Review: 1982 Caterpillar D5B bulldozer

By: Ron Horner

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It might be getting on for 40 years old, but a 1982 Caterpillar D5B bulldozer still hits Ron Horner’s sweet spot

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This dozer is fitted with a Cat-designed parallelogram design No 5 ripper and houses a five-tine ripper (shank) attachment

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What happens when you meet up with a guy who has similar passion to both new and old earthmoving machinery as oneself, who loves operating them and appreciates the old gear a touch more than the new?

Well, you get together, have a beer and talk about the old times and what’s on the agenda in the future for you and your gear.

Trevor Baker owns a nice array of earthmoving machinery, most of it from the 1982 era, none of it newer than say 1995 except his new Black Twin Cab Hilux, and it’s a spanker!

In his fleet, Trevor has a D250 Cat AWD articulated dump truck, a home-made Hyundai-Sumitomo-Hitachi Long Reach Excavator (classic bit of ingenuity), skid steer, water truck, Cat 140G Grader, a couple of rollers, a tidy old Kenworth and a low loader, but the one that took my eye for a demonstration was the Cat D5B Dozer 1982 vintage.

Having come to a suitable monetary arrangement we decided to bring some gear up to the demonstration block and put it through its paces whilst constructing some long overdue water storages up on the mountain.

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Trevor Baker – a quiet achiever with a passion for the old gear

A BIT OF HISTORY

Now Baker has been accused of living in a time warp, so appreciative and passionate is he of the old earthmoving gear that he never buys new and is always looking out for deals from the "earthmoving op shop of the west" – none other than Tilly’s of Toowoomba.

Much of his gear is resurrected from the dead and already given the last rites before the gifted hand of ‘the Man’ gets a hold of it and takes it forward into another zone.

However, when the time came to buy a particular second hand bulldozer (Cat D5B), Baker knew he would have to step up to the plate and buy from a reputable dealer.

All the checks and balances were completed, although not being able to demonstrate the machine in the yard prior to delivery was disappointing. To ease Baker’s mind the dealer gave a complete guarantee that there had been significant repairs done to this machine and he could put it to any test because "it will perform out of site".

Fast forward to the very first job and bugger me dead: transmission failure big time.

The dealer walked away from any responsibility and left Baker hanging with a big bill and massive downtime. Not to be beaten, he took the dozer back to his workshop, stripped everything down, did a full rebuild on everything possible and created this very tidy, reliable and very productive little D5B Bulldozer. Talk about "Cat … built to be rebuilt."

The proof is in the pudding right here.

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17,000 cubic metres pushed, shaped, track rolled, ripped and excavated in a period of 10 days

WALKAROUND

This 1982 Cat D5B is a perfect example of a typical old Cat dozer fit for work as it came off the production line way back in the ‘80s.

Well panelled, caged and sitting high and straight, Baker loves the feel of the fresh air, the smell of the diesel as you crank it up first thing on those chilly mornings, and ingests dust as if it’s his morning cereal without the milk.

The dozer is quite small in comparison to today’s dozers of similar sizing. The high track configuration certainly creates a much larger looking machine but looks aren’t everything as Baker pointed out.

The open cab is something of a rare sight these days and very few operators want to get on them unless they are air conditioned and glassed, with radio and fridge but to Baker it’s all in a day’s work because that’s how it’s been forever for him. He reckons it’s not always the machine that is put to the test but the operator as well and if you can combine two good ones together you have got a good deal.

"Plenty of times I’ve out-produced a younger bloke on a newer machine. It’s about passion and skill and I just love the challenge."

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The Cat D5B fitted in well with the rest of the gear on site

ON THE JOB

On this particular job we were running a 33t Hitachi excavator on bulk loading duty, an old Cat D250 dump truck hauling the bulk and the D5B placing and pushing the material in a couple of dams we were constructing, all in an effort to combat future dry spells.

17,000 cubic metres pushed, shaped, track rolled, ripped and excavated in a period of 10 days over Christmas certainly proved to me that you can’t keep a couple of old blokes and machines down. The performance both in quality and quantity was excellent and executed to the highest level.

Both the operator and the dozer were a perfect fit and just proved that although technology has taken over in most areas there is nothing better than watching a good man on a good machine irrespective of model, brand, age, colour or religion executing his duty to the fullest.

This dozer is fitted with a Cat-designed parallelogram design No 5 ripper and houses a five-tine ripper (shank) attachment, which is ideal for "tickling up" a pad, road or dam wall prior to applying the next layer or water spray. The tines can be inverted so that the operator can utilize either one or three tines dependent upon the type of material requiring ripping.

The tilt blade is of multiple box-section construction with heat treated steel moldboards and DH2 steel cutting edges and end bits, however Baker says he would love to upgrade and change it to the blade of the new D6 models.

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The 250-litre fuel tank certainly handles the big day’s work well

IN THE CAB

Typical of a Cat open cab dozer of this era, vision is excellent and that’s taking into account the rollover protection canopy and tree guard installed for operator protection.

The dashboard houses all of the necessary gauges, all working and easily identifiable but that is typical Cat, no problems here.

Steering clutches are centre of console, the hand throttle a touch to the right, and brake pedals centre floor level with de-accelerator on the right, making this old tractor easy for an old bloke like me to become comfortable.

Gear changes with the power shift transmission are a breeze, being located on the left side of the large, comfortable operator’s seat with three forward at 10km/h and three reverse at 12km/h, making this a more than a comfortable, speedy ride. The safety or cut out lever is located on the transmission console as well but the ripper control sits on the opposite or the right side of the operator’s seating just behind the blade control lever and parking brake control.

Aaahhh the old Cat gear – us old blokes just love it!

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A more than a comfortable, speedy ride

UNDER THE HOOD

The famous Cat 3306 is one of the most tried and true engines Cat have ever produced and this 10.5-litre fuel injected diesel engine is a true performer.

Sitting at between 9.5 ton and 11.4 ton depending upon direct drive transmission, lubricants, cab or open canopy, this little dozer certainly punches above its weight in my opinion. The 250-litre fuel tank certainly handles the big day’s work well and I was impressed with the fuel economy considering I didn’t hold back on unleashing the 105 horsepower (78 kW).

With 24 volt direct ignition, electric hour metre, six-roller track frame with sealed and lubricated tracks, this little tractor has become almost as desirable as the Cat D6C models.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

I couldn’t have asked for a more capable operator or machine to complete the task we set out to achieve in such a short time frame at a period of the year when most of us are holidaying with the family or friends. Giving up precious time to help out his clients at all hours and times of the year, Baker is the sort of bloke you would cherish as a friend, a mate and look up to as one of the industry’s quiet achievers.

Time warp or not, this pairing has got my vote.

Overall, the Cat D5B, albeit almost 40 years old and probably suffered many beatings in its life, is now in the hands of someone whom understands its capabilities, who has a passion for fixing and repairing more than operating, and has the soft hands to gently guide it through its next stage of life.

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