in a big way. The hydraulics are solid and should last for many years. The attachments (loader and backhoe) get greased every 10 hours of service, but the few fittings on the base tractor (primarily lubricating the front wheel drive system) only have to be serviced every 50 hours. Injuring this machine would require either gross incompetence on the part of the operator, or gross negligence, or both.
Allen, our part time employee, tells me it’s extremely obvious that I love this Kubota. As he explains it, when I’m operating either the loader or the backhoe, “Your smile is a least an inch wider!”
For a first project, I decided to fill in the ruts left in our dirt driveway by last summer’s monsoon rains. No problem. Just pick up a few (8 to 10) loads of dirt (of which we have plenty), dump them in the ruts, scrape things more or less level with the loader blade, run back and forth over the “patch” with the heavy tractor tires to complete the process and…done!
Next, the big one: Getting the 140 foot drainage ditch ready for next year. But…hm. For the past several years, hired backhoe operators have been able to straddle the existing ditch to clean it out, but that was no longer a safe prospect. Erosion had widened the ditch (which had always been dug with a 24″ bucket) to the point that one tractor tire or another was going to fall into the ditch sooner or later if I tried straddling the trench’s full length. The solution: Backfill the entire ditch and then re-dig the trench, using the Kubota’s narrower 12″ bucket (the one that came with the unit). There was only one real problem with that: Along one 30 foot section of ditch bank, many a mesquite tree claimed the territory.
Which was when I found out how to use the backhoe to take out mesquite. On the smaller trees, the hoe will curl under and pull the entire tree out by the roots, taproot and all. On the bigger trees, it’s a messier process, but still workable: Use the hoe to shred and remove branches above ground, then tackle the roots one by one until nothing is left above ground to interfere with loader dirt-scraping work.
Sure, the mesquite will grow back up from the roots. So?
I’ve now operated the 2015 Kubota L45 for a total of 14 hours, enough that procrastinating in writing this review no longer made any sense. I really do love the machine and have told my wife repeatedly that having it here at the Border Fort will literally transform this property over time.
Not that it’s not somewhat transformed already, considering that it was 20 acres of bare land with nary a building in sight when we got here, but hey.
One concern I had in the beginning involved the 12″ bucket. Didn’t seem very wide for serious work other than trenching. However, I found out that wasn’t going to be a problem. It’s surprising what you can do with such a relatively small scoop…especially when the soil on our land is high in clay content and clumps rather nicely. Most scoops coming up out of the ground are sizeable, with more dirt clamped between bucket and dipper stick arm than in the bucket itself. Take a look.
FIVE STARS for the 2015 Kubota L45 TLB? Oh, at least! I’m smiling, just writing about that machine.