1970s

For Caterpillar, the 1970s represented an era of surpassing expectations – more powerful machines, new sustainability efforts and an industry-changing invention. The team’s efforts were global and ground-breaking. Take a look back at this incredible decade …

In the summer of 1977, word was spreading among the citizens of Montana that the world’s largest track-type tractor was being tested in the western part of the state. Spectators who came stood in awe of the new Cat® D10, the largest, most modern and most powerful tractor in the world. But even more impressive was what they couldn’t see: The mighty machine featured new design concepts that made it a full 50% more productive than its predecessor, the Cat D9.

The revolutionary new dozer represented the best efforts of hundreds of Caterpillar people and six years of work. Research and development began in 1971. Prototype testing started in 1973 at the Peoria and Arizona Proving Grounds. Pilot models were built at the East Peoria Plant, and the final product was eventually announced to the world on September 13, 1977. More of that story here.

The new D10 had another feature that represented the best of engineering: a new, innovative triangular-track elevated sprocket system. It revolutionized the earthmoving industry. The elevated sprocket allows machines to work harder and last longer while providing a much smoother operator ride. Today, it’s standard on medium and large Cat track-type tractors. 

But, the D10 wasn’t Caterpillar’s only headline in the 1970s. Another major introduction of the decade was our first hydraulic excavator – the 225 – in 1972. More firsts for the decade? The first Caterpillar remanufacturing plant began production in Bettendorf, Iowa – the beginning of a significant sustainability effort that continues today. 

1970 Caterpillar sales outside of the U.S. are greater than those inside the U.S. for the first time.
1972 Caterpillar introduces its first hydraulic excavator – the 225. 
1972 W.H. Franklin is named Chairman of the Board. 
1973 The first Caterpillar remanufacturing plant begins production in Bettendorf, Iowa.  
1975 W.L. Naumann is named Chairman of the Board.  
1977 Caterpillar introduces the D10 Track-Type Tractor.
1977 L.L. Morgan is named Chairman of the Board.
1979 Caterpillar discontinues the use of its “Hi-Way Yellow” paint color and implements a new color – “Caterpillar Yellow.”

Meet the People

Bettendorf Team Bettendorf Team

Meet the Innovator - Wes Bracken and the Bettendorf Team

In 1973, it was said there was a sign outside Caterpillar’s first remanufacturing facility in Bettendorf, Iowa, that read, "Bring us your tired, your broken … and we'll make it purr again." The sign referred to a Cat® diesel engine … originally the kind truck drivers push hard for 120,000 miles or so, yank out and buy another. 

But starting in 1973 – thanks to an innovative idea by former Caterpillar Parts Distribution people such as Wes Bracken – it was no longer necessary for owners to buy a brand-new Cat 1100 or 3100 Series Engine for replacement. Caterpillar began to remanufacture used engines at the former noncurrent parts facility in Bettendorf. 

"Until this year," explained Wes Bracken, "these engines were overhauled by Caterpillar dealers and by some independent rebuilders. By remanufacturing them in quantity, we can let dealers offer users a top-quality engine that's less expensive. 

"If that's not enough to cause rejoicing at roadside truck stops," Bracken said, "they can trade for less than two-thirds the price of a new engine." 

"This is Bettendorf’s story," said Wes, "from grimy old to sparkling new engines." 

Wes explained, "Until this year, these engines were overhauled by Caterpillar dealers and by some independent rebuilders. By remanufacturing them in quantity, we can let dealers offer users a top-quality engine that's less expensive. … If that's not enough to cause rejoicing at roadside truck stops, they can trade for less than two-thirds the price of a new engine." 

Jimmy Woo Jimmy Woo

Meet the Innovator - Jimmy Woo

One day Jimmy Woo saw a TV program showing Caterpillar machines at work. Not long after, he saw a newspaper advertisement that Caterpillar needed technical and engineering talent. Inspired by the machines, he applied and got a job. 

And his dream? "I want to learn and then impart important machine application knowledge to local users."

Jimmy’s dream came true in 1975, when Caterpillar negotiated its first contract with the People’s Republic of China for a sale of 38 pipelayers and replacement parts. The next year, Jimmy oversaw Caterpillar machines on display at Peking Fair in Beijing. Attendees of the fair came from all over the People's Republic of China. The Japan Industrial and Technological Exhibition had drawn them to the great Peking Exhibition Hall. 

By the final day of the 17-day event, more than 200,000 attendees saw the 700 displays of products and methods reflecting the technical and manufacturing excellence of Japan. One of these displays was of Caterpillar products manufactured by Caterpillar Mitsubishi Ltd. (CM) at Sagami.  

Jimmy personally handled business negotiations resulting from the exhibit. He negotiated sale of all the machines in the Caterpillar exhibit, plus two additional Cat D7s, to the Government. 

"Many of the visitors from construction units were familiar with earlier models of D8 Tractors," he said. "The sight of newer Caterpillar machines was refreshing to them. It generated many questions and admiring comments."

For Jimmy and his team, the event required more than a year of planning. It was one of the highlights of his career. 

Winnie Barnard Winnie Barnard

Meet the Ground Breaker - Winnie Barnard

"I don't want to stop here. I want to be promoted as my experience increases," was the attitude of a person who moved from personnel selection clerk to stores foreman at the Morton parts facility in 1971. The person was Winifred Barnard, the first female foreman at Morton and possibly the first such employee at any Caterpillar location. 

"I feel I always gave my manager the indication I could do the job as well as anyone,” said Winnie. “I watched my manager and tried to learn everything he knew about our business. Also, there was a lot of coordinating in my previous job, so I was used to working with supervisors and foremen." 

The 25-year veteran employee found she had to make only one big adjustment after taking the supervisory job. "Before, I was used to performing the work and now I must motivate others to do the work," she said. 

It was her knowledge and enthusiasm that helped Winnie attain the foreman's job after 10 years as a personnel selection clerk. "I just try to do the job better than anyone else," she said. "I'm not happy at the end of the day unless I feel I've done a good job." 

Cat 789 Off-Highway Trucks, China, ca. 1980. Cat 789 Off-Highway Trucks, China, ca. 1980.

CHINA SERVICE

c. 1980 – We have been providing superior service to our customers in China since 1975.

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“Crawlcutter” underwater dredge with Cat® D9 track-type tractor tracks on a beach in California. “Crawlcutter” underwater dredge with Cat® D9 track-type tractor tracks on a beach in California.

INNOVATION IN DREDGING

 1971 – “Crawlcutter” underwater dredge with Cat® D9 track-type tractor tracks on a beach in California.

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The outside of the container reads "Total Service Complet. Hewitt Caterpillar Pieces / Parts." The outside of the container reads "Total Service Complet. Hewitt Caterpillar Pieces / Parts."

Caterpillar Matches

c. 1975 - These Caterpillar matches were packaged in a container made to look like a filter. The outside of the container reads "Total Service Complet. Hewitt Caterpillar Pieces / Parts." Hewitt Cat is headquartered in Quebec.

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