Used Equip­ment Re­view: Cater­pil­lar D7 ca­ble blade dozer

Go­ing back in time, a vin­tage 1957 Cater­pil­lar D7 ca­ble blade dozer cap­tures Ron Horner’s at­ten­tion – and af­fec­tion

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

When­ever I get the op­por­tu­nity to pack up the Land Cruiser and head off on an­other one of Ron­nie’s Road Trips, it is rarely planned to any de­gree.

The feel­ing of meet­ing peo­ple at ran­dom, in lit­tle places in the mid­dle of nowhere, and the ex­cite­ment of ‘cold call­ing’ plays a big part in the thrill of the chase when hunt­ing down those fair dinkum blokes that make our pas­sion for the earth­mov­ing or farm­ing in­dus­try a re­al­ity.

Many of us think that it is the ma­chin­ery, ei­ther new or vin­tage, which is the glue to hold­ing a group of peo­ple’s in­ter­est in our his­tory or di­rec­tion, but to me it is all about the peo­ple who have made our in­dus­try so darn in­ter­est­ing and ap­peal­ing.

I am so thank­ful for the op­por­tu­ni­ties to get first­hand knowl­edge and ac­cess to the new­est, most mod­ern, tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced equip­ment and to demon­strate the lat­est ma­chin­ery com­ing into the coun­try, and to get to re­port my opin­ion of them to you. How­ever, what re­ally rocks my boat is when I have the chance to meet the pi­o­neers of our farm­ing and earth­mov­ing game. It is a chance for them to take us back to the good old days, when our beloved in­dus­try was re­ally a tough gig, and to sur­vive and pros­per the men had to be real tough.

My in­tro­duc­tion to a young bloke up on the New South Wales/Queens­land bor­der cer­tainly had me hooked from the minute I stepped onto the farm. Phil Sweet, his broth­ers and his dad Wally run a fam­ily farm­ing op­er­a­tion where they grow and dis­trib­ute one third of Aus­tralia’s strawberry run­ners, lo­cated just out of Stan­thorpe in south­ern Queens­land.

I was wel­comed with open arms and, as the sto­ries un­folded, I was in­vited to get in the old Toy­ota and have a look at some an­cient work­ing equip­ment that was to re­ally blow my mind. Tucked away down the bot­tom pad­docks and chug­ging away without a care in the world was a fully re­stored 1957 Cat D7 ca­ble blade dozer (con­vert).


Orig­i­nally a Cat 17A ca­ble-op­er­ated winch farm trac­tor and scoop, it was part of the orig­i­nal pieces of equip­ment pur­chased for the farm way back in the 1960s. Wally said that the dozer was so good and re­li­able – and the parts so read­ily avail­able – that they de­cided to keep the old girl, re­build it as and when re­quired, and have it ‘earn its keep’ in land-clear­ing and re­growth man­age­ment.

Fifty years later and this beau­ti­ful Cat has been trans­formed into a ca­ble blade D7 dozer; a 24-volt start and still pulls the orig­i­nal scoop when re­quired.

I could not be­lieve my eyes … this ma­chine is ‘mint’: great patina; paint in fan­tas­tic con­di­tion; re­built track plates and grousers; well-greased; new seat; ca­ble in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and run­ning true; home-made blade com­plete with in­built root rake; and work­shop-de­signed tree pusher with a tree canopy built to suit the con­di­tions. How good could a cold call get?


If you are an as­pir­ing young dozer op­er­a­tor to­day, you can thank the pi­o­neers of this era for pro­vid­ing you with the com­pul­sory crea­ture com­forts that be­fit the cab­ins of our new­gen­er­a­tion doz­ers. All of the health is­sues suf­fered by the pi­o­neers, both tem­po­rary and on­go­ing, borne out of long days and weeks of op­er­at­ing those old ma­chines have been iden­ti­fied and mostly re­moved from to­day’s earth­mov­ing equip­ment, en­sur­ing you have a safe and com­fort­able work­place.

The open cab­ins of this era were just part and par­cel of be­ing an op­er­a­tor. One thing is for sure, you will get se­verely dusted, so if you have – or in­tend to have – a breath­ing-as­so­ci­ated ill­ness, this is not the job for you.

Eye pro­tec­tion is ad­vis­able but pri­or­ity is ear plugs and plenty of H2O in your wa­ter bag.

Be­lieve me, you will need it. There is no prob­lem with vi­sion here; par­tial block­age through the tree canopy sup­ports but other than that ‘it’s clear through to Bur­ke­town’. The seat­ing, al­though not orig­i­nal, is much bet­ter as it has mul­ti­ple seat­ing ad­just­ments and is there­fore more com­fort than its pre­de­ces­sor.

Out of the aes­thet­i­cally rounded dash­board are a few gauges, all rel­e­vant to the en­gine; a set of steer­ing clutches pro­trude from the floor, along with a big clutch lever on the left, two brake ped­als (L and R) and a long-stick man­ual throt­tle

sit­ting be­tween your well-spread legs.

Over on the right-hand side, at shoul­der height, is the ca­ble drum lever, which when en­gaged ac­ti­vates the ca­ble to pull the blade back up off the deck. Grav­ity comes in handy when you want to drop the blade be­cause, as you push the lever away, it free-wheels the ca­ble drum al­low­ing the blade to fall to the ground. It does take a bit of get­ting used to but it’s all part of the thrill of go­ing back in time.

To get the old beast mov­ing you would think you were in an old truck as the five-speed for­ward and re­verse me­chan­i­cal gear­box took a bit of get­ting used to, and the big clutch lever got plenty of use (pro­vided you hadn’t al­ready pulled your left arm out of its socket in the process).


You would be more than a bit sur­prised if I told you this four-cylin­der Cat en­gine runs at 1,200rpm, lugs all day long and has a mas­sive 13-litre ca­pac­ity. The ‘pi­lot mo­tor’ start has long been re­moved and what a bless­ing. When you turned up for work with a big day planned and you couldn’t get that darn pi­lot mo­tor to start, it would do your head in. Frus­tra­tion with a dicky pi­lot mo­tor ceased the as­pi­ra­tions of many young dozer op­er­a­tors in the day, but once you got the old girl mo­bile there was noth­ing go­ing to stop it.

To start your day, you would have to en­sure the petrol pi­lot mo­tor had its own oil and fuel, charged bat­tery and a good choke (just like a lawn mower). Once this was go­ing, you would en­gage the clutch from the pi­lot mo­tor to the en­gine and it would turn over that big four­cylin­der 100hp donk. Oh the relief when you heard that lovely Cat en­gine turn over.

As time wore on, most own­ers of such ma­chines, such as the Sweets, re­moved the pi­lot mo­tor and con­verted the doz­ers to 24-volt start. Hav­ing fallen vic­tim to many an old pig­headed and tem­per­a­men­tal pi­lot mo­tor in my time, when I saw it on a pal­let in the work­shop just be­fore leav­ing the site my part­ing com­ment was “good rid­dance”.

Cater­pil­lar had stiff some com­pe­ti­tion in those days with Al­lis-Chalmers and LeTourneau be­ing all lead­ers of the day. This was a truly in­no­va­tive pe­riod of en­gi­neer­ing and de­sign, much of which is still in place to­day.


It is a darn shame that I have to write all of the other stuff be­fore I get to the best part of my re­view. This part, es­pe­cially with this old girl, is what I live for. That old Cat en­gine just purred along in sec­ond gear, scrap­ing up the left­overs from a bit of pre­vi­ous re­growth, push­ing and stock­pil­ing with ease – all at 1,200rpm.

Chang­ing gears – for­ward to re­verse, first to third – all with that big clutch, and stop­ping each time to ei­ther dis­en­gage or re-en­gage is cer­tainly a hand­ful and merely con­firms my ut­most re­spect for Phil and his un­der­stand­ing and op­er­at­ing skills with the Cat. The work­shop-de­signed and fab­ri­cated blade (with root rake in­built) and the stick rake all work and look per­fect for this ap­pli­ca­tion.

Rep­re­sent­ing an older gen­er­a­tion of op­er­a­tors, but with the great­est re­spect for the new gen­er­a­tion of high-tech equip­ment on the mar­ket, I hoped to be the con­duit from old gen to new gen so each could be en­light­ened on how it was then and how it is to­day. This old girl took me way back to the early ‘70s when I ran an old ca­ble blade D8 be­long­ing to Sammy, the brother of the then Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter Billy McMa­hon.

Once in that seat I thought I was ‘King’ and here, some thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away and nearly 40 years later, noth­ing has changed. Once I climbed that track frame and put my bum in that seat, placed hands on those steer­ing clutches, en­gaged that clutch, pushed up the heap, and when that big sucker fan cov­ered me and filled my mouth full of Queens­land dust, I knew I just could not wait to get back into an ex­ca­va­tor.

Above left: The beau­ti­ful Cat diesel en­gine runs to per­fec­tionAbove: Great home made tree pusher

Above: Con­trols are all me­chan­i­calAbove right: Ca­ble drum

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