50 years of Caterpillar wheeled loaders
By Chris Sleight11 January 2010
Caterpillar is celebrating 50 years of wheeled loader manufacture. Its first production model - a 944 ‘Wheel Traxcavator' - was driven off the line at its plant in Aurora, Illinois, US in December 1959.
This first model was what Caterpillar terms today a ‘medium' wheeled loader. It was fitted with a 1.5 m3 bucket and a 78 kW engine - customers had the choice of petrol or diesel.
The 944 was joined in 1960 by the 60 kW 922 and 104 kW 966, which carried 0.92 and 2.1 m3 buckets respectively. Other features of the early machines included a powershift transmission with two forward and reverse speeds, offering a top reverse speed of 30 mph (48 km/h)
According to the company, the machines were the culmination of a seven-year research & development programme. Caterpillar also says that it has sold more than 100000 medium wheeled loaders over the last 50 years.
Key design features included mounting the loader arm's hydraulic cylinders in front of the operator. The prevailing design at the time involved mounting the cylinders next to the seat, which meant they brushed past the operator's elbows every time the bucket was lifted.
Today Caterpillar's medium wheeled loader line-up comprises eight models from 2,3 to 6.1 m3 bucket sizes. They are part of a much larger range of loaders that stretches from the 41 kW 904B to the 1176 kW 994F.