Cat® Trucking Through The Years
Cat® Trucking Through The Years

A Timeline of Innovation

Join us on a trip back in time from the 1930s through the present day. How well do you know your Cat® truck engine history? Here’s your chance to find out.

By Caterpillar | Posted: September 2023

The 1930s

That’s right — Caterpillar’s involvement in the trucking industry dates back nearly a century. In those early days, we mainly repowered existing trucks, using machine engines and radiators. But in 1939, we introduced our first engine designed specifically for trucks. The six-cylinder D468, rated 90 horsepower at 1800 rpm, could run all day on $5 worth of fuel.


The 1940s

The second Cat truck engine, the D312, debuted just a year after the first in 1940. But then the U.S. entered World War II and we were forced to turn our attention elsewhere. Both the D468 and D312 were discontinued and never built again.


The 1960s

It wasn’t until the “Decade of Love” that we re-entered the truck engine business. First to market were our 1670 and 1673 models, featuring a pre-combustion “Pre-Chamber” fuel system that was excellent for cold weather starts — but not so great for fuel economy. We also launched the 1693 model with a dual overhead cam. Our first owner/operator engine, it was popular across the western U.S., where many were “turned up” over 425 horsepower. 

A major breakthrough in the business came when we reached a contractual agreement with Ford to become that company’s exclusive source for mid-range engines. The 1100 series we produced as a result took the market by storm, selling 163,000 in a decade and firmly establishing our identity as a truck engine manufacturer.


The 1970s

A new decade saw the introduction of some engine models still familiar today, most notably the 3300 and 3400 families. We also started remanufacturing mid-range diesel truck engines in the 1970s, when the first Cat Reman facility opened in Bettendorf, Iowa. This was Caterpillar's first facility in the U.S. devoted to remanufacturing. The launch of our North American Truck Engine Sales & Merchandising Assistance Program (yes, we actually called it NATESMAP) served as a turning point for Cat dealers in their support of truck engines and truck engine customers.


The 1980s

The energy crisis of the 1970s led to a big focus on fuel economy in the decade that followed. In fact, we actually ran a contest in the early 1980s called the “Cat Economy Challenge” to promote the fuel efficiency of our 3406 and 3408 engines — giving away $13,000 in prize money to the nation’s most fuel-efficient truckers. At the time, these Cat engines were hitting 7 mpg when most others were struggling to reach 5 mpg. 


The 1990s

High horsepower ruled in the 1990s. Along with a focus on continuing to improve fuel economy came a new technological challenge: reducing emissions. And in December 1999, we marked not just the end of a century but the end of an era — shipping two final 3406Es from the factory. They were the last of a line of best-selling truck engines whose population worldwide reached nearly 575,000.


The 2000s

Are you running a C Series Cat engine in your truck today? Many of these models debuted in the 2000s, including the C16 (2000), C7 (2003) and C13 (2004). In 2004, we also launched the 625hp C15 engine, crowned the “King of the Hill” for its powerful performance in heavy-duty applications. Precious metals rebuild kits for medium-duty and heavy-duty engines also hit the market in the 2000s.


The 2010s

This decade saw us turn our attention to supporting Cat on-highway truck engines already on the road. We introduced a series of tools to help truckers keep running strong — from quarterly e-newsletters containing helpful tips, to an online resource center filled with print materials and videos, to money-saving parts promotions. We also launched our Million Miler Club to say thanks to those who put their trust in Cat truck engines for the long haul. In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our TEPS (Truck Engine Parts & Service) dealers and our relationship with them. Together with Cat dealers, they help support more than 1.3 million Cat truck engines still on the road today.


The 2020s

Just a few years into the decade, we’ve already introduced several new products: Cat Reman long blocks and engines with new content plus four repair kits that simplify truck engine maintenance. We also established a dedicated team to support our TEPS dealers and independent repair facilities, began sharing tips and tools on social media and added lots of new video content, including the popular Myth Busters series. And we returned to the Mid-America Trucking Show to showcase our newest offerings and meet our favorite people — truckers! — in person.




You've earned your degree in Cat truck engine history! Go impress someone with your newfound knowledge. And be sure to stay tuned to find out what’s next for Cat trucking.




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