Cat Fever

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R.R.#2,Box 85 Sorento, Illinois 62086

I've had a fancy to own a Caterpillar tractor for many years now, but every one I have found has always been out of my price range, until this past spring.

I was on my way to Belleville Hospital for some tests before my back operation, when I saw a crawler just off the road. I had to stop and check it out; it was an R4 Cat.

On February 25 I got out after the operation. I was to stay in bed for two weeks and not drive for a month. All I could think about was the Cat, so I called a buddy to see if he knew about it. He knew someone that did, so I called him and he still had the guy's phone number.

It took me a few tries, but I finally got him. He said they were his father's, who had died a few years earlier. There were two of them there and he would sell them as a pair. We set a date to meet there, after I could ride in a car again.

The day finally arrived. My wife and brother drove me over there; it was about 45 miles. John was already there looking around. He said he had not been there for quite a while, and someone must have hauled the Thirty off. We could see where it had been sitting. We looked over the R4; it was complete except for one side curtain and the air cleaner top. We agreed on a price and we both were happy.

The next step was to get it home. We used a neighbor's tandem trailer with a dovetail on it (when I say we, I really mean my brothers and a neighbor kid; without them, I couldn't have done it). We used an old R&R jack to raise one side at a time and put a tie under them, then raised the front and put one across until it would almost teeter over center then backed the trailer under. We let it down on a pair of 2 x 8's and poured oil between the boards and the trailer floor. We pulled it right on with a 11/2 ton come-along and a snatch block which doubled the pulling power. The trailer had settled in, but we unhooked and got a different angle, then drove right out and home. It only took us about four hours to get it. Unloading was easy; we hooked it to a tree beside the shed and drove out from under it.

We started working on it the next day, right after the last big wet snow. By the time we finished that day, the snow was all gone.

After taking the hood off, I saw the valve cover was loose. This worried me a little, so we decided to pour in water to see where it might run out. After about ten gallons, it ran out the carburetor. This really worried me. When we got the head off, we found the head was cracked and had been welded on, but they'd made a mess of it. I think someone had the head off many years ago, had it fixed and put it back on, but it still leaked and it has sat ever since, because the head gasket still had coppercoat on it. This stuff dries out after it is heated up, so I don't think it's run since.

Number two piston was stuck. We put a piece of oak post in it. Melvin stood on the crank and tapped it with a sledge. It broke loose with only two light taps. The piston was on its downward stroke. I honed the cylinder and saved it. I got a big tractor from the neighbor and pulled the Cat around the shed; about the time I got it around there, the tracks broke loose. This made it a lot easier to push in the shop.

We took the head to four different head shops and they all said the same thing: the nickel was too hard to cut out. I started calling around and found there were four different heads. Mine was a late one. After two weeks with no luck, I finally found one in Elkton, Maryland. Dave Reed had the right one and would bring it to Waukee on May 26. This was still a month away.

In the meantime, I took the transmission top off to put in a new clutch disc. The plates were all froze up with rust. While the top was off, I pulled the steering clutches to clean them up. They were in excellent condition. We put new seals in the differential, flushed out all the case compartments and put in new oil. The gas tank was half full of rocks, sticks and even tinker toys, too, so I cut the bottom out, steam cleaned then sandblasted the inside, and welded the bottom back in.

The day finally arrived! We left for Waukee on the 25th. It was 442 miles and took us 81/2 hours to drive it. We looked around for awhile, then went into Des Moines and got a room. The next morning we went back and found Dave and the cylinder head. I think we walked around and looked at everything twice, found a lot of other good junk too. My poor old car was loaded to the gills, but it was worth it. I think we're going next year, too.

I still have to put guides and seats in the head, but at least it doesn't have a hole in it.

I went back to work the end of May. Some people think I'm crazy. I was a mechanic for a John Deere dealer and am now a parts man, but I have Cat fever. I am hoping to have it done by Spring. One thing I didn't do was keep a loaded camera. I'll do that on the next one. I have a couple deals in the workings. I've been getting GEM only about eight months and I really love it!