Australia; Rolf, [ son ] and I are both out of farming now but we went from 4 WD's to a Cat 65 in the first days of 1989.
It was either the second or third CAT tracked machine in Australia. We still had it up until the farm sale in mid february this year.
After having 3 x 4WD's over some 20 years previous to buying the CAT including a custom built Waltanna 325 HP 4WD to our specs, the CAT was so much better in every department in our conditions.
A 100 plate Grizzly offset disc loaded the Cat 3406 powered 325 HP Waltanna, a darn good tractor, right up but the CAT with it's then 3306, 265 HP [ upgraded later to 285 HP] ] pulled that disc at the same speed in the same conditions with about 3/4's the fuel consumption and about 3% slip as compared to the 12 % to 14% slip of the 4 WD.
We actually measured those slip figures over some couple of hundred metres a number of times while we still had both tractors and before the Waltanna was sold.
Subsequently three of the four farming brothers in our family bought CAT tracked machines.
The two still farming brothers still have their CATS and won't part with them.
One of those brothers sold his first CAT, the small Genesis based machines for a JD tracked machine.
He had that about 3 years before he bailed out and went back to a later model CAT.
His opinion was that the JD was not in the same class as the CATs.
JD' tracked machines are very rough riding compared to the CATs.
The reason being that the JD's have a flat track system from the front idler right through to the drive wheel.
CAT's front idler wheel as are the rear drive wheels, are about an inch higher off the surface than the track rollers so the track rollers carry most of if not all the weight when on hard surfaces which can lead to some pitching at speed on road surfaces if the air bags are not at the correct pressures.
When a JD hits a bump / obstruction with the front idler wheel it has to ride up instantly over it and then as the drive passes over the obstruction the drive wheel crashes down again.
The CAT's front idler wheel with that extra inch or so of clearance is far more likely to roll up and across or climb over an obstruction as the track idlers carry the bulk of the weight and the rear drive then also does not simply crash back down to ground level as it passes over the obstruction.
It is only a small difference but the smoothness of ride results are very noticeable.
We changed the mechanical suspension seat on our 65 when it arrived to an air suspension seat that we found in the IH combines of the time.
Some months after we had the CAT an American CAT Executive came out to have a look at these crazy aussies who privately imported this CAT 65 without any of CAT's support [ but which CAT provided with all the bells and whistles within days of us getting delivery of the machine ] and he spotted the air seat .
We got a phone call a few weeks later from CAT's head office asking just where in the **** did we get that air suspension seat as they could not find a source in the USA.
Told them the north american source and from soon after CATs got air suspension seats.
I think i have told this next yarn a couple of times on this forum but will again.
A year after we got our 65 and during our local large regional Wimmera Machinery Field Days
we had dinner one night with Bill Reno, CAT's then head of the Ag research division.
During the meal I asked Bill what was CAT's next step in tractor development.
He replied that they were not going to do anything until they had worked out how to make the track width adjustable for row crop work and they hadn't figured out how to do that yet.
Rather brashly, looking back, I just said, "that's not very hard" and got a very deserved sour look for my remark.
So I asked Bill for a pen and paper which he pulled out of his pocket.
The I drew a plan sketch with the engine up front, the transmission right back at the rear, the big central track idler support beam that was on the 65's as a very heavy differential and axle system located between the engine and rear gearbox and a modular self contained track system each side that slid in and out on the central very heavy axle / differential system.
Bill just looked at it, looked at me and said, you realise that we don't pay for ideas like this.
"No use to me so if you can use it do so" was my reply.
He repeated his statement and then asked whether I would use gears or chain drive from the central axle beam to the rear drive wheels .
I would have used gears.
And so we kept on eating and yarning and enjoyed the meal at CAT's expense.
Some many months later CAT's came out with the Genesis based tracked machines with the modular adjustable in width type track system which is now stock standard on all similar tracked machines.
And Yep, we were paid but in a way not easily recognisable.
We got one very, very upgraded Challenger 65 series 1 all at CAT's very considerable expense.
On the quad tracks around here there have been some serious axle and drive problems as the positive drive on the tracks has placed enormous stresses onto the axles when working rough country such as in timber plantations.
Or getting into very high load, high drive torque situations as has happened with a few farm quad tracks and the axles and drives have also been failing although they have been beefed up greatly in the later models.
And the other problem with the quad tracks is simply the weight of them as that has also caused problems in wet boggy conditions, conditions rarely seen for many years around here until again very recently after some 14 years of dry and ongoing drought like conditions.
Had our farming continued, tracks would have been the only way for us in our major prime mover tractor and wheels on the run about, multi purpose, multi use tractor.
Edit; I should have and wish to make quite clear that I did not have ANY preconceived ideas or thoughts on that modular track concept when I drew that very rough sketch for Bill Reno that evening.
The whole thing was just something that simply popped out of nowhere into my head in those few seconds when I replied rather brashly to Bill's comment on the Cat designers and engineers not being able to figure out how to make the tracks on the next model Cat tractor adjustable for row crop work.
Their thinking was understandable as they had been working with crawler tractor designs for some 70 or 80 years that had all the track drives, rollers, idlers and etc either mounted within the transmission housings or directly attached to the crawler's main frame.
As we never had crawlers of any sort we didn't have the mental inhibitions and the apparent limitations brought about by long exposure to a particular way of thinking that prevents new thinking and something radical in design to appear which often does but from the most unexpected sources.
Even if those new ideas aren't adopted they more often than not promote a complete rethink and new ways of looking at something and that is, I think, what happened with Cat when this concept was thrown up out of nowhere.
And as anybody can see from my description above, my original very rough concept was greatly changed to adapt to the real life requirements with the large rear drive wheel, the rear axle locating of the rear of the track module and the main central cross beam almost unchanged from it's role of track idler mounting point on the first generation tracked machines.
When the sketch was shown to my brother Brian, also at the table, he just looked at it for a moment, said, yep, that'll work and immediately suggested, why don't you put airbags, here, here and here and you will have a full air suspension on the tractor.
The Cat guys just sat there for a few seconds sort of half stunned.
That very rough sketch was on the very top of a 3 or 4 inch high pile of Bill's books and notes next morning as he was packing when I called into the CAT stand at the final day of the Field Days to say goodbye to Bill and a couple of other Cat execs.