Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar last month celebrated the 50th year of production of its medium wheel loaders. In December 1959, the first production Cat wheel loader was driven off the assembly line at the Caterpillar plant in Aurora, Ill. — the 944 Wheel Traxcavator.
The 944, fitted with a 2-cubic yard bucket and available with either a 105-hp gas or diesel engine, was the culmination of a seven-year development effort — and the beginning of Caterpillar’s leadership in the worldwide market for mid-size wheel loaders.
The 944 was joined in 1960 by two additional models, the 80-hp model 922 and the 140-hp (104 kW) model 966, using buckets of 1.25 and 2.75 cubic yards, respectively.
A 1960 press release quoted W. S. Zeigler, domestic sales manager, who summed up Caterpillar’s goal for developing the new wheel-loader line: “These new Traxcavators will enable operators to perform their work quickly and well, and give them safer working conditions.”
The Cat Wheel Loader line today includes 8 models with power ranges from 55- to 1,577-hp. These models offer standard buckets from 3 to 8 cubic yards and can be fitted with a diversity of work tools for applications as varied as material handling, scrap yards, quarries and forestry.