Finding the First Caterpillar Tractor

Read about how the first Caterpillar tractor ever built — serial no. exp 000_L—was rescued and restored.


caterpillars
Doug and Matt Veerkamp with the 1926 Caterpillar Twenty and the first model Caterpillar Fifteen, built in 1929. The two relics are part of their collection of 125 antique Caterpillars. Photo courtesy of Caterpillar.

Matt Veerkamp was on a parts search 13 years ago in Arbuckle, California, when he was asked to take a look at a rusty old Caterpillar Twenty. Matt wasn’t too excited about the offer, but that changed when he saw the tractor. The serial number stamped on the transmission case and the engine block read, “EXP 0000-L.”

serial-tag
The serial number tag on the Caterpillar Twenty. Built in San Leandro, Calif., and Peoria, Ill., the model was in production from 1927 to 1931. A total of 8,289 Model Twenty Cats were built. Photo courtesy of Matt Veerkamp.

Matt called his father, Doug, with the information. “Yeah, we’ll take a chance,” Doug recalls saying over the phone. After the tractor arrived at the Veerkamps’ home in Placerville, California, where the two run Doug Veerkamp General Engineering, Matt started researching and confirmed they had something special.



“By golly, it was the first brand of Caterpillar tractor of the new company,” Doug says.

caterpillar-20
The Caterpillar Twenty before the Veerkamps restored it. The Twenty was conceived as a replacement for Holt’s Caterpillar 2-Ton. Photo courtesy of Matt Veerkamp.



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