Right off the bat, veteran equipment writer Frank Raczon admits that the Caterpillar family tree, including the extended family of its capable dealer network, contains too many branches to appear in one book. However, he captures many of the earthmoving giant’s iconic machines in “Caterpillar: Modern Earthmoving Marvels.”
Published by Motorbooks, priced at $45 and containing many photos from historian Keith Haddock, the new 224-page hardbound book begins with the pedigree’s namesake: the tracked undercarriage. Caterpillar’s predecessor, California-based Holt Manufacturing Co., was not the first to arrive at the idea but improved upon designs in the works in 1904, when it built its Holt Road Engine No. 77, a ponderous farm tractor that ran on steam and lumbered on tracks 2 ft wide and 9 ft long. A photographer remarked that it looked “like a monster caterpillar.”
From there, Raczon traces the bloodline to key machines such as the Caterpillar Diesel Sixty, produced in 1931 and the world’s first successful diesel-powered machine. The D4, launched in 1937, made famous Cat’s D-for-dozer nomenclature. The D10, introduced in 1977, debuted Caterpillar’s signature “high-drive” elevated sprocket design. Other chapters delve into more specialized categories, including scrapers, excavators, loaders, dump trucks and mining machinery.
A licensed Caterpillar product, the book at times reads like a brochure. However, each model contains a lesson. Take Cat’s first excavator, the Cat 225. It arrived in 1972, after other firms had proved the digging method. Cat spent years perfecting designs with contractors, and its patience produced a reliable machine that “set the stage for Cat to challenge the European and Japanese machines in a battle for worldwide leadership.”