Caterpillar in South Africa

Primary Locations

Parts Distribution
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Parts Distribution


Parts Distribution:
 Johannesburg


Before Caterpillar was formed in 1925 when the Holt Manufacturing Company merged with the C.L. Best Tractor Co., our products were at work in South Africa. The first sale of a Holt product in the country was in 1903 when a customer purchased a 60-horsepower steam tractor with wagons. The machine was Holt’s 69th steam tractor manufactured since 1890. The customer used this machine to perform agricultural applications like plant and harvest corn.  

Benjamin Holt invented the first commercially successful track-type tractor in 1904. His invention was trademarked “Caterpillar” in 1910. The first Holt Caterpillar track-type tractor arrived in Durban, South Africa (formerly known as Port Natal), in 1913. The customer principally used the machine for hauling large loads up steep grades on challenging roads. 

422F2 Backhoe Loader operating with village in background
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422F2 Backhoe Loader, South Africa, Construction.

Holt steam tractor No.69 in field
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Holt steam tractor No.69 at work in South Africa, 1903.

Newspaper image of first Holt Caterpillar track-type tractor arriving in Durban, South Africa.
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First Holt Caterpillar track-type tractor arriving in Durban, South Africa (formerly known as Port Natal), 1913.

Caterpillar Twenty-Five track-type tractor operating in Quarry, 1933.
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Caterpillar Twenty-Five track-type tractor owned by the Pretoria Municipality, South Africa, in operation at the Bon Accord Quarry, 1933.

Cat 789C off-highway truck working at a mine in South Africa, 2000.
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Cat 789C off-highway truck working at a mine in South Africa, 2000.

422F2 Backhoe Loader operating with village in background
Holt steam tractor No.69 in field
Newspaper image of first Holt Caterpillar track-type tractor arriving in Durban, South Africa.
Caterpillar Twenty-Five track-type tractor operating in Quarry, 1933.
Cat 789C off-highway truck working at a mine in South Africa, 2000.
Outside of Barloworld facility ca. 1970.
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Barloworld facility ca. 1970.

Outside of Barloworld facility ca. 1970.

Barloworld: The First Cat Dealer

The story of Barloworld Equipment starts with Major Ernest “Billy” Barlow in 1902 when he created Barlow & Sons in Durban. In 1927, Major Barlow’s son, Charles Sydney ‘Punch’ Barlow, negotiated the appointment of Barlow & Sons as the Cat® distributor for the then Natal and Transvaal regions. This made Barloworld the first Cat dealer in South Africa. Early Caterpillar machines were used in applications such as agriculture, mining, and roadbuilding.

Barloworld went on to become part of a multinational brand distribution company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. In 2017, Barloworld officially opened the Johannesburg Distribution Centre, co-located with Caterpillar’s Parts Distribution Centre. Today, they are the sole dealer for Cat machines in southern Africa, employing over 4,500 people.

Early Projects

The Orange River Project was the first infrastructure project that used Cat equipment in South Africa. Over 300 pieces of Caterpillar equipment worked on the 30-year project that began in 1963. It included three major dams, nine smaller dams, 51.5 miles of tunnels, and several hydroelectric power stations. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cat equipment helped grow South Africa’s production of natural resources. Copper and diamonds were mined in South Africa and other areas on the continent. Cat equipment was also used for an extensive roadbuilding program that allowed access to regions for the development of the country’s natural resources.