Pair of Cletrac Crawlers Joins Old Iron Collection

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The 1951 Oliver-Cletrac HG in Leo Dahlberg's workshop.
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Leo Dahlberg's 1951 Oliver-Cletrac HG-6 crawler needed basic restoration when he bought it.
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Leo Dahlberg's 1951 Oliver-Cletrac HG.

Adding a pair of Cletrac crawlers to his collection was a no-brainer for collector Leo Dahlberg.

After working in road construction for many years, he just loved crawlers. “I used to run construction and dozers and stuff, so it was pretty natural for me,” says the Wright, Minn., man. Though his 1951 Model HG and 1951 Model HG-6 are badged Oliver-Cletrac and one is green, they are simply Cletracs of a different color.

Major restoration

“In 2003, when a friend told me about an HG for sale at an auction, I went and bought it,” Leo says. The crawler needed work. “I had to winch it onto my lowboy,” he recalls. “It was pretty well worn out.”

Leo did most of the restoration himself but hired out work on the engine, which he had overhauled and rebored. Restoration of the tracks was the hard part, he says. “I rebuilt the old ones, doing a lot of welding with my wire-feed welder,” he says. “After that, I used a grinder to get them smooth. I also had to extend the grousers (the bars that stick down into the ground for traction) because they were pretty worn out.” He used a lathe to make bushings for the rollers.

He built a dozer blade for the crawler. “I bought the metal in Duluth, Minn., and a friend who has a big roller made it half round,” he says. “I designed the rest myself. The HG didn’t have a hydraulic pump, so I added live hydraulics off the end of the engine.”

The HG (which has rubber track pads) draws a crowd at shows. “At the Albany (Minn.) Stearns County Pioneer Days show a couple of years ago, four or five guys wanted to buy it,” Leo says. “I didn’t see them bring out any bags of money or anything, but it seemed like they were serious. I told them it wasn’t for sale. I get attached to that stuff. Every time I’ve sold something, I’ve been sorry afterward.”

Bigger but easier

His 1951 Model HG-6 was a simpler project. It was not in running condition when he bought it, so Leo overhauled the engine, rebuilt the tracks and put on new rollers. “There was some damage from wear and tear,” he says, “but generally I didn’t have to do too much work to get that one right.”

The HG is about as small as the old crawlers come, Leo says, and he thinks it might be fairly rare, because he hasn’t seen many others. With a 6-cylinder engine, the HG-6 is bigger and more powerful. But Leo doesn’t play favorites. “I worked with the big stuff, like the D8 and D9 Caterpillars,” he says, “and once you work with them, it gets in your blood, and it doesn’t matter what size you have in your own collection.” FC

Read more about Oliver-Cletrac: “Cleveland Tractor Company: Ohio Family Starts and Ends with Cletrac.”

For more information: Leo Dahlberg, 6684 Hwy. 210, Wright, MN 55798; (218) 357-2065.

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