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FreightWaves Flashback: Caterpillar truck engines now available to Florida truckers

First Florida truck line to use the new engines was Herndon Truck Line. Image: The Florida Journal of Commerce.

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The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each week, FreightWaves explores the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

The following is an excerpt from the November 1975 edition of the Florida Journal of Commerce (pages 10-11).

Caterpillar, a name long synonymous with marine engines, is now branded on a smaller engine which is expected to fulfill an even greater role in the trucking industry of Florida and the nation.

Caterpillar Tractor Co. began its move into the truck engine business slowly, starting with the development of its 220-horsepower 1673 model less than two years ago.

The first of a complete line of lightweight, compact, heavy-duty diesels for the over-highway trucking industry by Caterpillar, the 1673 has been tested on some 200 trucks throughout the nation.

“We wanted to make sure our engine was the answer to the trucking industry’s demands before we marketed the unit on a full-scale basis,” said W.S. Gripman of Atlantic Beach, field representative for Caterpillar.

Featuring such items as a tamper-proof fuel system requiring no adjustments and a quick-change capsule injector, the engine has passed all tests with flying colors and is now ready for mass merchandising.

Ring power distributor

Principal distributor of Caterpillar truck engines in Florida is Ring Power Corporation of St. Augustine, Tampa and Fort Myers. Headed by L. C. Ringhaver, Ring Power also is a full line distributor of Caterpillars for marine, natural gas, electric and industrial markets, and provides complete service facilities.

“With 15 complete service areas in Florida,” says Gripman, “we have the finest parts and service facilities of any truck engine manufacturer in the state.” Other Caterpillar service locations are in Clewiston, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Key West, Marianna, Miami, Ocala, Orlando, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach.

Florida ideal market

Florida is ideal for mass introduction of the 1673 model, being the third-largest state in the nation in number of diesel truck registrations. More than 14,000 diesel trucks are registered to operate in the Sunshine State.

“The truck industry was almost demanding another engine at a top competitive level when we decided to enter the field,” Gripman explained. He further pointed out that the truck engine market is the largest for diesel engines in the U.S.

“After nearly two years of highly favorable performance by our 1673 model, we feel the unit is fully acceptable and ready to go,” says Gripman.

First Florida user

The first Florida trucker to use the 1673 was Cranel B. Herndon of Clewiston and Fort Lauderdale, owner of Herndon Truck line of Hampden, South Carolina.

Herndon owns two units, both 1673-powered Diamond T, Model 933C. His trucks, carrying average loads of 60,000 pounds, gross vehicle weight, had traveled more than 85,000 miles as of Aug. 31 and got better than 5.4 miles per gallon fuel consumption.

“My drivers like the exceptional power — the get up and go — the smooth, quiet operation,” says Herndon. “Caterpillar units are faster … they come up to speed better … and they climb the hills considerably better,” were other comments by Herndon’s drivers.

Gripman also noted these exclusive features of Caterpillar 1673 truck engines: 

  • Capsule injector in fuel systems can be installed in 10 minutes at a cost of about $10.
  • Caterpillar turbocharger and aftercooler compensates for changes of density in the air, providing full 220 horsepower up to normal temperatures and 7,500 feet.

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