subscribe to ENR magazine subscribe
contact us
careers industry jobs
events events
Dodge Data & Analytics
ENR Logo
Web access will be provided
as part of your subscription.

Hot-Rod Trencher Still Draws the Crowds

Text size: A A
[ Page 1 of 2 ]
Photo courtesy of Ditch Witch
The Super Witch is a hot-rod trencher that started out as a rogue marketing project.
----- Advertising -----

Every time Don Pemberton fires up the Super Witch, people stop what they are doing and pay attention.

"I'm the operator, the only operator," says Pemberton, 55, who for years has sat behind the wheel of the super-powered trenching machine, which regularly makes the rounds at construction trade shows. "You have to have ear protection—this thing is pretty loud."

Often dubbed a "showstopper" or "male magnet," the chromed-up Super Witch has survived five generations and countless rebuilds, making it one of the longest-running attractions at ICUEE, a biennial utility-equipment show. The next ICUEE show is on Oct. 4-6 in Louisville, Ky.

The Super Witch was created more than 30 years ago as a rogue marketing project. It first blew into ICUEE in 1979, after a small group of employees at The Charles Machine Works Inc., Perry, Okla., secretly decided to soup up one of the company's Ditch Witch-brand tractors.

In late 1978, in preparation for the show, the group got to work on the garage project. A prototype Model 6510 frame served as the chassis, while a 1969 Chevelle Super Sport donated the engine, a 396-cu-in. "big block" Chevy V-8.

Factory legend has it that the donor car, wearing Texas plates and reading 110,000 on the odometer, was a stolen vehicle. The company bought it "as is," with no title, from a local farmer for $100, employees say. According to Pemberton, the car actually was purchased from a local salvage yard.

Management eventually blessed the project, and suppliers pitched in to help overhaul the Witch. A local shop fabricated the chrome exhaust headers, while a hydraulics company made pumps to run the hydrostatic drive. The pumps powered the rear wheels, while a Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 automatic transmission—the same equipment in the Chevelle—drove the rear trenching tool.

"We didn't put a lot of money or time into it," says Pemberton, who is the factory's fleet manager, among other duties. "We just dolled it up a little bit and took off."

The Super Witch has been through several updates since then, but the basic setup has stayed the same. However, it has gained power over the years.


[ Page 1 of 2 ]
----- Advertising -----
  Blogs: ENR Staff   Blogs: Other Voices  
Critical Path: ENR's editors and bloggers deliver their insights, opinions, cool-headed analysis and hot-headed rantings
Project Leads/Pulse

Gives readers a glimpse of who is planning and constructing some of the largest projects throughout the U.S. Much information for pulse is derived from McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge.

For more information on a project in Pulse that has a DR#, or for general information on Dodge products and services, please visit our Website at

Information is provided on construction projects in following stages in each issue of ENR: Planning, Contracts/Bids/Proposals and Bid/Proposal Dates.

View all Project Leads/Pulse »

 Reader Comments:

Sign in to Comment

To write a comment about this story, please sign in. If this is your first time commenting on this site, you will be required to fill out a brief registration form. Your public username will be the beginning of the email address that you enter into the form (everything before the @ symbol). Other than that, none of the information that you enter will be publically displayed.

We welcome comments from all points of view. Off-topic or abusive comments, however, will be removed at the editors’ discretion.