I'm looking at a backhoe, 1989 JCB 1550b 4x4. It's a hefty machine, ~16000 lbs. The transmission consists of a torque converter driving a syncro shuttle transmission, which i guess is really a manual 4 speed with a pump driven F/R selector.

My question is should I be able to start from a stop on flat ground in any gear? Or am I supposed to shift through the gears like on a car? My belief was that it should start and drive in any gear, top speed is 24mph after all. In gear with the clutch out the engine will idle when stopped with the brake on. It will start in any gear but can never gain speed in 3rd or 4th.

On a hill it will lug down and stop depending on the severity of the hill in higher gears. In 1st gear I can dig the bucket in and spin all 4 wheels. That makes me feel like it has good power, but on even small hills I feel like the engine is weak.

I have not tested compression but it starts easily and has minimal blow-by from the crankcase vent. The exhaust is broken on the turbo outlet, but I can hear the turbo spool.

In gear standing on the brake the engine is not able to reach full RPM, so I think the torque converter is working.

I think the engine is weak (fuel?) but want to make sure I'm not trying to use the machine incorrectly. I have the service manual, but no operator manual.