Caterpillar was a very late entrant to the hydraulic excavator marketplace, and not all its early attempts were stellar offerings. However, the model 245 was something special. By Richard Campbell.
The Caterpillar 245 first appeared in 1974, but it was not the first hydraulic excavator that Caterpillar had introduced. That honour goes to the Caterpillar model 225 that first saw the light of day in 1972 to much industry fanfare and hype – as only Caterpillar could lay on. The model 225 formed the basis of the new “200 series” and Caterpillar placed its first four hydraulic excavators, the 215, 225, 235 and, the 245 – the subject of this article.
Caterpillar management had obviously seen the writing on the wall regarding hydraulic excavators, sales of which were steadily rising in the USA and abroad, and many of its competitors were actively engaged in developing their own hydraulic excavators. Not wishing to be left out of a golden opportunity, Cat’s engineers came up with the model 225, a 24-ton machine powered by a 135-flywheel horsepower Caterpillar 3208 V8 diesel.
The 225 sold reasonably well, but as is often the case when a machine is hastily brought to market, it had some inherent faults. Overheating (due to the very tightly cowled carbody), access for maintenance to the complex plumbing system, and the limited ability to accept attachments, especially rock breakers, from ancillary suppliers all figured prominently in customer complaints. These shortcomings were eventually, mostly addressed by Caterpillar and the 225 went on to became a well-respected machine.
The next Caterpillar excavator to appear was the model 235, introduced in 1973. Weighing almost 40 tons and powered by a 195-flywheel horsepower Caterpillar 3306 diesel, the 235 was a well-engineered machine with few of the faults that initially plagued the smaller 225. The 235 was very highly regarded and sold well.
We will go slightly out of sequence here to mention the smallest of the first-generation Caterpillar excavators, the model 215 (introduced 1976), as it has an interesting background. While the 225, 235 and 245 were all designed and built by Caterpillar, the model 215 was designed and built by Eder, a German manufacturer, at Caterpillar’s new manufacturing facilities in Gosselies in Belgium! Unfortunately, the 18-ton Cat 215 was a bit of a lacklustre performer, and at 85 flywheel horsepower, a little underpowered for the tasks for which it was designed. The 215 underwent several model changes and a raft of improvements before finally being discontinued in 1992.
As the largest of all the Caterpillar 200-series excavators, the Cat 245 made its appearance in 1974 and was immediately well received by both the mining, quarrying and construction industries. Powered by a 325-flywheel horsepower Caterpillar 3406T 6-cylinder diesel, the 245 weighed 66 tons and usually wielded a 2.5 cubic yard bucket, although this could be increased to four cubic yards if the prevailing conditions warranted it. But the 245 had another trick up its sleeve, as it could also be purchased configured as a hydraulic face shovel.
The first production units out of the factory had what is known as the “point nose cab”, which had a 2-piece windscreen. The glass frame often failed or twisted out of shape and was replaced by a far more user-friendly one-piece windscreen which could be stored in the roof. To achieve this modification, Caterpillar changed the shape of the cab to a boxier type structure that was used on all subsequent models of the 245. Production of the initial version of the 245 ran from 1974 through to 1988 when it was replaced by the 245B.
In 1988 Caterpillar introduced an upgraded version of the 245 known as the 245B. Principal differences included a boost to the Caterpillar 3406T engine’s output (up to 360 flywheel horsepower), a new hydraulic pump, and a reduction in weight, down to 65 tons in operating trim. A face shovel version was offered, but very few of this type were actually manufactured, almost all 245Bs being backhoe excavators. The 245B was in production from 1988 to 1992.
The final variant, the 245D
The last version of the 245 was the 245D introduced in 1992 and only in production until the end of 1994. The Cat 3406 engine was replaced by the even more powerful 385-flywheel horsepower Caterpillar 3406B-T engine that employed the latest available fuel injection technology plus a host of upgrades to the electrical and hydraulic systems.
Weight of the 245D had crept up to 68 tons, but it was now a far more flexible, job-proven machine than its predecessors. A mass excavation version was also offered, and in this configuration, the 245D could swing a 6.1 cubic yard bucket making it a very productive tool. As with the 245B, a front shovel version of the 245D was offered and again, very few were manufactured. The 245D was a good, reliable and operator-friendly machine that was ultimately replaced by one of Caterpillar’s new 300-series machines, the model 365.
The 245 was manufactured in the USA and the face shovel variants at Caterpillar’s plant in Belgium.
For the model collector
Modeler’s have been graced with four models of the Caterpillar 245, all to 1:50 scale. The first models to be released were from NZG in the late 1970s, and they represented early production machines with the pointed nose cab, a backhoe and a face shovel. NZG’s Cat 245s are of average quality, sparsely detailed and have rubber tracks, but are still neat models and can be detailed further if you wish to put in the time. They are both generally available on Ebay. The other two releases of the 245 are much more modern and were made by CCM (Classic Construction Models), one as a standard hydraulic excavator and the other as a hydraulic face shovel.
These two models are little works of art with doors that open into the engine compartment, see-through walkways and ventilated hoods, but as with all CCM models, were a limited run item and are consequently hard to find and cost moonbeams. Grab one if you have the opportunity (and cash!)
Brief Specifications – Caterpillar 245 excavator (95V first production series)
Engine: Caterpillar 3406T, 6-cylinder, inline, turbocharged diesel rated at 325 flywheel horsepower at 2100 rpm.
Drive: Dual variable displacement hydraulic motors.
Travel Speed: 1.9 mph.
Track Gauge: 9’ 4”.
Ground Pressure: 11.9 psi.
Std.Track Shoe: 30” double grouser.
Swing Speed: 4.8 rpm.
Std.Arm: 10’ 6”.
Std.Bucket: 2.5 cubic yards.
Length: 40’ 10”.
Width: 11’ 10”.
Height: 15’ 1”.
Operating Weight: 66 tons.