STORY OF AN Unfinished Caterpillar Model 11

Old Cat grader

Content Tools

25277 Rancho Apple Valley, California 92308-9707

This Caterpillar Model 11, Auto Patrol was built in September 1935. The frame serial number is 9F652, and engine serial number is 1F245. It has a four cylinder gas engine, dual rear wheels, a 10 foot moldboard, and scarifiers. This one does not have any electrical equipment, but a starter, generator, lights, and battery were available optionally. Other options were a snow-plow, bulldozer, cab, air compressor, a foot operated Klaxon horn, and even a front wheel hub mounted odometer.

Since I knew that GEM was originally written with mainly farm equipment in mind, and Cat equipment was usually only mentioned when it was used on a farm, I never considered writing anything about a Cat grader. Now that GEM is gradually including all old equipment, I decided to try writing about my old grader. Then, also, C. H. Wendel gave me a boost by mentioning his old Cat grader (I'll guess his is an 8T) in the August 1996 issue of the magazine.

I might mention here that, after working with operators who have come from many other states in the Union, I have found that in different parts of the country there are different names used to denote a grader. Some still say 'auto patrol,' some 'motor patrol,' some 'motor grader', some 'road grader,' and we in California just say 'blade.' I will stick to the name 'grader' in this article.

Mr. Wendel's theory that operators of old Cat equipment seem to like the sound of the engine is partly right, but a 'non-sound' is more true. A screaming two-cycle engine may sound great for a few hours (to a young operator), but try using that engine for eight or ten hours a day for 40 or 50 years and see if you can hear anything else for the rest of your life. Cat and Cummins engines are still the preferred ones.

The main reason owners and operators liked Cat equipment was because it was built heavy enough and engineered well enough to outlast its competitors. Therefore, an operator wasn't out of work waiting for his machine to be repaired, and an owner wasn't losing money while the machine was down. The Cat was built simply enough that even a 'shade tree' mechanic, like me, could repair it.

I have operated most all types of construction equipment since I started in 1947, but I specialized in running graders, and I have restored other, farm type equipment since I have retired. So, I really got excited when an operator friend of mine, Earl Dudley, told me of an old Cat grader he found while working in northern Nevada.

I started my grading career on a Model 99H Austin-Western, single tire grader with a UD-14 International engine, which C. L. Cummins once told me was all right for 'some things.' And he knew that the older grader that machine replaced was an earlier model Austin-Western that had dual rear wheels and a Buda gas engine but had never heard of a Cat grader of any age having dual rear wheels and a gas engine. I didn't want to doubt Earl's word, but had to drive all the way up to that part of Nevada to see for myself and found that he was right.

Since then I have read that Cat bought the Russell Grading Company in 1928 (the year I was born). They first built a Model 88 pull grader with an engine mounted on it to just run the control box, then came out with their first self-propelled, rubber-tired grader in 1931. I would think they used the model 88 to test the new control box for use on the new Model 11 Auto Patrol. Sure beats the old 'armstrong' blade lift wheels they used before that time!

This grader could be called the second of the new models because they made some slight changes at Serial number 9F600.

Saw and bought it for what I thought was a fair price. Took my four-wheel drive in case we couldn't get it running and we might have to tow it where a low bed truck could pick it up. Took tools, gas, water, engine and 90W oil, and an air compressor. It hadn't run for about 15 years but we had no trouble getting it started by hand cranking. Did have a problem getting four of the six tires to hold air. We had to road the grader about 20 miles to where it could be picked up, and to where it would be safe setting for a while. And that was a lot of fun, since it had no brakes but, luckily, there was no traffic. The only brake drum is on the front of the transmission and it was missing. The engine was blowing so much oil past the rings, it didn't have much power.

Managed to get it where Earl lived near the Freeway, left it there, came home and found, luckily, that a friend of mine, who owns a construction company here, Don Cooley, was sending one of his trucks to Reno to deliver a D-8 or 9 tractor. So, he had his driver go on after that delivery and pick up the grader and bring it to my home on his return trip. Don didn't charge me much for the haul and I think it was partly the result of friendship and partly because he hadn't looked at a map to see how long a haul it was!

Don and his crew have helped me a lot on parts for the grader that are more than I can handle like: straightening tie rods and other heavy metal parts. He had new rings made for the engine for me. Another friend of 40 years, Jim Mendenhall, has helped me on the more technical parts of the rebuild, installing the pistons, setting the timing, etc. Jim and I operated equipment together for many years, then he became a mechanic, then worked as the Union Business Agent for Local #12Operating Engineers in this area until he retired.

Tore the engine down, honed the cylinders, put new rings in, did a valve job, had new head gaskets made, tightened the main bearings, and it now runs and sounds great. Put new seals in the control box, a new front wheel bearing, had a new part machined and hardened to replace a part in the steering gearbox that was broken. I found a later model grader brake drum in the used parts department of the Cat dealer in Riverside, had that machined to fit this grader, got new brake linings and it now stops 'on a dime.'

The later model grader was a 9K. A company I worked for years ago had a 9K and we all called it 'old skinny legs,' for obvious reasons.

I got reprints of both the Power Unit and Grader Unit parts books from John Orton of Cat's Literature Distribution Center in Morton, Illinois, but he could not find a repair manual listed for the grader engine. I now think that Cat would not build another gas engine just for this grader, especially since they were going to change to diesel shortly. I now think they just pulled engines out of their small tractor line10, 20, or 30 when they needed grader engines. I would bet there are some missing numbers in the tractor production that were used for graders for a few years.

I did not really need a repair manual for anything except setting the magneto timing. For curiosity's sake I would like to know the factory's suggested way of setting the timing, but I think Jim and I have it set as close as possible, by the old 'trial and error' method.

Another thing I learned is that these are not 'grader' tires and wheels. One tire would not hold air and I wanted to be able to move it while working on it, so I hunted all over this area for a tube. Finally found one for $45. Took the tire apart and found they are truck type tires and wheels and I could have gotten a truck tube for half that price.

I have sandblasted every inch of this grader down to metal. Used etching primer on the engine since it had been oil soaked, then two or three coats of the best primer on all of the grader. I found that Cat now uses all water-based paints, and wanting the best paint possible, had the paint shop mix me some acrylic enamel and I added hardener to that. The paint cost $85 a gallon and the hardener is $30 a pint so, each gallon and a pint comes to $115. I have used four gallons so far.

Of the seat, armrest and backrest there was only one worm eaten part of one armrest left so, with the help of the parts book for a pattern, I made the new parts out of plywood and had an upholstery shop pad and cover them.

This grader is now driveable but is not finished and won't be, by me. I now know why most older men in this hobby restore small engines or build model engines. I think I started this project about five years too late to finish, at my age and condition.