Cat Fever

By Staff

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

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

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

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,

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

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines